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Tag Archive for ‘France’

Bonjour, Happiness!

With all the birthday fete-ing I have received this week it has been a bit of challenge to find  time to be online . But I just had to take a moment to share the news of Jamie Cat Callan’s just released book, Bonjour Happiness.  Jamie is my friend, my teacher and the author of French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, and she kindly invited Lily, my dog-aughter, and I to be part of her latest book that offers the secret to French flavored happiness.  Jamie asked me to write on one of my favorite topics, my Lily love and how her love has brought me beacoup joy. I am so very excited and honoured to have had the opportunity to write about how much happiness Lily brings me and how loving her has changed my life. I hope you check out Jamie’s book which offers the “secrets to finding Joie de Vivre” and my little essay-lette in it.
Continue reading ‘Bonjour, Happiness!’

The Wizard of Pilgrim Pumps

See those shoes, the one in the picture, those are the gorgeous and iconic Roger Vivier Pilgrim pump with silver buckles shoes that Catherine Deneuve wore in Belle du Jour. Those shoes, for years, have been on my “someday” list. I just want one pair of Roger Vivier shoes to call my own. And yes I know full well that slipping on one of the shoes that Catherine Deneuve wore will not turn me into her. Having these shoes will not allow me to speak French with a perfect Parisian accent. I will not have long blond hair, an air of cool goddessy beauty, and I will still have days when I wear squirrel pajamas all day and think beer and pizza seems like a good idea( something I am sure Catherine has NEVER done). Knowing that has not stopped me from wanting these beauties.

My years of longing have inspired some settling. I have had a pair of Banana Republic copies. I once had a pair of suede shoes that had a similar pilgrim/pirate vibe that I wore to death and that I miss often. What held me back from owning a pair of Roger Vivier shoes? Simple, they are expensive. $585 for flats expensive.

There is a reason Roger’s shoes are so expensive. Roger Vivier was a French fashion designer who specialized in shoes. He was the very first to create a stiletto heel. For many years he was the shoe designer for Givenchy. His designs and construction were so exceptional that he was considered the “Fragonard of the shoe” and “the Fabergé of Footwear. The Fragonard and Faberge of anything never comes cheap. Really, the Faberge of falafel has to be double the cost of your ordinary falafel.

Vivier’s shoes have been worn by Ava Gardner, Gloria Guinness,The Beatles and most recently Suri Cruise( the only child lucky enough to have custom made Roger Viver pilgrim flats). Queen Elizabeth II wore Roger Vivier shoes for her coronation.

And now his shoes are being worn by me. Yep, those babies are MINE. MINE, all mine!!!!
How, you ask? After a lovely champagne luncheon with Une femme de une certain age, who had taken me out to lunch to celebrate passing my first test, I did a little shopping. I went into Neiman Marcus. I looked at handbags on sale and found nothing I loved. Then I looked for an ornament for our Christmas tree and found nothing but a $150 candle that I put down as quickly as I read the price. I was about to leave the store and then I though, hmmm….maybe I will stop by the shoe department.

I took a walk through the department I saw some over processed blond starlet shopping for shoes who was seemingly seeking anonymity behind big sunglasses and was simultaneously exposed in a big way in a tee shirt that was falling off one shoulder to reveal her bralessness. One would think I would have kept my eyes on her wardrobe malfunction in the making but truth be told I could not take my eyes off her over-fried, dried and extra-crunchy blond hair. I wanted to interrupt her shoe shopping and take her over to the Frederik Fekkai counter and suggest that she buy gallons of his Protein RX Reparative Treatment Mask and that she should keep this stuff on her head 23 hours a day and maybe after a month or two the stuff on top of her head would once again look like human hair and not some kind of mutant hay meant for kindling forest fires.

