French Travel


Bonne Année — Happy New Year! Two of the home decor magazines we subscribe to are starting off 2011 right with pictorials of Paris apartments. Check out newsstands for the January ’11 issues of Architectural Digest and Veranda.

Architectural Digest has two spreads, one a hôtel particulier (a very large and grand second home, this one has 8,000 interior square feet) with views of the Seine, the other an apartment pied à terre off the Champ de Mars. Because the issue is so new, they haven’t put photos online yet, but here is a lovely Paris apartment from their archives:

Parisian pied-à-terre in Architectural Digest

Parisian pied-à-terre in Architectural Digest. Photo: Marina Faust

LOVE those extraordinary yellow silk drapes!

Veranda shows a Left Bank apartment (actually a wing of the Hôtel de Bauffremont). It’s a lovely study of neutral tones, painted paneling, and country checks in an opulent, grand building full of gilt chandeliers and intricate parquetry — the juxtaposition perhaps a nod to Marie Antoinette’s fondness for pastoral style in the setting of Versailles. Again, the article is too new for photos online, so here is a photo from the 7th Arrondissment, where their building is located. The Eiffel Tower is also in this neighborhood!

Paris Apartment with View of Eiffel Tower

Paris Apartment with View of Eiffel Tower - rentavilla.com

Bonus item: Leaping ahead a month, the February ’11 House Beautiful has a review of a new cookbook called The French Country Table by Laura Washburn. Included is a recipe for the author’s soupe au pistou, and a beautiful photograph of her apple tarte, with the slices of apple arranged neatly and concentrically. Whenever I make apple tarte, I try to arrange the slices, but they don’t seem to line up right and I end up pouring them in willy-nilly. Fortunately, it still tastes good unarranged…perhaps we can call it Deconstructed Apple Tarte! Below is a photograph of apple tarte chez nous.

French Apple Tarte

French Apple Tarte - Deconstructed!

–Brett, I Dream of France

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Celebrity Petanque

Supermodel Karolina Kurkova (second left) beside actors Joshua Jackson and Diane Kruger during a game of boules at the Chanel party in St-Tropez in May. Photograph: MaxPPP/PacificCoastNews.com

“Forget the image of boules (or pétanque, as it is more properly known) as the game of old men in string vests. Suddenly, it’s becoming the height of cool – and not just in France.”

This is so funny and cool to me. The first time I ever heard of the game pétanque was on The Cosby Show! Cliff Huxtable had a set up in the backyard where he played with his dad one episode. The next time I thought about it was more than 15 years later, driving through a small village in France with Jean-Michel. We saw a public park in the middle of town with a few games set up in the middle of the day. The players were men who looked to be retirement age. I don’t remember string vests, but maybe they were wearing them! Leave it to young Hollywood to resurrect a half-forgotten pasttime and make it cool again. Pétanque looks a little like lawn bowling from a distance, but the balls are smaller and heavier. They don’t really roll. It’s played more like horseshoes.

“The principles of pétanque are as old as history. Archaeologists found two balls and a jack in the sarcophagus of an Egyptian prince buried in the 52nd century BC. The ancient Greeks and Romans liked playing with stone balls; medieval Europeans preferred wooden ones studded with nails. Boules became so popular in France that the game was banned for commoners for much of the 14th and 15th centuries. Here, successive English kings from the time of Edward III forbade their archers to play it, and an act not repealed until the 18th century formally outlawed the game for “artificers, labourers, apprentices and servants” at any time except Christmas.”

Read the full story at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jul/28/france-boules-petanques-got-cool

–Brett

Philippe Deshoulières Canapé Plates

This French city of Limoges would probably remain unknown to the world if it were not for the amazing porcelain it produces. Located in the central region of Limousin, the city of Limoges has a very rich history dating back to the Roman empire. Remains of a Roman amphitheater as well as many edifices from the middle ages and renaissance make Limoges an interesting destination for anybody interested in history.

However, what sets Limoges apart from other historical cities in France is its porcelain industry. A few decades before the French Revolution, supplies of kaolin clay were found near Limoges. The exact type of kaolin made it possible to produce fine porcelain to compete with the popular pieces made in China at the time. The Limoges porcelain was delicate and very white, almost translucent, making it extremely desirable.  First commissioned by the king Louis XVI, the manufacture of Limoges porcelain gave birth to various companies after the revolution. Names include Bernardaud, Raynaud, Haviland or Philippe Deshoulières.

The Deshoulières group (headquartered near my hometown of Poitiers) is one of the most renowned porcelain manufacturer since it opened in 1826 and is famous for its contemporary designs. We chose a beautiful, yet very affordable, line of canapé plates to carry in our collection. The canapé plates are six inches in diameter, perfect for dessert, salad or hors d’oeuvres served around the couch (canapé means couch in French). They come in a beautiful lavender gift box, are dishwasher safe and adorn the genuine “Porcelaine de Limoges” stamp. Each has a theme, French Castles, Wine and Cheese, Merchant Row, St Tropez Beaches, Herbs, and Walk in Provence. They make a very thoughtful gift and they are the perfect way to treat yourself to the real Limoges at a very affordable price.

