happy birthday.

It's been quiet around these parts of the blogosphere lately because I've swept off to New York for a long weekend. It's been almost nine months since I've been back in the States, and I must say, it's been nice being back.

So far my days have been crammed with errands, organizing, going through old photos, cat cuddles, a few doctor's appointments, and of course Golden Girl marathons on one of the many networks the show is in syndication on. Good thing I'm still on Paris time and have been getting up at 6 am without a problem to bulldoze through some of these tasks. One of the more tedious tasks on my infinite to-do list is a trip to the Vital Records (n' stuff) Office of New York City to pick up my birth certificate. For the wedding, French officials require a copy of my birth certificate translated in French. At first I foolishly thought, no problem! I did that a few years ago for my first French visa that I ended up never using! With the pride of feeling one step ahead of the game, I placed this precious document in our dossier of paperwork and did my victory shuffle around my living room. But not so fast. This beautifully sealed and signed official birth certificate that I have is not good enough. They want a fresh birth certificate. One that was issued, translated, signed, sealed and delivered within the last three months. Quoi? This, I simply don't understand. Who cares when the certificate was issued. To the best of my knowledge, none of the information has changed since 1981.

Annoying yet necessary, but this little trip is just another adventure in getting married in France. And why not, while I'm downtown, I'll pick up a slice of cake or a cupcake at one of the many bakeries to celebrate the day of my birth with my sparkling new birth certificate, and that one more item has been checked off my list. 

Bon week-end!

On a side note: Digging up childhood photos, I came across this dramatic shot of me posing in front of the building where I grew up. That red building behind me is L'Église Évangélique Française de New York. Of course it is.

it's all happening.

Deadlines are approaching! Deposits are being put down! Travel itineraries from the States are populating my inbox! Deliveries are being made! It's official: my wedding season has arrived as we're no longer in the state of making plans, plans are actually happening. Ah! Holy merde does time fly!

To really kick things off, last week, for the first time in my French life, I went the American Embassy. It's incredible that after almost four years here I have never been on my own soil, so to speak. Back in my glamorous tax office days, I managed to dodge dropping off the April 15th returns on the count that I had left my passport at home. So this was my first adventure to the Paris.

In order to get married here I need several letters notarized for the mayor's office at - wait for it - only 50 bucks per signature! As you can guess, I wasn't exactly thrilled to take up half of my day to pay big bucks to have three documents signed. Apparently the price per signature used to be ten bucks and only recently has been "changed" to fifty. Is it just me or is that a pretty big spike?

As I was approaching the outdoor checkpoint, I felt a sensation under my left arm coming from some sort of device in my handbag, which was then followed by the sound of wine chimes. Oh right, it was my phone. I really do forget that I have one of those, so when it performs one of its functions like alerting me of human contact, I get confused. 

Fitting to the scenery, the call was coming from the States...and it was my mother.

"Honey, honey, I know you have your appointment today but just listen to me," she said in the tone that forewarned me that she had an idea. 

Oh no. My mother's ideas are pretty much famous for being the worst ideas. Ever. For example, when she insisted on purchasing (on a payment plan) the 48 DVD Dean Martin box set that mind you, after nine years is still in its cellophane wrapping. 

"It's fine, I'm early, what's up?" I said, crossing the street as I assumed phone use directly in front of the building would be frowned upon.

"I spoke to Jerry over at the fax place on Jericho Turnpike and he said he would notarize your documents for free, none of this 50 dollar business." my mother declared.

My mom is such a New Yorker. Administration, red tape, and bureaucracy be damned. We know Jerry from the fax place on Jericho Turnpike on Long Island.

"Ma, I don't think it works that way. While I'm certainly not discrediting Jerry's ability to sign a document, I think they need something more official."

After all, we are talking about the French government here. The chances that they'd accept "Jerry" over the U.S Embassy seemed slim.

"Good Lord, don't they know you're getting married?! I mean, come on already, you have enough on your plate!"

My mother wasn't saying this because of my soon-to-be marital status in France which will make some of these beaurocratic woes easier, she was saying this because she feels that as a wedding gift, the French government should give me a break as if I'm the first American to get married in France. I know my mother, this is her thought process.