Still considering my intervention and thinking about adding a trip to the lingerie department to introduce the shoe seeking starlet to a brazier, I strolled over to the sale section after admiring all the shoes that cost more than my car payment and that is when I saw it. There it was in a ten medium sitting on the sales rack. I picked it up and examined it, disbelieving my eyes. I looked for a flaw or perhaps it was a mistake and they weren’t really on sale. But there was nothing wrong and they really were on sale. I grabbed a sales association and insisted on seeing the mate of this beauty. As she went off to find my shoe I went into a kind of shock that they could be mine. I silently said to myself, “Today is the day they come home with me. Today could be the day when my Roger Vivier dream comes true.”

When I got them on my feet I quit thinking and I started feeling. The feeling was a transcendent/ trans-verbal experience. It is difficult to put into the words the feeling of having the kind of shoes that Wicked Witches of all four corners would kill for. The sales associate interrupted my moment, “How do they feel?” She asked. I heard in her tone a subtext of sales seeking. What she really was asking was, “Are you buying these shoes?”
I ignored her subtext and answered her,”They feel like they are coming home with me.”
I pressed my Neiman’s card into her hand. I feared if I didn’t seal the deal quickly something would happen and the price would go up and the shoes would have to stay in the store and I would have to leave without them or maybe flying monkeys would drop me in a poppy field and I would wake up next to a brainless scarecrow, a heartless tin man and a fraidy-cat feline.
Happily the sales associate returned with my shoes in a bag and my receipt to sign. I signed the receipt with enormous enthusiasm, it was as if my signature was saying “Yes!”

I am not sure how I got so lucky to get my Roger Vivier pilgrim flats for such a fantastic price. I am not sure how someday became today. Perhaps it was my fantasy of doing a well meaning mitzvah for the starlet with the hair of straw that opened the door to my miracle moment in the shoe department at Neiman Marcus. I think it is more likely that I benefited from the amazing shopping mojo of Une Femme who is a kind of Glinda the Good Witch when it comes to shopping( really, I have the best luck when shopping with her or even shopping after I see her. I have found two pairs of long longed for shoes at incredible prices after lunching with ). Whatever the reason, the shoes are mine. And in case any Wicked Witches are reading this, my guard dog is watching them so don’t try anything funny—she’ll drop a doghouse on you.


“Home” by Corine at Hidden in France

Am I a French woman who lives in America, or am I an American woman, as my passport insists, who happened to spend the first 20 years of her life in France? Could anyone reading this help me sort it out?

If you’ve been an expatriate for long enough, you cease to define yourself by your roots. But of course none of those around you do. No matter how American I feel, to my American friends I am first and foremost ‘Française’. I come with a full package of preconceptions, specters of baguettes, berets, whiff of camembert and doubtful personal hygiene and also– just as puzzling to me– inherent elegance, sex appeal and that dab of ‘je ne sais quoi’. My own son recently wrote an essay on our family and every third word mentioned the fact that his mother is French. But to me, things are clear. Home is where I cook burgers on the barbecue. Home is where I wear flip flops to the grocery store. Home is where Barack Obama is.

In a recent blog post I admitted that the title of my blog Hidden in France might as well be Hidden from France. (Warning: digression: my blog is not a safe place to bitch and moan about the (toxic?) nature of home as my mother might read it. Although she has sworn to never lay eyes again on that heap of garbage again. Probably a good choice: To my defense she reads my posts (or refuses to read them) through an online automatic translator and the result is quite surreal. You get the idea: home is not where maman is– No, home cannot possibly be France. All France equals in my mind, is pathos. As a matter of fact, I have not returned to Paris in the five years since my father died. That’s how detached I am, that’s how grown up.

It is pumped up with American patriotism and sentiments that I find myself bravely boarding a plane for Paris this summer. Paris as a tourist will be wonderful, relaxing and so very exotic.

