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Sooo…France was LIFE! (Part 1)

So life has been busy non-stop since we returned from France- but don’t think for one second I wasn’t going to take the time to fill you in on allllll of its fabulousness.

Look I don’t even know where to begin, all I can say is our two and half week European vacation was EVERYTHING I could think of….dream of…live for and more. I gave you the run down on Amsterdam and all its awesomeness, but France-oh France was a whole other fantastical- yes I made that word fantastical monster.

Let’s just begin at the beginning shall we. We opted to take the train from Amsterdam to Paris which was about a 6 hour ride and well worth the adventure. I had only been on a train once before in Italy and so this experience alone was not only note-worthy but inexpensive as well. We paid around 99 Euros for a round trip ticket each which was much less expensive than a flight and less taxing with regards to airport security measures.

This train ride allowed us to travel through areas like Rotterdam, Belgium and Brussels and I highly recommend giving train travel a try in Europe if you haven’t already. Its definitely the perfect time to take a little nap as well.

When we arrived in Paris, we navigating the incredibly bustling Paris Nord station and in two stops time we were at our hotel- Villa Montparnesse. Housed in the 14th arrisondement or district- this neighborhood couldn’t have been anymore perfect.

There were patisseries within a 3 minute walking distance, restaurants and cafes on every corner and even a Zara just 10 minutes away where we able to grab a couple of cold weather items on sale for that one random chilly afternoon. This included a 3 Euro red thermal right off the rack that was worn later in the trip.

On our first night we enjoyed our beautiful sunny side balcony and did I mention it doesn’t get dark until 10pm during the Summer- talk about OUTSTANDING weather. We looked to our good friend Google and found a more than amazing restaurant called Invictus (specifically the Rive Gauche location).

This meal was the perfect start to a more than perfect Parisian vacation- as it was owned and operated by French chef extraordinaire Christophe Chabanel and the service was 5 star- our maitre d’ was named Olivier Dominique- how concidentally cute was that and he was incredibly personable and knowledgeable, making wonderful recommendations, sharing stories about his love for cooking and his time in France.

He recommended a white wine that paired well with the perfect Parisian duck foie gras and ended with the most authentic roasted apple and caramel ice cream French toast that you could imagine.

Additionally, dinner time is late in Paris so we were able to get 9pm reservations, but beware Invictus is a very quaint place and you will definitely need a reservation to be seated at one of its maybe 8 tables that I counted.

We spent the night walking hand and hand back to our hotel and taking in the beauty while being incredibly unbelieving that we just had our first night in Paris.

The next day we woke up energized being that France is 3 hours behind Abu Dhabi and ready to tackle the day.

This afternoon Carlos and I prepared for a picnic in quite possibly the most beautiful park and gardens I had ever seen- The Luxembourg Gardens or Jardin Du Luxembourg in French.

Recommended by Olivier- our waiter from the night before, it was only a 20 minute walk from our hotel and gave us grand time to take the scenic route around town.

We grabbed an authentic french bread baguette and apricot jam along with a jar of fabulously delicious duck foie gras from a local gastronomie and some fresh cumin gouda cheese from Androuet.

Along with slices of proscuitto, jamon and turkey from a local deli, as well as one of our faves- “polpo” known as octopus salad, and an inexpensive bottle of French rose wine from the Carrefour and we were ready for our romantic picnic.

Our hotel even allowed us to borrow crisp white sheet and wine glasses as well as silverware to make it all complete. When I say everyone from the concierge to the cafe was so friendly and helpful with assisting Carlos and I and our impromptu picnic selections- it was like straight out of a storybook.

I spent the afternoon laid out- literally on the grass with my Paris Street Style adult coloring book gifted to me by my girl Tamm, my colored pencils and my cutie of a husband with his camera by his side while he people watched.

The grounds were covered with garden nooks and crannies filled with water fountains, couples, families and kids enjoying the afternoon.

