• Creature of Habit!

    Paris, France…I have travelled to Paris yearly for decades and of course I have “my places”!

    I have done this trip on business so many times that I have an automatic itinerary and route I follow. I can cover this city in under three days like a true pro!

    This time my trip is more relaxed and I don’t need to be so thorough…I am taking my time and just hitting my absolute favorites and by going off course I hope to discover spots I may have overlooked on previous visits!

    But there is one habit that I cannot break…lunch or dinner at Chez Andre! It’s a must, I don’t feel I have been in Paris if I have not been here. I have brought many people here and introduced them to this charming French bistro near the Champs Élysées. I was introduced to it on one of my first trips in 1990 and have returned religiously ever since! I have years of memories logged at this place shared with various friends and colleagues over the years.

    Chez Andre dates back to the 1930’s and I love the very Parisian waitresses in their black uniforms with starch white collar and matching apron. Several of these ladies have been here as long as I have been indulging in their delicious French fare!

    I start with a delicious kir royale, then either the amazing lentil salad or goat cheese salad, of course accompanied by to die for bread and fresh butter..but the “piece de resistance” for me is the steak tartare with a side of pommes frites! Oh la la! Yum Yum! Today I skip desert, but the tarte tatin is heaven…

    Some habits die hard and this French tradition is going no where! I look forward to returning to Paris soon along with another amazing meal at Chez Andrez…

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  • Window Shopping!

    Paris, France…window shopping galore! This city offers so much sensory stimulation…fashion, art, antiquities, interiors, and on and on!

    I love a leisurely day absorbing all the creativity this design hub can offer! The Marais, Saint Honore, Champs Élysées, Avenue Montaigne, and St Germaine des Pres all stimulate with shops and galleries! These are the must hit areas for fashionistas and power shoppers of all kinds!

    Besides just looking at clothing, I look to be inspired! Art and fashion are innately linked…I stumble on a gallery showcasing the art of Alias Henri Desclez and I am struck by the fashion sensibility of these mirrored florals painted on simple geometrics! These look so of-the-moment in fashion…I can see amazing pieces of wearable and chic art made from this art!

    There is no way not to be inspired in this city of so many wonders…design is everywhere you look!

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  • Weaving Fashion Magic!

    Paris, France…today is the day for me to get back in the game, albeit briefly! I am breaking my extended vacation to return to Premier Vision, the huge fabric expo on the outskirts of Paris. This show marks the official design kickoff for Fall 2013…it’s a must attend for fashion professionals as it’s a one stop shop for the building blocks of any collection: fabric, prints, and trims! It’s a great way for me to stay informed and on top of what’s going on while I am on my long sabbatical…

    Everyone always wants an insider view on fashion…this is far from glamourous, it’s an overwhelming maze of a show…halls the size of football fields are filled with vendors showcasing the newest innovations in chic! It’s daunting, even after many years of attending. It requires incredible focus and energy to find a needle in this haystack!

    This show blends the art of fashion with true commerce! Trends spoken in airy fairy language and the hard reality of the business coexist here. As a designer, you need to cut through all the noise and find what’s new and interesting and recognize key trends that will permeate the clothing and interior design world and become big retail hits!

    I spend the day navigating hallway after hallway and some things start to inspire! What is great is to feel all the creative energy of thousands of designers converged in one place…each seeing the offerings in their own unique way. Plus I get a giggle at all the fashionistas checking each other out and parading around in their new Fall outfits!

    In six months, we will see all this materialize into runway extravaganzas and in less than a year the stores will be filled with what started here!

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  • La Belle Vie!

    Paris, France…I arrived in the City of Light a bit weary after 20 hours of air travel from Cape Town via Doha. I always love Paris and have spent a lot of time here over my years in the fashion industry!

    Regardless of being tired I am anxious to hit the Parisian streets! I am staying in the Marais which is my favorite area in Paris…how convenient to go check out all my favorite haunts…I love this area for it’s artsy vibe. It has become a fashion destination as well since designers have discovered this neighborhood and set up shop!

    Place Des Vosges instantly puts me in a French mood and gets me in a Paris state of mind! From there, I stroll the shops of the Marais, peeking into little hidden squares and taking in some grand architecture.

