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Friday, June 29, 2012

St. Tropez: Le Paradis

The beaches of the South of France are exquisite.  And probably one of the best known of all is St. Tropez.  I finally made it to St. Tropez this trip - a spot I have always wanted to see.  

Arriving there by boat from Cannes wasn't such a bad way to get there - traveling along the sea atop the cool blue water.  A bonus was missing the traffic getting into St. Tropez.  We actually passed the city of St. Tropez and docked at the white sanded beach of Pampellone.  Arriving at Le Club 55.  Walking from the dock to the sands was like entering another world.  Founded in 1955, Club 55 is a beach club with loungers and parasols and a restaurant, all nestled under Australian pine trees.  A weathered path leads you from the water to the bar to the restaurant.  It is the land of the tres chic, where the fashionable meet the laid-back romantic.

Walking the maze back to the restaurant is an exceptional experience in and of itself, and at the end you find yourself in a beautiful haven of blue and white table cloths with canopies hanging from the trees providing shade to the guests. It is a cocoon of the grand smells of the sea, muffled laughter and cushioned sofas to rest upon.

Lunch under the canopies with McCall
Ladies with crudite
Sea bass
The food is excellent as well - and the portions are not small. I was delighted at seeing a group of ladies with the crudite plate that looked as if it had all just been picked from the garden, put on a plate, and delivered to the table.  Our table feasted on prosciutto and melon, steamed artichoke, mussels and the biggest whole grilled sea bass.  Not to forget multiple bottles of the house white wine from a close, local vineyard, Domaine de St. Joseph.  There is something about the atmosphere that puts you in an instant good mood, and everyone seemed joyful and relaxed.


Shawna with the toys and in new purchases
After lunch: shopping.  Club 55 has the most incredible shop that all shop-lovers must go to.  We were immediately enticed with the cozy pillows for sale outside.  And then there was the assortment of beautiful canvas bags, the wall of colorful sarongs, and various sundries.  Inside was packed with racks of tiny bikinis and swim trunks.  There was a wall of whimsical children's toys, bracelets and more bracelets, cotton dresses, and oh so much more.  We found ourselves outfitted with bikinis and thin sweaters for the afternoon breeze on the ride home.  

Le Club 55.  We will miss you.  And look forward to another day, one day, finding ourselves in a small pocket of paradise.  Merci.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Antibes AbFab

Visting Antibes, France is a fun day trip.  Founded in the 5th Century as a Greek colony, and later taken over by the Romans, Antibes is rich in history with beautiful architecture and stunning views of the sea.

I planned my trip to Antibes for the sole purpose of seeing the Musee Picasso in the glorious Chateau Grimaldi.  This could easily be one of the prettiest places on earth.

Picasso de profil au château Grimaldi: Denise Colomb, 1950

Picasso moved to the South of France in the late 1940s, and he painted in the Chateau Grimaldi for around 3 months.  The museum is interesting as it houses both finished paintings and studies.

La Chèvre, Picasso (1946)
Nature morte a la pasteque, Picasso (1946)

The cool stucco walls lined with the work create a serene environment.  And around corners you find windows with beautiful views.  What a wonderfully inspiring place to paint; I can imagine Picasso with his brushes and palettes breathing in the salt air.

La Feuille, Germaine Richier (1946)   
La Vierge folle, Germaine Richier (1946)
The sculpture garden facing the sea is the perfect way to end the museum tour.  Walking into the garden is breath taking, and truly magnificent.  If only to be able to go back in time and witness Picasso himself walking the grounds and taking in the view.

Next door is Antibes Catherdral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Platea d'Antibes), where I caught a glimpse of a bride going into the church for her wedding.

French Laundry
Not knowing at all what I was getting into, I was surprised to walk around the cobblestone streets and find little treasures.  Premiere Pression Provence is a little gourmet shop selling truffle products, herbes de Provence, etc.  There is a sweet toy shop with precious gifts for little ones.  And I stumbled into Carre Blanc, a store carrying beautiful linens.  And then there is the market in the center of town.  Tables and tables are filled with everything from lamps, antique furniture, antique linens, and more.  I sorted through the clothes to find some Chanel and a few other designers.  One vendor had a beautiful bag designed by Christian Lacroix for a French label I didn't know.  I'm still regretful of leaving that one behind...

After all that walking around, I enjoyed a glass of the Provence rose wine in the town center.  Surprisingly reminded that life is a parade.

Monday, June 18, 2012

London Calling

I love London.  It's a great city.  It's not as chic as Paris, as romantic as Rome or as fashionable as Milan, but it is a fun town.  And the people are warm and friendly, and there is a pint waiting for you around the corner.
I haven't lived in London for almost four years now, but my friends are still in sight, and my favorite spots are still open, and there is always something new to discover.  It's been said that London has awful culinary fare, but it's just not true.  Some of my choice restaurants in the world are here, not to mention the yummy comfort of pub food.  I will warn that dining in London can expand the waistline, but it's worth it.  And waistlines or not, there is some great shopping to occupy your time...

First on the list is visiting the Dukes Hotel Bar for one of the great martinis of the world.  This cozy and charming bar hosts the coldest martinis I've ever encountered, tended by a delightful staff of Italians led by Alessandro.  With Italian lemons used as garnish, and Italian olives served as snacks, the finest English gins pour up a grand time.  Another warning: limit yourself to one!