There was even a water area filled with sailboats that you could rent to play with. Such a family friendly space.

Not to mention- ponies. The garden offers pony rides. I mean how amazing would it be to be a little kid on a pony ride in Paris.

Afterwards, we packed up and walked the grounds a bit and ventured off to the opposite side of the neighborhood. We even experienced a little drizzle, but the day was too damn good to let that get in the day. We dipped into a little chocolate cafe – The Chocolate Shop- for crepes and milkshakes while the rain made its way through, then cut back through the gardens to make our way back to our hotel.

On our return we were craving another little sweet treat- I mean who can resist petit fours genuinely from France and couldn’t help but notice this confectionery with the cutest mini cakes and had to stop in.

The cashier of Laouz was such a joy and she even gave me four times as many pecan pieces as I ordered for the price of one order as she was closing and it was my first time in France. Then she took the time to box them up so nicely for me as if they were a little gift for us to open later. I seriously mean it when I say the French are FANTASTICALLY kind.

The next day was the day I dreamed of for sure- we spent it trekking again through town with a stop by the Lourve, a walk through the Concorde, past the Seine River and onto the infamous Eiffel Tower.

Carlos elected wait at the bottom for me while I made my way to the very top. The cool thing is that the top had been closed for the day which left me a bit discouraged, but we still stood in line to inquire about admission to the other half of the tower.

Once I made it to the front- the cashier informed us that the top had reopened for the day. I knew then- the stars and God had aligned just for me and it was my destiny to take in the tower and all its glory.

The ride up was thrilling as it seemed to go on and on and on and once we reached the top- it was more than exhilarating. To lookout over the city of love in its entirety was surreal and enchanting.

It was then that it hit me that I was experiencing a bucket list moment that I had been dreaming of my entire life.

The views from the top of the Eiffel Tower were so story book and here I was overlooking the city of dreams. A place that I had seen in photos and films that was now my reality.

Paris- the ultimate place in my heart. This was really happening.

After taking in the panoramic views of all of Paris- it was time to return to the bottom and you have the option of either taking the lift (elevator) or walking down to the very bottom. That’s 710 stairs.

I elected for the latter and loved every minute of it. It was peaceful, quiet and calming so I took my time.

The average length is about 10 minutes to walk to the bottom, but I’m pretty sure I took 20 maybe even 30- stopping to take in each different view along with the inner workings and architecture of the tower and I would do it all over again.

Once we left the Eiffel Tower, we ventured over to the uber chic streets of the Champs D’Elysses- the most well known luxury fashion district in quite possibly the world- with brands from H&M to Hermes. If you enter the famed avenue from the South, you can catch awesome views of the Arc De Triomphe- another part of popular Parisian history.

The Champs D’Elysses was everything and of course the merchandising of the brands are what caught my eye. The stylistic use of color kept me wanting more and more with our first visit to Christian Dior.

There they offered specialty crafted mocktails but also champagne, coffee and tea as you perused their ready to wear pieces and my hunny being as awesome as he is offered for me to pick out something special to commemorate this lifelong dream of mines. I was still on my high from my early Summer visit to the From Dior to the World exhibition in Dallas, (if you missed that post check out Sooo….I died and went to Dior, as Dior was definitely on my mind.

One cool thing about Carlos is that he gets me- even when I don’t get me and he has convinced me to start collecting brooches of all kinds but especially luxury as an elegant accent to my Devereaux blazers and I couldn’t agree more- so I opted for this floral crystal beauty.

But before settled on her- I also wanted to pay a visit to other luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent and Galeries Lafayette not only to check out their collections of jewelry and accessories first, but also their merchandising and to make the most of this visit.

Not only was the Louis Vuitton 3 levels complete with escalators, but I loved how colorful and creative the set-up was. The store was definitely turning over with tourists, all looking for help and even though I was on the market for something simple- I ran across some gorgeous earrings that I just had to see up close.