Challenging the French government aside, she did have a point, though. If it's a U.S notary that they need, and I'm heading back, perhaps I could do it over there? It was worth asking.

Waiting several hours in a waiting room surely modeled after the Van Nuys DMV office in the Valley, my number was called. I explained to the official that I would be going to the States and wondered if it would be at all possible to have the documents notarized abroad. No, I made absolutely no mention of Jerry. I know better by now. The woman was quite helpful and showed me the seal that the French government is looking for, which was an embossed crest of the U.S Paris. Yeah, there was no way that Jerry was going to have that. Also, I suspect the mention of Paris on the insignia is what the French officials particularly enjoy. So no dice, Jerry.

Not wanting to risk my April 18th deadline to get all of the paperwork in, I handed over my card and cringed as I was being charged 150 USD for literally three minutes of work.

This is just one of the many expenses that come along with having a "simple wedding", but no one said weddings were cheapOf course, when I voiced this my mother had a follow-up comment. She always does. "Well divorce is even more expensive, so if there's a problem, talk it out you two because I'm not doing this again!"

Thanks, Mom. At least, she didn't say you twos.

springtime of my life.

Word on the street is that it's spring. Ha! You could have fooled me. I don't know about you guys but I'm still wearing my winter coat, scarf and pom-pom mittens. But hey, I'm not complaining, March has always been an iffy month. It's never been guaranteed that once March 20th rolls around we rip off our winter duds in an act of defiance, slip into gauzy spring dresses and dance in the field like were in a Marc by Marc Jacobs perfume ad.

Although the season of awakening is taking its winter nap a little longer than most of us would like, here is my annual playlist* celebrating the sun that hopefully is upon us. And p.s Paris, you owe us an awesome summer. Last year's was a total joke. Just sayin'.

*A last minute addition is my current freakout, the Bowie-esque Down on Serpent Street by Poni Hoax that was sort of introduced to me by my three year old student Thomas (his dad works in music).

Click here to listen to the Spotify playlist

A special thank you to the lovely Heather in Lost in Arles for including my grandmother in her post last week and for all of your kind words.

babe in toyland.

 illustration by amy borrell.

First week back from winter break has been going fairly easy. I have to say, I was looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. As much as I enjoyed all of my free time and was really able to pummel through my infinite to-do list, by the end of the week I was ready to get back to work.

My students have all been in good spirits as well and get this, some of them were actually happy to see me. When I asked my three-year-olds how they spent their vacation they told me that they didn't remember anymore. What. How do they not remember? I think one went to Egypt. What, seen one pyramid seen 'em all? They certainly remember that time back in November when I mispronounced the word rue, yet skiing in the Alps? Nope, nothing to see here, move along?

So unlike real teachers in France, I do in fact work on Wednesdays. The program I'm involved in is customized for ambitious parents who want their children to get a head start on their English before officially taking it in school as a requirement. So my lessons take place after school and on Wednesdays when most French children are playing and doing their extracurricular activities. It's no wonder that some of them absolutely fucking hate me, especially the older ones who know that I'm encroaching on their limited Wii time. There's one student in particular, we'll call him Louis, who I'm convinced wants to see me dead. This child does not speak to me in English or in French, and barely acknowledges my presence. That's not fair actually, occasionally I'll get a grunt, but that's on a good day when he's feeling "expressive."

Picking up precious eight-year-old Louis from basketball at one of the city's sport centers for kids, I filled him in on the lesson we were going to learn later at his house: the exciting adventure of placing the adjective before the noun and all of the fun ways we were going to learn how to properly describe persons, places and/or things. Well, he had absolutely no response to this and asked if we could stop at the toy store that we were passing at that moment. 

Fine. Whatever. We went.

I know, I wasn't doing him any favors by accommodating him but if meant ten minutes less of forcing conversation, to the toy store we went. 