    Next it’s on to the old Jewish ghetto area of the Marais that is still filled with butchers and bakeries! I must stop and indulge in the famous falafel sandwiches and admire the beautiful challah in the bakery windows.

    Tea lovers come to the Marais for Maraige Freres, the famous tea shop tucked down a short street in the heart of the Marais. I continue my window shopping and enjoy the beautiful Fall day!

    I wind up my stroll through my favorite arrondissement at Hotel d’Ville. This beautiful piece of history is alive with pedestrians and the light sort of bounces off the Seine in the distance!

    Paris is feast for the eyes and the palate! I relish my few days here every year in the early Fall…Oh, this is the good life!

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  • Fashion Forward!

    Cape Town, South Africa…the beautiful surroundings of this city has spawned a recent surge in up and coming and hip designers The hillside is full of magazine worthy contemporary homes that overlook the amazing beaches of Camp’s Bay and Clifton and now the city has an cool emerging design scene focusing on clothing and interiors with an ode to that amazing African color sensibility.

    African style seems to always include an evocative use of color mixes. Art galleries, street art, and the new interior design hub of Bree Street showcase these ideas. Quirky interior design shop, Sarah Ord, seems to be getting acclaim for her melding of this aesthetic into a her own contemporary language for home decoration.

    Long Street has a concentration of cool womenswear shops. A plethora of Vintage clothing that’s been reworked, great artisan jewelry, and contemporary young clothing designers. The focus is on the unknown brands and more artistic young talent as opposed to the international mega labels!

    Adjacent to Long Street is also Greenmarket Square, which is a bustling open air market filled with African crafts using unlikely materials and colors. You can find some clever takes on classic crafts here.

    I have also discovered the pop up shop concept here, a way to showcase an edgy new idea. SECRET is a gold clad emporium I stumbled upon that was totally chic with a mix of hand selected items.

    Finally there is Montebello Design Center specializing in locally inspired and made products. There are loads of creative types in little nooks and crannies making one of a kind gems!

    Creativity is so refreshing and I love being exposed to different points of views and aesthetics! I am inspired even by things that I personally wouldn’t wear or typically gravitate to!

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  • A Dutch Treat!

    Cape Town, South Africa…today was my last full day in this place that I have been totally taken by. I travelled a short distance out of Cape Town to the historical settlement of Stellenbosch. Set in the famous South African wine region by the same name, this valley is revered for its wine making and the beauty of this small Dutch town that dates back centuries.

    The second oldest European settlement in the province after Cape Town. Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 during the period of control by the Dutch East India Company. Hence the Dutch architecture that makes up the beauty of the town which is full of homes and cottages that are all finished with a striking white-lime wash with black hatch roofing. The area is set in the Jonkershoek Valley and is full of rolling vineyards and the town itself became known as the City of Oaks, due to the large number of grand Oak Trees that line the streets. These oaks were originally planted to provide the wood for the wine barrels so they would not need to be imported…but these Oaks grew too porous to be used and now are beloved and protected parts of Stellenbosch!

    Dorp Street is lined with beautiful cottages and a myriad of little shops and cafes. You can definitely spend an afternoon here strolling the shops and galleries and some of the regions most acclaimed restaurants are situated on vineyards in the nearby valley!

    It is a testament to the entire area of the Western Cape that so much beauty is housed in a relatively close distance…a week here and I have discovered gem after gem. Each day I am in awe of another site that captivates the senses! Stellenbosch was just icing on the delicious cake of my time here! I understand why this region is a favorite of locals for weddings…I can totally picture nuptials in one of the many grand vineyards that line the road to Stellenbosch!

    Cape Town may be a long way away from home, but definitely a place everyone should put on their list!
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  • Something’s Fishy!

    Cape Town, South Africa…I have been really enjoying South Africa…food is of course a highlight of any trip…the chance to eat things you have never had before and experience brand new flavors! Being situated on the water, Cape Town is a haven for seafood! But, I have been perplexed by fish I have never heard of and makes ordering very difficult…

    Besides the typical Salmon, Tuna, and Yellowtail, there are a myriad of different species that are not popular in the USA or anywhere else I have travelled for that matter. So I did some research and compiled a list of some of these local delicacies…I have tried most and have really enjoyed the seafood of Cape Town!