But just one step on the carpet of the ‘aeroport’ and I have this strange instinct: I’m immediately able to sense things Americans are probably not supposed to sense. For example I know to carefully say ‘bonjour’ and ‘excusez-moi’ before asking for directions to the baggage claim. In the U.S. I would address people with a direct question. Not here, no no, no… And how do I know when we sit in our first café for a drink that the personality and mood of the waiter is to be studied and navigated and that I better fake humility in exchange for decent service? I also know that merci means so much more than thank you here. I’m ashamed to tell you that this American girl, within a day of landing in Paris, has reverted to full-on French. I only wear my least comfortable shoes because they are stylish. I no longer slouch. I use table manners and get all uptight about the way my kid’s elbow flares up when he cuts his meat. I detail people and know they are detailing me. I don’t set a foot inside a store without saying bonjour as I know that the store is really an extension of its owner and I would be terribly rude to come in and ignore that silent rule. This is exhausting. I’m a nervous wreck. But there is some awesome stuff too: For example: I know my foods. At ‘Monoprix’ I reach for products remembering exactly what they taste and feel like. In the bakery I know to bypass the croissants for ‘chouquettes’ and to ask for my baguette ‘pas trop cuite’. Forget well done burgers, I suddenly look at a steak tartare on restaurant menus as delicacy rather than breeding ground for e-coli. And there are little tricks about the system I simply know. I call ‘SOS Médecin’, the service that will send a doctor to my door in less time it takes to have a pizza delivered (and for roughly the same amount). I let steam out by snapping at strangers because it feels great and I know the worst they will do is snap back at me: there are no full-blown Psychos here, only low- grade ones such as myself. And I know how to communicate with strangers in that convoluted way that will ensure that the gruff post office lady will send my package after hour ‘pour moi exceptionellement’. In France I know the people. I know them intrinsically. I know how they feel and how they function. I know their logic, however absurd, as it is also mine. I know their facial expressions and hand movements because they make total sense; so much conveyed with a wink, a blink, a wave of the hand. In the United States, let’s face it, people have no idea why I wink, or blink or wave my hands about. I just look spastic to them. In France I watch the people sitting at terraces of cafés, gesticulating and disagreeing with one another with gusto, and I want to pull up a chair and join in the fun. In the United States, I will always be too opinionated and argumentative for pleasant conversation. Yes, it is clear to me now. I must belong in France, France is the only place where I can be perceived as normal.

The only problem is: French people don’t feel too normal to me anymore. Here I said it. French people feel grotesque! They are ambulatory clichés. The girl in the flowing dress on the bicycle with the baguette in a basket. The woman shopping at the market with the ‘tailleur’ and the strand of pearls. The man with moustache like this is still 1930. The waiter who woke up on the wrong side of the bed and to whom I must apologize for being there. This is all so weird. Am I really like these people? I suddenly see myself as a living-breathing caricature of Frenchness.

Days later I am back in L.A. the very city I glibly put down in so many blog posts, and I take a big breath of relief. Why do I feel so incredibly light suddenly? My eyes literally caress my small possessions, my paintings, my comfy bed, even that horrid couch that should be burned. Outside the house, I want to kiss people for the directness with which they communicate. I love the absence of mind games. I love the low level of drama, the lack of judgment, the sense that people are basically benevolent. I love the fact that waiters keep their moods to themselves. I love the smog and I love wearing flip-flops. It’s so good to be home.

And immediately, I begin missing France again.

Corine does not have a last name. Not yet. Not until she feels that her writing is fit to attach a last name to. She writes all day in the hope of her novels being published one day. In the meantime she grudgingly attends to the well being of her family and pets. You can read more on the blog Hidden in France, which is about color, Bohemia, de
sign, writing, neurosis, and of course all things French. Because she was traveling she has not read what the illustrious other bloggers have written here about Home but has already purchased the bottle of Bourgogne with which she plans to drown her insecurity after reading them.

Okay but seriously

Born and raised in Paris

Studied at the Sorbonne

Worked in advertising

Married an American and moved to California

Two boys age 10 and 17, One husband, one cat, one dog, two birds, 8 goldfish

Three novels, two screenplays, countless articles, very little money but living the dream.

“Real/now/past homes” by Kate at Make Do Style

My real home is by the seaside. But of course I don’t live where my real home is. I was born and raised by the sea and for years I couldn’t live inland as it made me feel claustrophobic. I’m amazed I live inland now, however the River Thames provides me with a sense of the sea. Water is my favourite thing. I care little for anything else.