Not wanting to smother him in the store, and perhaps for my own selfish reasons I did what any normal 31-year-old woman would do and headed straight to the Barbie and Disney Princesses aisle. Clearly. Looking at all of the packaging promising all things pink, I was transported to my childhood where the difference between a good and bad day depended on a plastic doll and her outfits. Buying into the nostalgia, I actually caught myself looking at the price of one of the less Botoxed Barbies who was fashioned to look more vintage than her modern day bug-eyed counterpart. Buying one seemed like a good idea in theory, but after purchasing it I would then have this Barbie doll, which would be kind of weird since we already have a Jem doll in the house.

Just as I put Barbie back on the shelf with her other pals, the electricity in the store cut out. Why are there always freaking black outs when I'm with kids?!

We weren't in a quaint toy boutique where a large store front window would stream daylight through, no, we were in a Parisian Toys R' Us where it was just a warehouse outfitted by ten-foot tall aisles packed with merchandise. I couldn't see a thing. I shouted out for Louis who was in the adjacent Pixar aisle and heard only the sounds of other children crying and mothers frantically shuffling around this now cavity of a black hole.

With my arms reached out in front of me, I walked a few steps to find the toy shelf to use as a guide to try to get around the corner to Louis' aisle. I called for him again, this time louder and more my mother when she's annoyed. Still no response.

Finally store the associates came rushing down the aisles in this state of emergency with flashlights. The circumference of my surroundings was then illuminated by one of the stock boys and there was little Louie standing right behind me looking up at me, not speaking, just being totally creepy. I thought he was going to hiss and spin his head around Linda Blair style. Upon asking him why he didn't say anything when I was calling for him, he just looked at me and shrugged. Little punk.

Back out onto the street, Louis stopped, grabbed my hand and looked up at me. He was on the brink of actually speaking to me, like a complete sentence! In French or English, at this point, I didn't care. This was going to be ground-breaking, I remember thinking. Perhaps he felt that we bonded in the opaque toy store, that we overcame the darkness together, and this was the experience that would break down the wall that has been up since last October. He opened his mouth and at that moment, looking up at me with his big eyes asked me why I didn't buy him a toy.

Because you suck. But, yeah, that doesn't count.

notes so high.

So something really cool has been happening these past few weeks. I've been waiting to collect more information as it seems to be coming in by the week before I shared it with you.

As I have mentioned in passing in previous posts, my late grandmother Stella Levitt (my dad's mom who remarried) was a jazz singer here in Paris for several decades. I didn't know her growing up because she was here living with her second husband Al Levitt the jazz drummer. Apparently she was present for my birth, and as my mom recounts, her and my dad picked her up at the Air France terminal at JFK where she was carrying only two baskets brimming with her belongings, a cigarette, and sporting a floppy hat and platforms. So Jane Birkin. The next time I saw her (if you can count the presence of my birth an actual meeting) was when she returned to the States in 2004 to take care of my sick father who passed away in 2005.

I say in jest that I came to Paris to find the perfect French man because dating in New York was a nightmare, and while I'm sure there's partial truth to that (that and I wanted to start eating bread again), a part of me came here to learn about that side of my family - starting with my grandmother.

When I first arrived in 2009, I was comforted by the fact that I had found her record in several small record stores in town, and that if I ever felt alone, I could always go to the record store and visit my grandmother. Her music has served as a private portal into a life I know so little about, yet that encompasses so much of who I am. After all, I am an expatriate like them.

Lately though, the interest in her has grown beyond my personal connection to it when jazz label Heavenly Sweetness included her track 'Notes So High' on the Parisian Jazz Compilation Freedom Jazz France.

With this mini buzz, as the received messages regarding my grandmother have quadrupled after the release of the album, I had drafted an e-mail requesting to have her music played on the Parisian jazz station TSF Jazz. I thought it would be a perfect home for her music and to pay homage to her contribution to the Parisian underground jazz scene. That's when my expectations exceeded themselves. Without any of my handiwork as the e-mail had gone unsent, I heard her on another station I absolutely adore here, Nova Radio

Hearing my grandmother on the cooler-than-cool Nova Radio will really be one of the highlights of the year (and it's only March!) My quest to find out more information on my grandmother, my jazz guitarist uncle Sean who had a small following in Spain, and my two flamenco dancing aunts has just begun. Let's see what I can dig up. In the meantime, I'll enjoy this little resurgence that my grandmother mostly definitely deserves. She certainly paid her City of Light dues.

