Category Archives: on the road

market day

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Wednesdays in the French city of Tours, are market days. When we found this out we made a special trip to the area just to see what we would find. We were not disappointed! As you know, the French take their food very seriously. The selection and variety of fruits and vegetables was incredible. I enjoyed stepping back and watching the people choose their produce. Each item that was picked up was thoroughly inspected, squeezed and smelled before being allowed into their baskets. This was not your quick stop supermarket (although those exist too). And how about those small, hand written chalk board signs! Don’t they just make the whole experience that much more stylish and French. It’s all in the details…

I love how this display of cepes mushrooms included some moss, leaves and pine cones from the forest floor. As you can see, depending on the size and quality of the mushrooms they demanded different prices – not cheap at $25-30 a kilogram. We bought some black trumpet mushrooms from the vendor below. I had worked with these mushrooms before back in Vancouver when I worked at a restaurant called Pastis. Later that night we made them into amuse bouche. I simply sauteed the mushrooms with some shallots and lots of butter and served them on crostini. Topped with a little chiffonade of sage, they were earthy and sweet, the delicious start to a meal.

Truly, a great experience and probably one of my favorite days in France!

Filed under on the road

bought in france

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So, I’m sure some of you are wondering what I bought while I was away in France. To be honest, not much! On the whole, I found it to be quite expensive but of course, I picked up a few things.

When I visit another country, I like to bring back a few reminders of my time there; one or two carefully chosen items that bring back memories of the experience. High on my list was a classic Breton striped shirt made famous by such people as Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso. It is one of my absolute favorites!

I picked one up at Petit Bateau on Rue Saint-Honore right across the street from Colette. I think it is one of those shirts I will have for a very long time. It never goes out of style. While we were in the store the sales assistant took time to show us how all of the shirts are made in France and carefully stitched so the lines match up from side to side. On the clothing side I also picked up a shirt at Muji and a pair of boots from Minelli which were more of a necessity than anything else.

I did pick one item (yes, only one) at a flea market in Paris but I will save that story for another post.

And that was it….well almost. I was also given a very special present from my Mum and Dad who had been traveling across China, Mongolia, Russia, and Uzbekistan to name a few of the countries before they arrived in Paris. While they were in Samarkand, the central city on the Silk Road, they stopped by the market and picked up a beautiful hand embroidered Suzani for me. I was over the moon when I saw it. The details and hand stitching are absolutely exquisite. I knew that this was going to be the one item that every time I looked upon would remind me of this trip – nothing could top it!

For now, it is proudly on display in our living room where I can see it every day. Isn’t it beautiful? Thanks Mum and Dad! I really think it is objects like these that make a house a home. A home that is layered with personal items each with their own meaning bring a space to life and infuse it with personality.

How about you? Do you have any special objects or items in your home you purchased while away on a trip that have meaning for you?

And finally, I’d like to say a special to thanks to Mon over at Splendid Willow today for featuring my home on one of her Knock, Knock house tours. You know I love a good house tour! Mon is an amazing woman with great style that is evident through her blog. Thanks again, Mon!

Filed under beautiful objects, on the road

a different kind of house tour

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Ever dreamed of spending a night in a French Chateau? How about a couple of weeks? Well, I had the pleasure of doing just that while we were away in France. The Loire Valley is chock-a-block full of chateaus from the ostentatious to the sublime (more on this one later). While many of the more historically famous estates have been turned into museums some are rented out on a weekly or monthly basis probably with the aim of covering some of the maintenance costs.

Chateau Mont Felix was where I called home during my time in the Loire Valley along with my extended family. Since we were such a big group it made sense to rent one large place rather than getting multiple hotel rooms.

The chateau was constructed in 1820 and is still owned by the same family. The principal rooms are stunning for their sheer scale and intricate details like the oak herringbone floors, ceiling medallions, beautifully designed cabinetry and 14 foot ceilings.

The home has an eclectic mix of furniture that has obviously been accumulated over decades of family use. While a lot of it doesn’t go together (hello, 1970’s brass floor light!) there is something to be said for the unusual mix. Recently, I’ve actually found myself drawn to images of large country homes that have that bohemian, thrown together, lived – in look. (I’m working on a post about this that I will share shortly.)

And let’s be honest, it can’t be easy to fill a home of such size. The scale of the furniture alone has to be on the extra large side just to fill the rooms! I ‘ll admit that I was desperate to do a little furniture rearranging but it wasn’t my house and honestly some of the pieces would have needed an army to move. And how about that picture arrangement above…while crooked and asymmetrical, doesn’t it somehow work with the overall feel of the place?

The kitchen which was modest in size compared to the rest of the house had the most beautiful encaustic cement tiles. As you know, I seriously considered using a tile similar to this in my own kitchen. Seeing these floors, I wondered once again, whether or not we should have shouldered the extra expense and gone with these patterned floors.

Upstairs, there were a dozen little rooms many with their own fireplace. Back in the day, it was probably the only way to keep the drafty rooms warm. The interesting thing was that no two were alike! And check out the coffered ceiling peaking through in the last photograph. This was my bedroom! Each night I looked up at the ceiling and thought how lucky I am.

Finally, the best thing of all about staying in a place like this is that you get to live like a local if only for a short while. We shopped at the local markets, made our own food most nights, and ran down to the local boulangerie each morning for croissants. Honestly, it really doesn’t get better than this!

Filed under on the road

paris with love

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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?

Filed under beautiful objects, on the road