Today’s this . . design & living sale event, with its rustic, French-inspired homwares, seemed the perfect opportunity for Karen McCartney to share some images from her recent trip to France.
The thing about France as a holiday destination is that it delivers every time. It is unflaggingly beautiful, whether in the tiny streets of the Marais in Paris or the wide-open sunflower filled fields of the Dordogne. It is photogenic at every turn.
A tiny apartment near the Pompidou Centre (sourced through Wimdu.com) gave us a base, and we walked and walked – to galleries, to shops, restaurants and the endless wonderful architectural sights. Yes the children did complain from time to time but compromises were negotiated and purchases were made – a dream catcher at the Branly Museum, a linen shirt at Loft Design By (16 year old boys have expensive tastes), a trip to Zara (inescapable globalisation).
Our trip took us by plane to Paris, by train to Bordeaux and by car to Toulouse. Here are a few of my favourite images that, for me, conjure up the very essence of the trip.
(Left) Laperouse. We read about this restaurant in a Wallpaper* guide and its history (as a former private mansion built in 1766) and the heartfelt recommendation made it a must. Even at lunch the restaurant was not cheap but it was probably the most memorable, exquisite eating experience of our lives. The décor is remarkable and a trip to the bathroom reveals the private dining rooms, which are the perfect setting for a proposal. (Right) Café de Flore, a Parisian institution that has remained unchanged since the war, is famous for its literary credentials, established when Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre made it their regular haunt. They do a great croissant and coffee breakfast and the waiters are super-busy but still have a touch of Gallic charm.
(Left) The Musee du quay Branly, designed by Jean Nouvel, is a phenomenal exhibition space housing 5450 artefacts predominantly from Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Sinuous leather-clad partition walls divide the space and guide you from one remarkable exhibit to another. Allow plenty of time. (Right) Sometimes it is the joy of the everyday that captures the camera’s attention. A shop front in the Marais sums up so much of what Paris is about.
(Left) Merci is one of our favourite shops and, blissfully, July is sale time. Clothes, furniture, bed linen, and home wares are all displayed with studied casual chic. We came away with something for all the family, plus the best gelato we had ever tasted. The installation shown is of ‘scrapwood’ wallpaper by Piet Hein Eek. (Right) My son is keen on street art and there was something good everywhere you looked. This delicate lace pattern graced a plain concrete wall.
(Left) I particularly liked the patina on the distressed, decorative metal panels below the check-out desk at Merci. As there was a long queue, there was plenty of time to study it. It is that ability to effortlessly combine the old and new that gives the shop its tremendous character. (Right) The Musee D’Orsay is another must for anyone interested in Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. This awe-inspiring space is a converted train station and houses the most remarkable collection. To keep the children amused we would play the game of choosing our favourite artwork from each room.
(Left) Gallery visits had to be balanced with shopping trips, and Loft Design By in the Marais district was a success. Those not buying clothes could sit comfortably flicking through art books and admiring the décor. This wall of framed pictures was particularly charming. (Right) This shop sign in rusted steel will only grow better with age.
(Left) The ultimate French ice cream van – a Citroen HY mobile van with cute illustrations spotted in the ancient town of Eymet. Interestingly, it is operated by an Englishman. (Right) Street art, which shows that graffiti can be chic – it is Paris after all.
(Left) A walk around the narrow roads of the Dordogne revealed unexpected vistas of sunflowers and ancient stone buildings. My daughter and I had to swap shoes on the walk as her Converse trainers hurt her feet, and by the end of the walk I was hobbling. The scenery was worth it. Just. (Right) Cooking the fantastic local produce was a daily event, helped by a glass of local wine. Grilled asparagus with garlic was as good to eat as it looks.
(Left) These cheeses were photographed in the window of a shop in Toulouse and are an artwork in themselves. (Right) The market building in the centre of Toulouse creates a remarkable graphic facade.
(Left) A view across the river La Garonne in the centre of Toulouse and finally, a burst of hydrangeas in the foreground and an uninterrupted view of the Pyrenees on the horizon (right).
If you can’t get enough of Parisian style, you’ll also enjoy Glen Proebstel’s guide to the city of light.