I’m quite happy to reside anywhere; I’m a bit similar to a cat. As long as I’ve got food and water, a cosy bed to lie in I’m pretty much done. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve moved about so much, often in the same place. I moved lots due to university and work, although I always owned a property even if I wasn’t living in it. The only thing I regret about moving about is the possession I have either lost or discarded along the way.

My current home is home due to having to relocate very quickly. I actually didn’t give it much thought I just went into operation move mode. Before the sudden announcement by Mr MDS that the Bristol office was shutting and we were offered London, we’d been visiting friends who had moved from Philadelphia to Epsom. When we left I actually uttered the words ‘what a nice place to live’. Four months later we live in the same road as them.

I’m lucky that I’m a city girl at heart as the seaside life I led was always large town or city other than Aberystwyth and Rhodes. Also I had lived and worked in London before after I left university so I felt I was returning, although I don’t think I’d ever really set foot in Surrey before! I love the fact I’m in Oxford Street within 50 minutes of shutting my front door and this includes a cycle ride, train to Waterloo, tube on a rainy day or a lovely walk when it isn’t. But equally on a Saturday morning I can go for a run amongst the woods and deers or we can stroll through Richmond Park. The deer often hang around in our street and we are surrounded by beautiful trees evacuated from Kew Gardens during the Second World War in case of bombing. The space makes up for the lack of water.

My old home before this one was a party home. I literally had a cocktail party the night we moved in and after that it was always party central. I managed to recreate that Italian spontaneous food, drink, music and fun gathering last Friday by chance, I’m happiest in my home when there are people eating, laughing and drinking around me. I miss the oldness of our last home, a large Victorian terraced house. Now it is a new build faux Victorian town house. It is a home for the petit garcon, it is his house. He rules. He’s always telling me off because I call the living room the living room. He calls it the lounge and corrects me on this matter every time I mistakenly refer to the lounge as the living room!

The most effort I’ve made with the house is in the kitchen. It is very red, black and white. It was an insipid magnolia colour so we painted it red and put black wallpaper up on the end wall. I bought red champagne glasses and black wine flutes. I also collect useless food items as decoration, marmite jars, Selfridges’s coke bottle, old Campbell soup tins and Italian biscuit boxes. We have also started to tend to the garden, so the kitchen and garden are the most loved of the house.

What I need is a beach hut. This would be my preferred home. Or a small place in France near the sea in Normandy or Brittany. I do crave a place by the sea. I spend a lot of time online searching for this place by the sea; it is a fantasy search as I don’t have the funds! I’m not particular about any style of house; I tend to go on how I feel about a house, although I love the Hopper houses in his paintings by the sea. I’m drawn to lighthouses and have lots of pictures of them. I don’t intend to live where we do for ever but for now it is home.
Kate is the author of Make do Style and Fashion and Film . She is also a stylist and is presently studying for an MA in Fashion and Film at London College of Fashion and her first short film will premier in November.

Chez Vicki

Mas de Bérard
St Rémy de Provence
17 July 2009

Dear La Belle,
When I received your email asking me to write about home and where it is and what it means for me I thought this is a little complicated; Does La Belle know that I am rather confused about home? Does she know that I consider myself at home in three different countries? As a fan of your blog I know that the question of home and where you belong are of great importance to you and here you are asking me, me who is never in the one place for very long, to talk to you about home. Let me explain.I was born and raised in Australia and for whatever reason cursed or blessed with a desire to travel and see the world from a very young age. I travelled as a child with my mother, I travelled as a single girl whenever I could and I travelled often with my husband after I married. I never grew tired of visiting different countries and I harboured a secret longing to live in a far away place one day. But that was all it was a secret longing, a feeling that maybe there was a ‘home’ somewhere else for me that I was yet to discover.