After crawling to dinner, and if you feel up for a cool bar scene, head on over to Mark's bar.  Hemingway himself could not have concocted a better rum cocktail menu - and the environment is hazy and happening.  The favorite drink, The Royal Bermuda Yacht Club, is refreshing (and a little sour) and light.  It could lead you to a little late night dancing if you have a private club to crash...
London's gastro pubs are the ultimate next-day-essential for surviving London evenings.  My go-to is The Thomas Cubitt, in Belgravia, that I take all friends to and never miss on a trip over.  Sit downstairs! With a  relaxed and inviting vibe, the restaurant easily soothes pounding heads and fills churning stomachs with its classic fish and chips, lovely fish pie, or filling bangers and mash.  A little more upscale than a regular pub, Thomas Cubitt changes ordinary pub grub into a nice dining experience while celebrating the work of London's famed builder, Thomas Cubitt.
Between seeing Buckingham Palace, checking out the art at the Tate Modern, maybe catching a ballet performance of the Royal Ballet, or staring at the portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, there is always room for a little shopping.
There is one little street in Knightsbridge, tucked away from the crowds of Harrod's, that houses 2 phenomenal dress agencies, or, consignment shops, to us Americans.  Pandora's Dress Agency is a haven of finds.  Get over the idea that these clothes and/or shoes have been worn before, think of it as vintage before its time.  It can be hit or miss, but it's always worth a visit.  

Around the corner on Cheval Place is a row of similar spots, and my true favorite is Salou.
Owned by 2 charming and gracious ladies, this tiny store is packed with outrageous finds.  And their Birkin and Kelly collections are superb - all in pristine condition and all guaranteed authentic.

Collectors of Chanel jewelry will pant at their pieces, not to mention their Chanel clothes.  I took my sweet "fourth child" - daughter of my best friend - and she came out with Balenciaga, and an adorable Proenza Schouler shift.  I left with a little Chanel number, a cute Balenciaga day dress and one of the black and white Erdem print dresses.  I'm still hoping for the immaculate blue jean Birkin...
After a day of sight-seeing and shopping, treat yourself to some champagne and caviar at The Caviar & Prunier in Piccadilly.  The blinis could be the best I've ever had, and the people watching is entertaining.  Definitely a pick me up!
Our great friends took me and my husband to Mari Vanna Restaurant in Knightsbridge.
Con Paulo
Con Pauline

Crammed with someone's family portraits, china, books and more, you are taken back into an age when velvet and lace ruled, and all ladies wore corsets (they would have to after eating this food...).

Never a dull moment, always on the go, forever recognizing beauty; London is a city to tackle and dive into.  And I can't even begin to describe The Cigar Club at the Ritz hotel. Cough cough...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Couture Cartier

Being invited to a private dinner for Cartier is like being invited to view the Crown Jewels alone while able to try them on.  It is an evening for Cinderella.  Of course, most of us turn into pumpkins at midnight.
Cartier is tradition.  Their pieces date back to the early nineteenth Century, and the house continues to draw inspiration from its history.  The Tutti Frutti jewels are among my favorites.  As a typical Southerner, I love and admire garden flowers and foliage.  Not that I have a green thumb.  But I would  wear any of the 1920s pieces and those made today while enjoying the view of nature...

A French family-owned company from 1847, Cartier made its name by decorating the necks and hands of the most elite of the world, including Prince of Wales Edward VII, the Rockefeller family, and royals from Monaco, Spain, etc..  Housing itself in the Place Vendome in Paris, Cartier created a brand and a place in fashion history.

Today, Cartier remains one of the great jewelry leaders known.  Swallowed up by the conglomerate of Richemont (who also own Van Cleef & Arpels, Mont Blanc and Net a Porter), the brand has become widespread and well known, a staple in the luxury goods world.  Iconic pieces like the gold panther rings, Panthos watches, and the beloved Trinity line keep the brand up and running.

But the true beauty, the true art form is in the couture line.  Or the fine jewelry.  This is where the artistry takes place, where the exquisite details come to life.  It is also the place where their history comes alive and remains relevant.

I guess I can say that I am a purist, so I am captivated by the couture pieces.  Just receiving one piece for an anniversary, I can tell you that to have such is an honor and a privilege.  Like owning a Degas, a Picasso, a Warhol.  The pieces are works of art that take you to another place in time.

They also take you to a place on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  The beautiful storefront held the dinner after a private viewing of all the glorious sparkles.

With CEO and President of Cartier North America, Emmanuel Perrin, I'm wearing vintage YSL

Dinner was held afterwards on the rooftop, encased in white drapes and frutti tutti-inspired centerpieces of red roses and other flowers.  Conversation with Emmanuel, occasionally in French, we sipped French wine with our choices (I had the fish with risotto), but the highlight was the caviar dessert and sauterne.   After we enjoyed the beautiful three-course dinner, the drapery dropped to the floor all around us, exposing a striking and imposing Los Angeles cityscape and precious gems that we had yet to see set in glass boxes.  The electric fiddler entered as another artist DJ'd to her sounds, all enhanced by the cool California breeze and late night sky.  Breathtaking and surprising, the event only mimicked that of the collection.

There are few times in life when we get to dress up and pretend to be a princess.  The clock always strikes, and the dreams always come to an end.  But it sure is nice to walk in those glass slippers for a while...
Enjoying my panther afterwards at Chateau Marmont with friends  (photo courtesy of Jessica Robin Trent)