A big thank you goes out to Gwannel Sandiego and her master Google-searching skills for helping me get some information. Je t'adore!

it ain't easy being green.

My girlfriends back home have this running joke that Saint Patrick's Day is the only day that I suddenly reclaim my O'Last Name, citing that I'm some kind of fair-weather Irish gal. They're right. It's not because I'm denying who I am, I just don't know anything about the Irish side of my family. Like at all. My father who was half-Irish and half-Mexican didn't embrace his culture like my mother, whom we all know is 100% Italian.

He may not have known the depths of his cultural roots, but he was someone who acknowledged his wacky family, thus giving me the middle name Czarina, after his favorite aunt. 

By the way, none of us are Russian.

To celebrate today, I'm going to wear my mint green corduroys, attempt to make this roasted cabbage dish, decorate the house and perhaps go out for a mojito. Paris doesn't exactly make it easy being green like in New York where bagels, doughnuts and even beer are tinted green, but I'll work with what I have. 

Update: After reading Katy's comment, I was inspired to pick up some Guinness. Click here to see what we brewed up in observance of Saint Patrick's Day! Thanks Katy!!

What do candles have to do with St. Patty's Day?
Absolutely nothing.
I'm pulling at straws here looking for anything green in the house.

And not trying to over think it, but I felt judgement coming from 
these little guys here as they just sat and watched.
Way to contribute to the festivities, guys.  

I wish you all a Happy Saint Patty's Day!

magazine clippings.

Hello all!

Now that my wedding is less than two months away, it's been a little hectic around here - hectic in the best way possible. Everything seems to be really coming together, thanks to my in-laws who have been so helpful and are taking it seriously, unlike my own family. Get this, my grandmother is actually criticizing our invitations, claiming that we clearly don't know how to put together a proper wedding. Ha! Wait until she sees photos of my dress! She'll pretty much be horrified.

Aside from disparaging commentary, I'd say that my final week of vacation has been pretty good. I've slept in, organized the administrative side of getting married in France (to be shared!) and a few of my articles have been published, here are the clippings...

Thanks to introductions made by Out and About in Paris' Mary-Kay, I met with Selysette, contributor of on-line fashion and art website Lively. Over drinks to catch up on Paris Fashion Week, we learned that we're both native New Yorkers, have Latina roots and have a passion for fashion (yeah, like there is only two of us, but still it was pretty cool.) Here are my two cents on one of my favorite events of the year. 

My friends over at Parisian tour company Localers asked me to share some of my favorite spots in my old haunt the Marais. If you're coming to Paris and want to take a tour that goes beyond our beloved Eiffel Tower, they offer tons of unique walking tours around the city with their team of experts. No, this is not a sponsored post, I just think these guys are great. After our bonding experience in the caverns of the Catacombs on a cold winter's day in January, these guys proved to know their stuff.

I'm going to end with thanking you all for your comments and e-mails about the incident that happened in the 20th last week. I will respond to comments in the morning. I'm sorry I have been slow with getting back to all of you who take the time in your otherwise busy lives to leave me notes.  Thank you again and more importantly, I hope it's made you a drop more aware than I'm sure you already are because you just never know. Bon week-end.

dodging bullets.

 Illustration by Jenny Bowers

Paris really is so many things; scenic, romantic, a feast for the eyes, and to some, it's even a fairy tale. But what is infrequently communicated is that it also can be really dangerous. Lately, it seems to have gotten really aggressive as I have been witness to some intense scenes happening on our precious little rues.

Last Saturday, on the aforementioned warm and sunny day, Aurelien and I decided to take a stroll around the northern parts of the city. The 65-degree day was spent capturing street art and soaking up vitamin D as we knew snow was going to blast through the city at least one last time this winter. Walking along the 20th arrondissement side of Boulevard de Charonne (opposed to 11th which is just across the street), we passed the apartment building where we were going to live had we not landed our current place.

And here it is...

Not the actual demolished building (although that would have been pretty funny), but the building that was it was adjacent to. I'd say we dodged a bullet there, as I can imagine annihilating and gutting out an entire building of this size was a noisy operation to say the least.

