Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Paris Thanksgiving...or not!

In planning a day trip to Bruges, as a family we decided that Thanksgiving day just might be the perfect day. American Thanksgiving is not a celebrated holiday in France. We thought it would be a memorable day to count in our treasury of Thanksgivings.

Bruges is a quaint, historic village in the uppermost northern point of Belgium. The high speed train ride and consequent transfers took us through rural France and was picturesque. While the thought had crossed our minds of the possibility of cloudy, cool weather, we had not anticipated steady rain with periods of downright downfall!

It was indeed, a memorable Thanksgiving Day!

Upon arriving in the city, this was the first sign that greeted us. You might have well asked me to perform brain surgery as to interpret this! It was basically Greek to us all.

Flemish is the language spoken and the natives don't take nicely to French! They do respond, however, to English.

Being so near the Scandanavian culture, bicycling is a main mode of transportation. I even saw an entire parking garage underground that was only for bicycles! This mass of cycles was quite a sight.

Likewise, many signs throughout the city were specific for the cyclists.

An early stop in the day, partially to duck out of the rain and at the request of my grandson, Lucas...Belgium style fries with toppings and beignets (a bit like our doughnut holes, only finer!).

This is a small taste o the colorful and beautiful architecture to be found all about the city.

More to come later on this.

No trip to Bruges would be complete without sampling the native waffles and hot chocolate. By this time it was pouring down rain, my granddaughter, Eva, was soaked from head to toe (and still in fine spirits! I'm afraid I can't say the same for me.)

Just look at these colorful cups of hot chocolate!

Good thing we got our self portrait before the deluge of rain.

After a long train ride home including 3 transfers and a two-stop metro adventure, we made it back to the apartment only to put the finishing touches on a good soaking all the way to the bone on the way home from the metro station.

This picture outside the Bruges train station says it all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sing Noel!

Last evening, the family took a metro ride to the area where the high end department stores are to view the Christmas windows! We were not disappointed.

At the Galeries Layfayette , the first set of windows were all about pink! My cute friend and buying cohart, Linda, would be thrilled! After all, she is also all about pink!

Stacks of pink boxes...(I wanted to get in there and show them a real stylish bow) but they caught my fancy anyway!

Mannequins with pink wigs! And what wigs they were. Extreme styles, extreme color, and extreme coiffed do's. Oh, yes, it was all about style!

...and just check out these eyelashes!

Pink boxes stacked with bottle after bottle of interesting eggplant parfum bottles. Add another pink-wigged mannequin, and voila!

As we moved on, this sign "Noel Gourmand" led us to additional windows with themes of a "sweet Christmas", yes all confection related.

Pink ornaments, pink marshmellows, pink mints, everything pink!

Pink macarons fabricated from satins and velvets formed this croquenbouche stacked and surrounded by more pink boxes, tea sets and pearls.

This was a personal favorite, a box of popcorn fashioned from passementarie trim!! Two of my passions together...passementaries and popcorn! Note the satin jelly roll and ice cream cones as well. So cute.

This window, hot pink marshmallows! And what marshmallow confection cake would be complete without champagne?

And towards the end, a bit of relief from the pink with several windows back-lit with blue. White snowy themes, peaceful blue windows.

Paris really knows how to do Christmas windows!

Perhaps the Black-eyed Susan Christmas windows will reflect a bit of Paris inspiration.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Paris Views

This is the view from our apartment window. In the heart of the city and within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower, one can feel the excitement of Paris close at hand. There is a gourmet grocery store directly across the street that is open until 11:30pm and always teeming with activity. All needs from fine chocolate to cheese and exotic juices are close at hand!

A closeup of the fresh produce to be found at Carrefour, the local grocer.

Fabulous architecture is at every turn. Highly decorative doors are the norm, corbels and gargoyles abound, and ironwork dresses almost every window. I never tire of photographing these elements, although I'm not such an expert as Michelle or Fred!

Decorative iron, corbels and beautiful windows! A true delight to the eye. It's everywhere!

Even the rooftops are beautiful, and chimney pots are the norm. I'll show you a better photo of these later.
Most building have an angled corner like this! These views of the buildings are sometimes the most interesting. Window boxes are also the norm, and even this time of year can be seen brimming with geraniums and fancy ivies.

Color is everywhere and in assorted brights and pastels. This French bistro boasts pink and grey chairs. Oh so French.

Benches in bright green...

And last of all, for tonight, these colorful chairs in the metro! (The metro could be an entire post on its own. I'll have too do that!)

There's just not much not to love about Paris.

Paris Day 1, Evening stroll

An evening stroll down this beautiful street, Rue Cler, was in order our first night to find the butcher shop. Very close to our apartment, it affords many delights from bakeries, boutiques, cafes, and fruit stands. The street is very active and exciting with bustling patrons, fresh baguettes in hand. Sometimes we make several trips a day down this cobblestone street and I never tire of the walk.

This is just one of our favorite stops...really, for a fresh baguette, but you can see the temptations!

These miniature confections draw one in and are tempting any time of night or day! I guess you can see why I was diligently trying to loose 10 lbs prior to my trip....hopefully, the many miles of walking the next few days will make up for my failure. At least one pastry a day is definitely on the "to do" list. Never mind the cheeses, jams, crepes, sandwiches on fresh baguettes, chocolates, fine chocolate drinks, Italian gellatos (for real!),'s a pretty limitless array. Oh dear.

We finally made it to the butcher shop, our true destination. All manner of fine cuts of meat were on display. We went for lamb for Sunday dinner, but I couldn't help but snap this shot of a pheasant, talons and all!

How stylish this row of fancy oils seemed.

I'll have to tell you that it certainly makes for a wonderful visit to have your own personal interpreter and guide. All the better that it's my darling daughter, Michelle!