Over the years France had become a favourite destination and in 1999 whilst on holiday I fell in love with a dilapidated property in Provence called Mas de Bérard. I have always believed in love at first sight when it comes to romance, but in my case it was love at first sight with an old farmhouse. In that instant my life as I knew it changed and that one heart stopping moment set in motion a chain of events that altered everything.

On impulse we bought the property; we went back to Australia and promptly disentangled our lives, sold our home and moved to the other side of the world. I was crazy in love and had not one minute’s hesitation or doubt, I knew that France and in particular this old abandoned fruit farm was my ‘home’. Like all things in life it wasn’t as simple or as easy as all that. I have three children that were young and in school, my husband had business commitments and the house was unliveable. We compromised and moved to London where work and schools were possible and I could renovate the farmhouse with a much easier commute. I never imagined myself living in London – France yes – but London, never. To me, London was Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Tower of London not a city I ever could imagine as home.

We moved, we survived and now I split my time between London and Provence with visits to Australia whenever I can. If you ask me today where home is I will say France but whenever I am talking about London or Australia I will also refer to them as home. My children would consider their home to be in London although they are very comfortable in France and are true Australians. I have come to realize that home can be as many places as you want it to be.

You asked La Belle about my ideal home, about the style, what it was like before I moved in and whether there were things that I wish I had noticed before moving in. My home in Provence has captured my heart – from the very first day I saw it I have been smitten. The farmhouse sits in the middle of 50 acres and has wonderful views of the Alpilles Mountains and surrounding olive groves. When we bought the farm it was uninhabitable and other than a great pile of stone in a magical setting there was not much else. It took three years of very hard work with a team of local builders and craftsmen to bring the farm back to life. Today, the house is simple and like many French farmhouses built of limestone with a terracotta roof. The decoration inside is an eclectic mix – furnishings, paintings and bits and pieces collected over the years on our travels. I love an antique market, the messier the better, and many of our things have been sourced in that way. I am someone who needs their ‘things’ around them to feel at home and over time, intentionally or not, I have gradually surrounded myself with the objects that I love most in this world.

In the last ten years I have fallen deeply in love with this little corner of Provence. The children are doing there own thing now, the demands to be in London are less and I find myself spending more and more time here. It is becoming increasingly difficult to leave and this girl who could never sit still, who was always restless and searching for ‘something’ has well and truly calmed down.

I think for me La Belle I cannot make the distinction between home and house – home is house and house is home. Wherever I am in the world I will nest, it is my way. My home – creating it, sharing it and enjoying it is what makes me tick; it always has been and it probably always will.

Love, xv.
Merci, Vicki!!! It is a profound honour to have a glimpse into your French life and home.
Please visit Vicki Archer’s gorgeous blog French Essence
And, buy her book “My French Life“. It maybe hard to believe but her book is even more gorgeous than this post.

This is not a francophile blog

For most of my life I was not really sure what I liked and what I disliked. Upon that realization I worked hard to discover my authentic preferences and where they came from. Was it me that hated okra or was it my best friend from fourth grade, Mira Jane, who made a face each time the “o” word was said and, so, in an act of solidarity I eschewed the slimy southern vegetable? Did I like jazz because it was the soundtrack to my parents life or did I really love Ella and Billy? Was my love of mythology born out of my own interest or was it because of a certain adolescent Adonis that Eros was ignited for Olympus?

It was during my “Do I really like this?” phase when I first saw the film Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. I loved the film for many reasons but what I loved most about it was its unapologetic celebration of idiosyncrasies and specificity. We learn who the characters are via their likes and dislikes:”Raphael Poulain likes peeling large strips of wallpaper;lining up and shining his shoes; emptying his toolbox, cleaning it out and putting everything back.” “Amandine Poulain is a school mistress who has always had shaky nerves. She dislikes puckered fingers in the bath, having her hand touched by strangers, pillow marks on her cheek in the morning. She likes figure skaters’ costumes on TV, polishing the parquet, emptying her hand bag, cleaning it out and putting everything back in.

