Hello friends, I'm back. I thought I would start off with a little visual overview of my trip to France. I divided my time there between Paris where I started and ended my journey and the Loire Valley. It definitely is a country that has its own style and feel to it. Coming from North America where advertising and billboards dominate the landscape, I was really impressed by the way the French have managed to preserve the history and integrity of their towns and cities. What a pleasure not to see fast food restaurants, mobile phone advertisements, and big box stores everywhere. Oh and the fashion - amazing! The women as expected were astonishingly stylish but it was the men that really impressed me. They really put their North American counterparts to shame.
Of course, a trip to Paris without shopping would be incomplete. I followed many of your suggestions and checked out stores far and wide. One of my favorite things about exploring new cities is that you never know what will be around the next corner. Wide-eyed, I wandered from place to place often with only a loose agenda in mind. The nicest surprise was coming across the Astier de Villatte store on Rue Saint-Honore. I wasn't looking out for it and was blown away when I walked inside. Their selection of handcrafted plates, bowls, cups, and platters is breathtaking. Luckily for my wallet, I couldn't imagine how I would get any of these delicate pieces home. The store is divided in the front and back by a staircase that goes upstairs to a small clothing boutique. On the wall is a rustic porcelain sink that just screamed Parisian style to me. The light was hitting it just perfectly and I just had to capture the moment. Finally, I knew I was in the epicenter of all things fashionable when I spotted Carine Roitfeld, Editor-in-Chief for French Vogue, out shopping one Saturday morning. I couldn't resist taking a quick snapshot of her!
So, what was the biggest design lesson I learned from being in France? Well, the thing I noticed again and again was this inherent sense of knowing when to stop. There is a refinement and understanding to their design that comes across in everything they do. From the signs in the store window displays, to the simple yellow post box to the rows of white spined books, to the name plate on the door there was a common sensibility about honest and simple design. Nothing excessive, nothing over the top just well-designed. Wouldn't you agree?