Château de Chenonceau

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Moments upon arriving to Château de Chenonceau, this majestic castle with its immaculate landscaped gardens, captivated us both. Set upon the River Cher, I now understood why this was the favorite château of many. This 16th century marvel of Gothic and early Renaissance architecture stood tall against gray skies, the Marques tower across the bridge from the château. What adds to the unique history are the women who called this their home. The favorite residence of Catherine de Medici, while Diane de Poitiers was its mistress. But it was Louise Dupin who saved the château from destruction during the French Revolution, stating that “It was essential to travel and commerce, being the only bridge across the river for many miles.”

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The interior of the château was equally regal. The grand ballroom once held festivities organized by Catherine de Medici in honor of her son King Henri III.

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Catherine de Medici’s Renaissance bedroom was outfitted with rare Flanders tapestries from the 16th century, and a painting by Correggio representing ‘The Education of Love’.

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To prove his devotion to both his wife and his mistress, King Henry II gave them each a garden. This one was Catherine’s, a design of 5 lawns centered around an elegant circular pond, “intimate” at 5,500m2.

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Diane’s garden, composed of two perpendicular and two diagonal paths bordering eight large, lawned triangles is 12,000m2 in size. Each season reveals a variety of blossoms.

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It was difficult to leave this stunning landscape and the stories it told. With one last glance we bid farewell.

adventures in the loire

Last weekend we hit the road, destination Loire Valley. This region of France is one of our favorites to explore, both for its proximity to Paris and its regal history. On the way to Orleans via high speed train we reminisced our trips in the Loire, our first adventure being by bike to Château de Blois and the Château de Chambord. Our second trip found us at Château d’Amboise and Château du Clos Lucé. We’ve since been back to visit friends at their family home Château du Petit Thouars. This time we were heading to another friend’s birthday celebrations, with a few visits along the way, including a château or two, but first, home in a pigeon house.

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We arrived to Le Colombier, once a pigeon house from the 18th century, and settled in to our romantic abode.

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A quick drive from our home in Clery-Saint-Andre we discovered the medieval village of Beaugency. I was immediately charmed by the vines and flowers around every corner as we lost ourselves in the tangle of streets.

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Our next stop was Meung-sur-Loire. I was less impressed with this village but the château was worth a visit.

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Château Meung-sur-Loire, once the prestigious residence of the bishops of Orleans, welcomed great names in French history including Kings François I and Louis XI. It also served as a prison for poet François Villon.

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Our last stop was to a castle that has now become my favorite of them all, Château de Chenonceau…

when we were young

Recently I was looking through old family photos and stumbled across something my mom had saved from my elementary school years. A photo of me being creative; drawing, designing, making something; my favorite past time as a child. Along with the photo was a typewritten note from my teacher. I blushed upon reading it! Was I really such a joy, and with so much wisdom? Little did I recall. The same way I don’t remember all that much about my childhood other than that it was mostly a good one. It’s true that family always meant a lot to me.

Rereading this made me think about how honestly and purely we know ourselves as children. It’s the time in life when we are free to be, and to become, without thinking too much about what any of it means. Born to artistic parents, I followed suit with a creative mind of my own. This freedom to express was what provoked me years ago to start designing bags, to start writing (even if initially only for myself), to step off the corporate ladder and instead follow my own path of travel which eventually led me to Paris.

These words from a teacher who has so many years later left an impact, are what I will reread whenever I feel doubt or confusion as to who I truly am. This little girl knows.

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Who where you as a child? Has this impacted who you are now? Let us think about when we were young…

Baumanière

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of discovering Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence to be exact. A quaint little commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of southern France, considered one of the most beautiful of French villages. But it was Baumanière, set at the foot of the Alpilles mountains that won my heart.

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Home became one of the 5 buildings creating the luxury Relais & Chateaux property Baumanière Les Baux de Provence. Once upon a time in 1945, visionary Raymond Thuillier fell in love with this forgotten land nicknamed “Le Val d’Enfer (Hell’s Valley) and out of one small farmhouse he created an entire Provençal universe, where movie stars, writers and politicians became guests at his highly regarded gastronomic table. Among them Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Queen Elizabeth II and Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few.

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In 2015, at the helm of Jean-André Charial and his wife Genevieve, Baumanière Les Baux de Provence celebrated its seventieth anniversary. And they have much to celebrate as their remote property continues to attract guests and acclaim from around the world. Each building reveals a unique ambiance, with each of its 55 spacious rooms and suites decorated in old charm and modern amenities. I could have easily stayed for a week. Did I mention they recently opened a spa with an array of beauty products made with local olive oil?