The literary device of “turn-ons and turn-offs” as a means of knowing characters became one that impacted not only my writing but also my philosophy. I started to seek out specificity (, i.e. what makes you, you and what makes me, me and what those specific preferences say about us). I found that people who would have previously frightened me with their passionate love of LEGOS, Star Trek, and Civil War reenactment to have become newly interesting. “So, what is it that makes you love Dungeons and Dragons?”, I would ask rapt with interest.

I had lectured on the film “Amelie” just days before I began my blog. In doing research on “Amelie”, I found a short film by Jean Pierre Jeunet, which he made years before, entitled Foutaises: catalogue nostalgique des plaisirs de la vie . I loved this film. It was a short film about nothing but preferences and it was a major motivating factor for me starting my blog. I decided that my blog would be a catalogue of the pleasures and displeasures of my life.
Another inspiration for my blog came from, of all people, Gore Vidal. I remembered seeing an interview with him years ago on the Charlie Rose show. I don’t know if Gore was on to talk about one of his books, his life or to give insight into his distant cousin. What I do remember is him talking about how in language and writing we have a tendency to modify. We use modifiers in language as a means of not owning our thoughts, feelings and arguments. Gore’s point stuck with me over the years as I had been a big time modifier. I modified my likes, dislikes, thoughts and feelings so if you disagreed with me I could say, “well, I only sort of like it” and that way there wouldn’t be an unbridgeable chasm created between the two of us.

I wanted my blog to be a place where I could have the courage to say what I love and what I detest without modifiers or qualifiers. I didn’t want to have to apologize for my preferences and I assumed I would never have to as I was sure no one would ever show up to read my blog.

For some reason, I decided that I would keep the focus of my blog to French things I love and loathe. I thought I could keep myself secret, hidden and a distant “vous” and never slip into the familiar “tu” form. It worked at first as I do love Paris and am most certainly a francophile. I thought by writing about the French things I loved and detested I could keep a safe distance and never reveal too much about myself. What I didn’t realize was that in revealing what I love and what I detest I was revealing everything about me.

In January 2008 this became a blog about me even though I never-ever intended it to. I had failed to become pregnant after years of infertility treatment and I couldn’t get myself to write about anything but my pain. The loss was so large that it demanded my full focus and it eclipsed my interest in writing about Paris or things French. As the grief subsided my life remained the focus of my writing and the francophile focus fell further and further away.

I am sorry if you came here looking for a francophile blog. I have a whole list of wonderful francophile blogs on the left hand column of my blog, if that is what you are looking for click on over and visit them. It’s not that I don’t love Paris, I do. It’s just that there are other things I love and detest and there are other things I want to write about. I may or may not ever write about Paris again. It is likely I will but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it. It could be a long time.

My writing and I may not be your cup of cafe creme. I can be bitter, viscous, strong and on occasion leave a bad taste in your mouth. If my blog isn’t for you that’s fine. I will not modify. I will not pretend to like what I don’t and I will not modify my feelings about what I detest. I am going to keep writing about my life, loves, and hates and part of that is my grief, depression, loss, whining and whinging. I do try to make the whinging funny and entertaining, but it if you don’t find it so isn’t then there are many other blogs to read. My feelings won’t be hurt if you’d rather read about Paris than me prattling on about my life. I get it. Really, if I had a choice between Paris and me I would choose Paris every time. As I don’t have that choice I will stay here and keep writing about the specificity of my life. If this is au revoir for us I thank you for stopping by. It is my sincere hope that you be true to your likes and dislikes; I will continue to attempt to be true to mine.

About Me

My name is Tracey, aka La Belette Rouge. I am a psychotherapist and the author of Freudian Sip @ Psychology Today. I blog about psychology, my therapy, dreams, writing, meaning making, home, longing, loss, infertility and other things that delight or inspire me. I try to make deep and elusive psychodynamic concepts accessible and funny. For more information, click here .
These blog posts are informational only and not meant to replace individual psychotherapy, counseling or medical advice. If you are in need of help, reaching out to a professional may help you decide how to proceed or how to find the care you need. For a referral, contact

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