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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A very provincial summer: Aix en Provence

It's not everyday I ride through a tunnel of trees to land in the pebble coated motor way of my house in Aix en Provence.  But it was for fourteen short days this summer.  I will never forget that drive.  That drive way.  That house.  That summer.  

Choosing a spot to vacate your life and spend time in the region of Provence can be daunting.  My second summer in a row, I can tell you that you really can't go wrong.  This summer was spent in Aix en Provence, a bit more northwest than last year, with as many wonderful things to do and see as the last.  The town of Aix is indeed charming.  Streets are crowded with shops, churches, squares, and people.  There is a joie de vivre that only can occur in France.  

The Festival D'Aix pulls many visitors in, especially those wishing to see music set in an unusual setting.  I was with a group of friends when we were able to see the Opera, Rigoletto, by Giuseppe Verde.  Shown at the intimate theater of Théâtre de l'Archevêché in the heart of Aix, we enjoyed a modern interpretation of an 1851 Opera story in the beautiful outdoor theater.  Spectacular.  Word to the wise: arrive on time.  Apparently when it comes to operas, the French are quite prompt.

Right in the middle of Aix is the Atelier Cezanne, his studio where he painted amongst the beautiful trees and flowers of Aix, 'chemin des Lauves'.  It's a quick visit, but one of the most personal.  His paint brushes remain from his death, as well as his over coat, canvas stretching machine, letters to Zola and Picasso, books and so much more.  



If you are looking for a shopping expedition, Aix has much to investigate.  There is the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday market at the place de Verdun.  Filled with sundries of old and items of new, there is something for everyone at the market.  Fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, desserts all abound.  And if you are feeling more corporate it's easy to pop into the local Hermes for some air condition and luxury goods.  My group especially loved the locally owned boutique Gago (24 Rue Fabrot, 13100 Aix-en-Provence, France).  I scored a cobalt blue marabou feather jacket, saving to wear for Paris Couture Week! And the Michelin Star restaurant, Restaurant Pierre Reboul, will not disappoint.  In fact, it will amuse and surprise you!

Aix French Laundry
Market shopping with friend Kay Fernandez
A table fit for friends and foodies
If you have the need to get out of town, there are many options.  As a wine lover, I demanded (without much coaxing) from my friends that we visit Châteauneuf-du-Pape. First stop: Les Caves Saint Charles in its 13th Century Cellar.  This place feels, sounds and smells like an ancient monastery, and the Master Sommelier, Guy, plays the role of pope well.  We also stopped by a much smaller cave, Domaine du Banneret.  There we were able to taste wines from our birthday or anniversary years.  And we were even allowed to put a few labels on the wine bottles.  My favorite wine there was the 1997.  The year I was born.


Lunch outside at the beautiful Chateau des Fines Roches was exceptional.  A romantic spot to sit, eat and drink...  (They have great wine tour drivers to ensure the safest of day trips!)

 Walking the small, sweet streets of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is as special as the grape varietals.

Another great side trip is to rent a boat and cruise down the Mediterranean Sea.  No matter your destination, the shoreline is blue and calming.  You can choose to go north or south (we went south past St Tropez), and that is truly a coin toss.  We had a day cruising to .....  Stopping at St. Tropez's Club 55 is always a treat, no matter how quick the visit.

I'm glad to have just now written this post from July memories.  I'm already more relaxed and sun kissed just thinking about it.  I love Provence.  I'd like to go again and again, if the French are willing.  My favorite moments were spent at the house, by the pool or walking the grounds.  Whether alone or with family or a friend, there was a quiet peace there.  A serenity of wholeness that rarely comes in the real world.  Oh vacation...