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For both lunch and dinner I eagerly dined at the 2-Michelin star restaurant L’Oustau de Baumanière, with young, dynamic and innovative chef Glenn Viel taking charge in the kitchen. Cooking classes are offered!

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I spoke in length with the charming Jean-André, topics ranging from the love of his inherited land, his passion for cooking with simple and fresh ingredients (he even gave me a tour of the greenhouses where he grows many of his herbs and vegetables), and his deep adoration for Italy. Genevieve had a unique elegance and warmth and I felt very welcomed in their home. She even took a liking to my bags (and my accent) and is now selling Kasia Dietz handbags in their exclusive Baumanière Boutique!

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I fondly recall my morning reflections, sitting on my private terrace, listening to the calm of nature and thinking, if ever we decide to leave Paris, Provence would certainly be a nice place to call home.

PARIS PICKS : 4-star boutique hotels

One of the questions I’m most often asked is “Where to stay in the City of Lights?” My answer often includes a boutique hotel in the rive droite, my side of town. Even though I live in a charming Parisian apartment in the North Marais, I have an affinity for hotels designed for sophisticated travelers with style and comfort in mind. In the last few years I’ve experienced a few of these luxurious gems, first hand. Here are my top picks.

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Under the design direction of Dorothée Meilichzon, Hotel Bachaumont re-opened in September 2015. Steps away from the pedestrianized market street rue Montorgueil, this art-deco hotel composed of 49 rooms and complete with an uber trendy bar and restaurant, is one of Paris’ latest hotspots. Read all about my experience in Bonjour Paris. (Photo by Paul Bowyer)

Hotel Bachaumont // 18 rue Bachaumont 75002 // + 33 (0) 1 81 66 47 00

Hotel Fabric

A hotel set in a former textile factory? Welcome to Hôtel Fabric. This designers’ haven is located in the Oberkampf neighborhood, steps away from a slew of trendy eateries. Thirty-three rooms are equally stylish and spacious, featuring industrial decor combined with vivid prints by luxury design house Pierre Frey. Here’s my complete review in France Today.

Hôtel Fabric // 31 Rue de la Folie Méricourt 75011 // +33 (0)1 43 57 27 00

Terrass Hotel

Eiffel tower views, anyone? Head to the historic artists’ quartier of Montmartre for both comfort and a vista. From the 7th floor bar and restaurant of Terrass’’ Hotel, the panoramic views will take your breath away! Refurbished and re-opened in June 2015, find refuge in the hotels 85 contemporary rooms and 7 suites, some with private balconies. Read more in my feature in Bonjour Paris.

Terrass’’ Hotel // 12-14 rue Joseph de Maistre 75018 // +33 (0)1 46 06 72 85

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In the trendy Strasbourg Saint-Denis neighborhood, Hôtel Providence takes center stage. This recently opened circa-1854 hotel contains 18 rooms and 3 suites, each exhibiting vintage furnishings, walls clad in velvet prints, and well stocked bars. While I haven’t yet stayed overnight in this chic setting which attracts quite an A-list crowd, I have admired the design of the rooms and the cozy bar and restaurant, perfect for a night cap.

Hôtel Providence // 90 rue René Boulanger 75010 // +33 (0)1 46 34 34 04

state of sunshine

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“The days are long but the years are short.” This quote by Gretchen Rubin articulates well how quickly days become years. And within them we must try our best to use the time we have, wisely. (One of the reasons I decided to travel the world for a year, and continue to travel and experience all that I can in the days I have been granted.) Yet as so many of us do, I easily become wrapped up in my work, constantly doing and in turn, becoming. That topic I’ll save for another post… But is this what really matters the most in life? No, it’s the time we share with those we love, and how we treat others. So I decided to surprise my mom for her birthday, a day long journey (which became quite an adventure with an expired passport and a delayed flight) from Paris via New York to West Palm Beach. Needless to say, she was shocked and elated. What greater joy is there?

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Mom and I are enjoying these long days in the sunshine state, with dinners at home, a trip to neighboring Palm Beach (these photos capturing those moments), and of course birthday celebrations coming up. You can follow along for daily updates via instagram. Enjoy each day before it becomes a year… and see you back in Paris!

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