Until the end of August, all our Deshoulières sets are 10% off! Use coupon code LIMOGES in the shopping cart or stop by our boutique in Tustin.

— Jean-Michel

P.S. Read about our trip to Limoges and the porcelain factory tour we took!

France Magazine Cover

France is not exactly known for its superior customer service. Anybody who has been to France can probably remember an encounter with a clerk or cashier that left a less-than-impeccable impression. It is very hard as a French person to ever admit that you are wrong and that somebody else, even a paying customer, is right.  The easiest way to put this theory to the test is to ask for substitutions in a restaurant, or to try to return a purchase to the store where you bought it. Actually, I would probably recommend not trying these, just take our word for it!

The latest issue of the British magazine “France Magazine” has a short story that illustrates this point. When checking out of his hotel in the south of France and explaining to the clerk that the bill was already paid, the author received a categorical “Non!” Turn to page 23 and read the rest of the story, it might remind you of your own experience there!

-Jean-Michel

I Dream of France

Titian's Assunta

Titian’s Assunta

August 15 is Assumption Day in France, a major holiday (celebrating Virgin Mary ascending into Heaven).  Nearly every business and government office closes, and it’s a very popular time for people to take a summer vacation. In fact, the entire month of August is quiet and slow in France, as people take a long break and go out of town. (For our business here in the States, we have to be careful to get what we need from our French suppliers by the end of July, or we may have to wait until September!)

Where do people in France go for vacation? This a funny question from an American perspective, considering most French people are already somewhere I like to imagine myself being! But everyone has to get out of town once in awhile, no matter where home is, so many head south–somewhere warm, bright, and on the water! Corsica, the Spanish coast, the Balearic islands (Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza), Venice, or the Riviera.

Corsican Beach - Photo Courtesy of Serenity Holidays Ltd.

Corsican Beach – Photo Courtesy of Serenity Holidays Ltd.

Even if you do not find yourself in Corsica or Venice this August, you can still relax like the French and enjoy warm summer days at home. I Dream of France has plenty of colorful accessories to help make it happen. As always, orders over $75 ship free.

Red Malaga Melamine Coaster - Sold in Set of Six at I Dream of France

Red Malaga Melamine Coaster – Sold in Set of Six at I Dream of France

Red Malaga coasters are made of melamine so you can use them indoors or out.

Vent du Sud Tamaris Lilas Acrylic Coated Tablecloth from I Dream of France

Vent du Sud Tamaris Lilas Acrylic Coated Tablecloth from I Dream of France

Tamaris Lilas tablecloth by Vent du Sud is acrylic coated to use indoors or out — just wipe with a damp sponge to clean — similar to old-fashioned oilcloth but softer and more modern and beautiful. Also available in teal blue!

–Brett

…is that the key to success is commitment. You can plan all you want, but eventually you have to start doing it, and keep on doing it, to make it happen. Like many clichés, it sounds like a cheesy poster, but it’s true! Two summers ago Jean-Michel and I committed to I Dream of France, and now we have both an e-commerce business and a chic boutique in old downtown Tustin!

Here is a photo of us in Paris (beside Sacre Coeur) from 2003. Little did we know all the adventures that lay ahead of us!

–Brett

Condé Nast Traveler and Vogue both feature Provence in their July issues. Delightful!

Illustration of Luberon Village by James Noel Smith for Conde Nast Traveler

Illustration of Luberon Village by James Noel Smith for Conde Nast Traveler

First, Condé Nast Traveler gives a detailed travel guide for the region, full of suggestions for food, shopping, and where to stay. Usually I give away magazines after I read them, but I think I’ll hold onto this issue to help plan our next trip to France!

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mario Testino in Provence for Vogue

Marion Cotillard photographed by Mario Testino in Provence for Vogue

Vogue interviewed the French actress Marion Cotillard, who appeared in the Johnny Depp move Public Enemies about John Dillinger and has a new film out. They photographed her in a crumbling stone house called La Bastide de Marie in the town of Ménerbes in Provence. Here’s a link to a slideshow where you can see her frolic in pretty clothes in this beautiful setting: http://www.vogue.com/feature/2010_July_Marion_Cotillard/slideshow/horizontal/?loop=0&iphoto=7&play=false&cnt=8

(Trivia time: in the rest of France, “bastide” means a very old fortified city atop a hill, but in Provence, “bastide” refers to a very old manor house built atop a hill. Possibly because Provence remained rural and cut off from the more developed parts of France until the 20th century, they still use some words differently there.)

–Brett

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