    Here is an overview:

    Hake: They are a mild fish, having a more subtle flavour than cod. Hake is considered one of the best fish in the whiting family because of its firm, sweet, white meat and medium flake. Commonly used for delicious local fish & chips.

    Kob or Dusky Kob: a much sought after fish, due to its firm, white flesh & mild flavor ensuring an outstanding culinary experience…usually prepared simply and delicious.

    Kingklip: this fish has mild, sweet flavor with firm and dense flesh resembling monkfish, but softer and with large loose flakes. I have experienced a popular cajun preparation of this that was outstanding! The denseness holds up and is a delicious fish.

    Soldierfish: This red fish with meat is kind of mushy, so you have to cook it longer so that it dries out a little. It can be fishy tasting but it is very popular in Japan as well as here in South Africa.

    Snoek: This is the fish most associated with South Africa. It is sold fresh, smoked, canned and frozen. It is oily, extremely bony (although the bones are large and easily removed from the cooked fish) and has very fine scales which are almost undetectable, making it unnecessary to scale the fish while cleaning. Snoek has a very distinctive taste. It is prepared very much like tuna from sandwiches to Snoek cakes.

    Bluenose: also known as antarctic butterfish: Bluenose have firm textured flesh, which is moist and succulent. The pink/white flesh whitens on cooking. Bluenose are regarded as premium fillets, which suit most cooking methods.

    I love learning about anything new and I love to eat! I make every trip into a culinary experience from street food to fine restaurants, this way you really can get a feel of a place!

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  • Flower Power!

    Cape Town, South Africa…besides the stunning mountain scape and magnificent ocean side, Cape Town showcases a beautiful array of botanical treats.

    Exotic flowers can be seen at the Company Gardens right in the city and also at the awesome Kirstenbosch Gardens. The Protea is the national flower and the Grand Protea is prominently displayed at Kirstenbosch! Horticulturists would be in heaven in this town over the flowers on display at the gardens or at the wild fauna that blankets Table Mountain.

    Nature can really stun you with it’s intricate beauty! Seeing it all come together in Cape Town is a treat for any visitor!

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  • A Day on the Sand!

    Cape Town, South Africa…summer weather descended on Cape Town today with sun glaring down and temps rising above 80 degrees making for a perfect Saturday! Captonians do one thing when the weather gets nice; they go to the beach…

    There is no shortage of stunning sand beaches here! No need to travel far as the beautiful people flock to the sand on the other side of Table Mountain within the confines of Cape Town…no need for a big trek to find this city’s glorious beaches!

    The fashion crowd goes to Clifton beach…there are 4 beaches here nestled between the rocks. I choose beach 3, as it known as the must-visit beach and the unofficial gay beach! Small yet beautiful, the beach is set in a small alcove, a long winding set of steps below the main road. The waves are amazing to watch but even more relaxing to hear as they crash ashore! I set up my spot and rent a umbrella, soon enough I am snoring away under the South African sun…Suddenly I am awakened by the screaming of other beach goers as I am simultaneously swept away in a massive frigid wave that takes over most of the sand. I am drenched, but luckily my iPhone was saved, I retreat to the rocky edge to be safe from the aggressive sea! Locals laugh at my and other’s beach goers unfortunate circumstances and I have to feign stupidity with my water logged towel, bag, and clothes…a cute dog runs over to comfort my embarrassment! He becomes my new beach buddy! Swimming really isn’t part of beach life as the water gets colder as the seasons switch to warmer.

    After enough sun, I stroll to Camps Bay, the bustling wide sand beach with an array of “be seen” celebrity haunts that line the beach…I settle in to a cafe for a late lunch and watch beautiful Capetonians stroll by and local Afrikaans entertain along the busy thoroughfare! I realize this city is a blend of San Francisco but with better weather, the urban beach culture of Sydney, and the body beauty vibe of Los Angeles!

    But comparisons aside, Cape Town is a true original! Sitting on the beach of Camp’s Bay with Table Mountain’s “Twelve Apostles” named grand buttresses behind me…I really can’t think of another place like this!

    This is just a preview of what the coming summer months must be like here! I can understand why weekends start at noon on Fridays year round! I too would have a problem focusing on work on Fridays knowing the beauty of this city is calling!

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