So what happened next on this gorgeous, picturesque Parisian afternoon was not so funny. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Boulevard de Charonne is fairly wide hence sharing two arrondissements, and when approaching the intersection where Philippe Auguste meets the sidewalks gets slimmer to make room for a smaller sub-street provided for parked cars.

Just as I was pointing out the Italian market CasaItalia, reminding Aurelien that we should pick up coffee, a man approached us wearing a red knit snow cap. Normal I thought and scooched behind Aurelien to proceed in single file because the sidewalk was too slim for the three of us to pass at the same time. Within a matter of seconds, the man pushed him out of the way and pinned me up against the wall of the building I was alongside of, sleazily whispering in my ear in Spanish, calling me chica. Not understanding completely, I was able to gather that he had mistaken me for someone else. Clearly, someone, he did not like. Locked in his hold as he had my shoulders pinned back against the building, I wasn't able to hit him with my bag and before I could knee him in his man parts, Aurelien managed him off of me. I tried to escape while Aurelien held him back, but the man was making his intentions clear that he wanted to get to me by trying to get around Aurelien.

Worming my way around this brouhaha, making my way off this small and desolate sidewalk, with Aurelien holding his hand out to let me pass I managed to get out onto the mini street. Just then a car came and had Aurelien not yanked my arm, semi-pulling me back into this scene, I would have gotten hit by the mini Cooper approaching that I hadn't seen over the parked cars. Once the car passed, we ran across the street where the Spanish man proceeded to follow us. At this point I was hysterical because he was more than a drunk panhandler trying to get money, he was fixed on me. His grey eyes were glassed over, and based on his irrational approach it had occurred to me that this man was possibly on crack and really did want to hurt me. Aurelien who is not at all violent ended up having to punch him in the head, trip him so he fell in order to buy us time to get all the way across the street into the 11th. This all happened in a matter of fifteen seconds.

Trembling as Aurelien called the police, we stood across the street watching him pull himself up by grabbing the spoke of a moving Vélib bike and taking down the cyclist

As if the demolition wasn't enough, now I'm really glad we didn't have to take the apartment.

Having lived off the Marcy stop in Southside Williamsburg (which yes, is getting gentrified now, but five years ago it wasn't close to there yet), and Silver Lake where I heard gunshots every so often on Hoover Street, I now realize how lucky I am to not have experienced this before. So many thoughts have been bouncing around my head ever since: what if I was alone as I have been on this street many times (I tutor a family in the area), what if this happened with my mother who would have been screaming bloody shiksa murder, or worse with my three-year-old students. I'm still really shaken up and that day I spent the rest of the afternoon turning to see if someone was behind me.

Walking off the violent turn of events, eventually, we stopped at one of my favorite cafés Aux 3 Passages on Rue Saint Maur for a Perrier and a noisette. Aurelien spent a better part of our date ferociously Google searching Tasers for me. 

Okay, first of all, I am not carrying around a Taser with the option to "tase" people should the event present itself. I don't care if it comes in pink complete with a matching fitted leather case. And second, aren't they illegal? We compromised with a pepper spray keychain that should arrive in the mail any day now. But really, how dumb have I been to not have something to protect myself in any major city until now? I'm a pretty small girl, I can be taken down fairly easy.

But really, it seems like every day I'm hearing about iPhones being ripped out of people's hands, where now the victims are getting attacked if they resist handing over their possessions that they worked forAurelien and I witnessed a man being jumped by two guys over in the 9th at 6 pm for his smartphone, and recently a girlfriend told me that she saw a girl whose phone was swiped actually chase the crook off the metro, resulting in leaving behind her groceries and H&M shopping bags on the floor.

Not wanting to burst anyone's Paris dreams as it really is an enchanting place to live in, but nothing is 100%. To my friends here as well as who live in major cities, especially my ladies, please, please, please be careful. It's getting rough out there.

fashion caste system.

Illustration by Sara Singh.
I'm officially on vacation and I'm loving every second of it. I tried to sleep in this morning but couldn't make it past 9:00 am. I'm sure that will change by Wednesday. I'm hoping at least. 