Come Back Soon

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Haute Couture F/W 2013

Now feeling like a sophomore of Paris Haute Couture week, I went to Paris knowing the lay of the land and, more importantly, which couturiers I wanted to see the most and which I thought I could skip this time. Less is more.
Hating to miss Versace (but instead enjoying a night out in London with friends), I kicked off my fourth visit to couture with Christian Dior Haute Couture.  What a way to start.  Raf Simmons has cleaned up this line in such a modern yet graceful way.  A cube-shaped tent secured the venue for the stunning video installation as decor of the photography artists Patrick Demarchelier, Willy Vandepeere, Paolo Roversi and Terry Richardson.  Blending the current fashion of art with the current fashion of couture, Dior showed a global view of fashion culture.  Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa were all apparent in the designs, and Raf seemed to be bringing back couture to the wardrobe.  
Next I hopped over to Alexis Mabille Haute Couture: The Boldini Collection.  A favorite of mine since my virginal visit of Couture Week, Alexis continues to embody the dazzling world of couture, using embellishment, lace, hand-painted fabrics and hair spectacle.  This was my favorite hair creative from Alexis thus far.  Getting a close up of a model afterward showed the curious detail that is Alexis.  His clothes are always about the womanly wonder and fantasyland of couture.  

Giambattista Valli Haute Couture was next.  The runway was set amongst striking alabaster Classical statues in all white.  Always romantic and feminine, Valli will never disappoint clients with florals, sheers, bustles and drama.  I preferred this collection to others in the past.  Bundled in four categories of famous china makers, Capodimonte, Wedgewood, Sevres, and Meissen, the collection did emulate the delicate work of handmade china.  I particularly loved the make up shown on the runway: a very simple, natural glow on each face with pulled back straight hair.  The yellow gown was the hit of the night!
The Chanel Haute Couture of Karl Lagerfeld can only be described as passionate.  Lagerfeld is cleverly able to show the iconic Chanel tweeds in the most refreshing ways with each collection.  And the venue is always a place of mystery and excitement.  Creating an apocalyptic setting of old wood stalls, a dilapidated stage and rubble inside the Grand Palais, it was an apparent bridge between the old world and the post modern world.  With low slung belts on almost every piece, even the clothes seemed to transport from old to new, classic to sic-fi.  Classic silhouettes in futuristic fabrics and details stomped from the stage of the shiny new city in the background.  All to opera.  With fan in hand, I was mesmerized and awed in a way that only Lagerfeld can do.  All the while wishing it would never end...
Ulyanna Sergeenko has become the one to watch.  There is something special, out of the ordinary and youthful about what she is doing.  I need to brave up and wear one of the pieces - if only I were taller, skinnier and more Russian-looking.  This was a much more subdued collection than I've seen before, and she is getting better and better.  As models entered through the dewey mist of the forest, her vision was clear: gothic Russian fairytale.  Russians have such a great and imaginative way of storytelling, whether through literature, music, dance, theatre or fashion.  I loved seeing the artfulness come to life in clothes.  And I truly loved the coats - especially the shaved beaver cape.  And the booties - so chic and cool.  My must have from the collection.

My true love, Jean Paul Gaulthier.  His Haute Couture shows are always a spectacle, no matter the clothes.  But this collection I was wishing I could buy from top to bottom.  The kitty kats escaped from the circus and found themselves on the runway of the Gaulthier.  Opening with the theme music from The Pink Panther, these women cats started strutting in different versions of leopard, from stockings to furs to painted leopard hair (goodbye ghastly pink or purple hair, it's time for leopard print hair).  Trousers, pockets and jackets inspired by clowns of the circus made an appearance as well,  showing a sense of humor.  But at the end of the day, you break these pieces down to simply, well-made additions to your wardrobe.  Gaulthier may show in a fantastic, cooky way, but when you see the clothes and try them on, his couture reads sophisticated chic.

Valentino Haute Couture seems to be the most somber and serious of all couture during the week.  Chiuri and Piccioli are the cerebral designers in the fashion world, and I love them for it.  Inspired by curiosities, as written "a thirst for knowledge", the collection uses colors and embroideries from objects like Zebra heads, coral, crystal, butterflies, beetles, bees etc.  The result is a quiet, dark, subtle collection with surprising bursts of colors.  Knowing the craftsmanship of Valentino, what may seem simple on the runway is sure to be intricate and beyond detailed in person.  Tweeds, embroideries with hidden images of objects, mink details, lace - all of it used in a very quiet way.  This duo is a duo of artists who created le rêve de la couture.

Attending the shows of Haute Couture is in and of itself a dream for me.  As a former dancer/choreographer and forever art world lover, this week is the perfect blend of art and fashion.  Add Paris, friends, family and parties to the mix, and you have the ultimate cocktail.
After a day of Couture and an evening with the family: perfect harmony