We then searched every inch of the store for brooches but there wasn’t much in that category, however what we got was even better.

Let me start by saying that the French are some of the kindest people we have met in our travels and there was one associate at Louis Vuitton in the fine jewelry department named Madeliene who was as sweet as her name. Even though she couldn’t find me a brooch that I liked, she gave us so many tips about the best way to see the French Riviera and shared in the joy of us celebrating our third year anniversary. She even recommended some local restaurants and talked about stories of her travels with her mother. She made us feel more like long lost friends than just someone after a luxury sale commission- so kudos to her. The one on one experience in getting to know her was something that money couldn’t buy.

After our Louis V visit, we returned to Dior as I wanted something from a Parisian brand and then on to Galeries Lafayette.

As soon as you walk in this local department store- you immediately feel the luxury mixed with the street style influence and can’t help but be mesmerized by the visual merchandising, especially their Roger Vivier build out.

As we ventured upstairs to the shoe department, there was a display running on an assembly line. I mean how next level.

And in the corner was an incredibly unique set-up filled with extra fluffy unicorns.

Then there was the the flagship- Hermes Paris location with its nautical themed window dressings located on the outskirts of the Champs, of course with its own corner away from the madness of the main street.

A few stops at the Nike store for Carlos’ sake, Zara to appease me and Levi’s for us both, as we always find our sized jeans in other places other than Abu Dhabi and we were famished and so we knew we had to find food. We opted for a small alley side pub where I had my first authentic order of Beef Tartare and a French martini, I mean it was only appropriate right?

Talk about what was definitely an adventurous time and we were only on day 2.

Day 3 was an absolute surprise. Carlos made sure I was in bed at a decent time the night before, as we had an early morning and needed to be at the undisclosed location by 9am.

We got up, had breakfast and headed off for the first stop which was the Pantheon for the Paris Et Noir or (Black in Paris) tour, led by an amazing tour guide named Kevi whose family was from French territory Martinique and also fellow Carribean guy like Carlos, but raised in France.

The Pantheon known as the “temple of the Gods” is the burial site originally meant only for men and so you will find historical figures like Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Jean Jacques Rousseau and even Louis Braille- the innovator of the language for the blind all buried there.

In order to be laid to rest you are required to be more than a dignitary but someone who also contributed to society and so I was mostly moved by the fact that Marie Curie- famed FEMALE physicist and chemist known for her works during the World War I era was buried there also- as she earned a rightful place amongst men.

Additionally, this tour was meant to explore the contributions of blacks to Parisian history, art and culture, dissecting the likes of Alexandre Dumas, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and Josephine Baker as well as how the French played a role in the abolition of slavery.

What I could appreciate about Paris as opposed to America is the idea of racism wasn’t viewed regularly as an issue. It wasn’t to say that Paris or France didn’t have its flaws, but historically it was based more on a class system, then that of race.

Many blacks fled from America to Paris in hopes of finding a better life for their families and an appreciation for who they were as individuals and not as a race.

We were able to see the tribute to abolition in the Luxembourg Gardens and even visit the famous cafe where Richard Wright and James Baldwin would meet as well as the home of Richard Wright- all within the same district.

If in Paris- I highly recommend that you book this tour with Kevi as your guide, as he is so open, honest and willing to share his wealth of knowledge on all topics from race to art to culture without you feeling overwhelmed. It also helps that the tour is only a few hours, so you can still enjoy your afternoon.

Did I mention how perfect my look for the day was? I mean get into this all black ensemble with an authentic Prince shirt that Carlos surprised me with all the way from Paisley Park- Prince’s foundation and studio in his hometown of Minneapolis, paired with of course- what other than a raspberry beret- “the kind you find at a souvenir store” (REMIXXXX).

After our afternoon touring- we retired for an afternoon delight at a little French bistro where we had some stellar French white wine and more beef tartare while we people watched and then decided to take it back to the hotel to decompress before the evening.