Paris Day 1

We started out the morning of our arrival walking one of the Paris Flea Markets that would only be there Saturday and Sunday . It's rather hard to get the whole effect of the market, but I shot this photo as we started down the first isle.

Here are a few of my favorite things!

Of course, one of my favorite, favorite things to collect...buttons! The flea market is full of various vendors. This box of mother of pearl buttons in three sizes, exlarge, large, and medium caught my eye. This was one of my first purchases!

My daughter, Michelle, has made friends with one particular man who has a fabulous display to sort through each market. I purchased some of my favorites from him my last visit and found more treasures here this time as well. I'll try to share some of my selections if I don't become too attached to them before I can get them to the store! I did find a particular special find for my bedroom makeover be revealed next week during the final installation!

Many of you who were in my classes for my home tour a few weeks ago know of my love for vintage silver. Trays and trays of the finest silver to "character quality" silver are abundant for discovery here.

Another thing in abundance are dogs! Vendors, patrons, and beggars by the dozen have dogs in tow. I must say that almost all dogs in Paris are well-mannered. This wired haired scraggly one indulged me in a photo! Parisians are not happy to be photographed on the whole. Not sure how their dogs feel!

My love of old keys took me straight to this booth. They are plentiful as well, however, fairly expensive.
I purchased several of these enamel number plates. Remember the enamel numbers I found on another trip and posted on my black doors? I could just see these tied with tiny black grosgrain dressing the top of a piece of art or another collection. Yes, I'll try to share.

A set of four darling French chairs that looked like they had been painted (the fabric!)...hmmm, where have I seen that?! I had to walk up to them to examine what I saw and confirmed my suspicion. You can look for my painted French chairs to make an appearance in the Christmas store windows soon!

Here I am seated in one of the French chairs. (Plane hair, and all....)

You know how I love anything orange, and this vintage dial phone caught my eye.

I found this collection of walking sticks and thought how nice they would be added to mine! Then the vision of my all too full luggage came to mind, and I was forced to pass them by. Oh, they did speak to my heart, however.

As we neared the end of the Market, I took time to browse through these book plates of historic furniture. Too many to choose from. Oh, dear.

Michelle had found this vendor the last time she came! Her booth was full of fabulous labels, seed packets, ribbons, linens and all manner of dry goods. I spent several hundred euros here and breathed deeply.

Take a look at this pale pink silk taffeta ribbon. I passed it by, but I'm not sure how....

I guess you can see why, even sleep deprived and weary after an 8 hour plane ride and a trip through customs at the Paris airport, it was a must-do visit. I love Paris flea markets.

I'll try to spread the joy around. Come see some of my findings at the store when I return!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Multiple holiday setups+store events+intense interior deadlines+sickness=blogging setback!

In response to many inquiries as to "where I have been" of late, my title just about says it all.

While knowing that my Paris trip was quickly approaching, and trying to get my design projects to a state where work can continue without my input, completing three full days of all-day Christmas set-ups, squeezing in several early morning design appointments, doing a tiny bit of shopping for necessities prior to my trip, continuing on a full self-diagnosed cold/flu treatment, and finally staying up most of the night prior to leaving for get the picture! (That run-on sentence is about equivalent to my life right now!)

Our yearly setup for the Rittenhouse Square Penthouse Christmas was completed during the week, and it was rewarding and beautiful. The owner greeted us with high expectations and rooms full of boxed ornaments, along with (2) 12' trees. My team of four came armed with multiple tall ladders, additional ornaments, snacks and energy for the long day.

Here I am, with ladder in hand, ready to start one of the 12' trees. Jeff, co-designer ended up doing both trees while I did the rest of The Penthouse! Sweet!

Beautiful historic arched french doors, mantles galore, 14' ceilings and a delightful homeowner who gives us creative license always makes for an enjoyable day's work. We got off to a great start and finished the project (with my team of 4) in about 9 hours. Whew! Good thing beautiful surroundings sustains long hours. The doorman informed George, one of my new crew members, that The Rittenhouse is the oldest building in Philadelphia.

This was our view as we approached Rittenhouse Square. Note the 6 Christmas trees on the two sides of the 20th floor balconies! Quite an engineering feat, to be sure. Our job was the interior Christmas.

One of Liz's trees was designed around the hot pink and cream Scalamandre silk drapery panels in the dining room. It's quite a glamorous tree with the background of the city.

One of the many mantles in The Penthouse, in the living room. Gilded tinsel trees fill the fireplace (nonworking!) with multiple glass vessels holding candles. I also added a collection of gilded bird's nests and eggs, and a few ornaments as well. The top of the mantle heralded a second collection of the tinsel trees.

One of my favorite vintage inspired lantern-style chandeliers (of which there are four down the center hall), shown with a chocolate ornament of an acorn topped by a bird. One of these hangs on each lantern.

The entryway is grounded by this 70" eglimoise mirror. If you look closely, you can see the reflection of the beginning of the four lanterns. The images reflected are magical!

This fine marble bust is in the Christmas spirit with a juniper wreath and organdy ribbon. A few sprays nested with chocolate ornaments accent the chocolate /gold striped wallpaper in the foyer and hall. A bit of whimsy, the unexpected, and style!

In the dining room, this antique French chandelier is dressed in greens and assorted hot pink ornaments from the tree collection. This chandelier was the first inspiration for the hot pink silk striped draperies. A prized gift to Liz now becomes part of the Christmas drama!

Now, the view as we left, nine hours later. The sun has set and take a look at the 6 trees on the balconies once again.

This part of Philadelphia is really a beautiful sight. Merry Christmas to The Square from Black-eyed Susan and Liz.