On our walk back- the brightest yellow hat happened to catch my eye on display in a little shop called Alta Moda. Lately- I have really come to love a good chapeau since I’m newly baldheaded and hats can now finally fit my big Texas head. Not to mention, the price was too good to pass up at only 15 Euros.

I just knew it would come in handy for our later travels in the trip. Check out my recap on Nice and our trip to the French Riviera to see how I style this a little later.

Post midday siesta- we decided that we would love to see Paris at night and decided to take a stroll later that evening, so we opted for a night cruise on the Bateaux Mouches cruiseliner that travels the Seine River and shows you sites like the Notre Dame and how the Eiffel Tower lights up at night.

It was recommended by a lovely family that we met earlier in the day while on the Black in Paris tour that we book the boat for 9:30 at night for the best views and that timing was to die for. At only 23 Euros a person, I opted for the champagne package that comes with a mini bottle of Moet and Chandon for you to enjoy while you ride and it was tres romantique.

And yes I drank Moet from a straw- as I wouldn’t dare mess up my perfectly red Mac Ruby Woo Matte pout.

I will warn you that this particular company is very popular and people can be rude but these aren’t the locals. These are other tourists who act as if they have never traveled, so instead of trying to cram in the front of the boat with crowd. Carlos and I actually rode on the side towards the back which was completely empty and so very quiet. We fell in love all over again with the night sky and were able to hear the sounds of the waves crashing and see the sights of Salsa dancing on the docks.

Watching the Eiffel tower light up and sparkle at night was more than magical and the twinkle was a storybook ending to the night.

After our night out, we enjoyed dinner and a St.Germain Fizz- which is quite possibly in my top favorite cocktails alongside a French 75 martini and an Amaretto and lime. I looked everywhere for this elegant bottle of elderflower liquer before we left France but it couldn’t be found so if anyone is looking for a Christmas gift for me- some St. Germain would be just fine.

Day 4 was a doozy as the weather took a chilly turn but I was prepared. On our first day, I ventured into the neighborhood Zara near our hotel as aforementioned and happened to grab this long sleeve thermal style top in a gorgeous red for only 3Euros that I knew I could pair with something in my luggage if by chance the weather changed and it did. So we woke up, grabbed our usual breakfast of chocolate au pain (chocolate croissants), cheese and fresh squeezed orange juice from around the corner and set off for the day.

To see how I styled that little red number- check out my post on the Yves Saint Laurent Museum entitled “So I believe in Yves“. where we ended our day!

This time we decided to take the subway the opposite direction to the artsy district of Montmartre where we climbed our way or in my case sulked my way to the Sacre d Couer. Now when I say sulked- I only say that because it was quite the uphill hike and then uphill and then stairs and then more uphill and then more stairs, but the view once you reach the top was definitely worth taking in.

You could see the city for miles and if you’re really feeling the love- leave a lock on the cathedrals fence.

After a few moments there, we took the panoramic life back down to the bottom (praise God for the lift) and decided to walk around the town.

What I really loved was the use of color on the buildings.

There were little perfumeries with vintage style atomizers and small vintage shops filled with clothing.

And of course cafes galore and so we stopped for a light snack of Grand Marnier crepes and cold Krombacher beer.

Afterwards, we decided to make our way to the Musee Yves Saint Laurent which was about 35 minutes from Montmartre and back near the Eiffel Tower. And let me just say that this part of the trip deserves its own dossier so- check out the featured post- Sooo…I believe in Yves!

This concludes the first half of the trip to Paris. If you have loved my journey so far then you’ll also love- “Sooo…A Day in Epernay” highlighting the ultimate tour of the champagne region and “Sooo…I’m really in the Riviera”- a savory piece on our time in the South of France (coming soon) as well as Sooo….France is Life! (Part 2). I told yall this blog posts on our European summer vacation would be extensive.

And as always I love you for following,

Xoxo,

Devereaux

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