So I have to be honest, last week I found myself at times a bit grossed out during my second installment of working Paris Fashion Week. The first part, the shows, was truly magical, everything about it; the excitement, the people-watching, the music and of course the collections, but the showroom was altogether different experience. I knew it before, but I must have forgotten how vainglorious some of the folks who work in fashion offices are, and how ridiculous some of them look. 

One chick who was boorishly barking orders at poor unpaid interns was sporting a "look" that surely was expensive but it was just wrong. So, so wrong. To me, it was some kind of oompa-loompa meets Jay from Clerks hybrid. No really. The awkward cut of her high-waited, ankle length slacks made her tookus look like a bag of lumpy apricots. She paired it with a shrunken crew neck sweater with its exaggerated shoulder pads making her look like a line backer, that kept rolling up baring a slice of her upper midriff. It didn't stop there. Oh no. She topped it off with a skull and cross bone beanie lending to my stoner from New Jersey reference. I caught myself looking up to a higher power, mouthing why and shaking my head every time she charged by, which she did quite often. I admit though, taking secret pleasure at just how dumb she looked. Her entire week was peppered with these silly ensembles mixed with total bitch face, which really did provide a small dose of entertainment.

I had been on the fence about returning to showroom work, and after last week, including an awkward lunchroom moment where I wasn't welcomed to sit at any of the tables (seriously), I'd say I have my answer. I love fashion and know some wonderful people who work in the industry, but there are some folks really paint any ugly picture with scenes that are almost satirical, playing out some sort of fashion "caste system". I definitely won't be reprising this Ugly Betty role. Ever. Perhaps I have outgrown this portion of my fashion life.

Moving big news around these parts, yesterday we were treated with a sunny 60 degree day. Hoping that today would repeat what most of us thought was the beginning of spring, I strolled around my old neighborhood in the Marais. Here are some things that caught my eye....

 Downstairs from my old chambre de bonne on
rue Vieille du Temple.

Bonjour, we're officially in Paris.
As a Sunday treat,
we wanted to see what all the buzz was about,
and went to Happy Oyster Hour at

 ...for cocktails.

and you guessed it, oysters.

The buzz is so well-deserved.  
Really, this place is just fantastic. 
A total must-do in Paris.

...and to celebrate the end of a very long week,
and that my hair is relieved from the skin-tight bun,
I did my best Mary Tyler Moore.

Although last week was far from my ideal, 
it was yet something else to chalk up to experience.
That's all you can do, right?

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

lost in paris.

Perhaps being surrounded by women en masse these past few weeks has induced my monthly lady loch ness to arrive two weeks early. Being on a six-month tampon strike, finding a maxi pad in a fashion office surrounded by models teetering around in the dressing room in barely-there g-strings, would be like trying to find a taxi on a Saturday night on Boulevard Saint Germain. Not impossible, but not likely.

With only ten minutes to spare, I used this small window as an excuse to leave the showroom for a much-needed break of fresh air of this early spring-like afternoon and went on the search for the closest pharmacy. The showroom is located in the 8th, a neighborhood that I don't know the inward workings of, I was told by the receptionist of the office that the closest pharmacy was on rue Marbeuf, with implications that it was so close that he need not offer further directions. 

Making a few turns here and there, I found myself on Avenue Montaigne with the Plaza Athénée in front of me and the Eiffel Tower to my far left, asking myself, where the hell is rue Marbeuf? The name itself was already starting to annoy me. I blindly (and moistly might I add) walked up this fancy pants avenue where I passed the gleaming storefronts of some of fashion's biggest names. While numbingly looking at an overpriced bag displayed in a window I caught a glimpse of myself in the reflection alongside an airbrushed campaign ad, and it was not good. I looked pale, tired and blotchy around my eyes, not to mention that I have been waking up in the morning with a sore neck from the weight of my hair being tightly confined in a ball at the nape of my neck. Two more days, two more days...

In front of Dior, my instincts told me to cross the street because making a right would have led me closer to the Seine. Surely the receptionist who was industriously solving issues, working to make the world a better place would have told me that the main body of water that runs through Paris would be a beacon in finding this Marbeuf pharmacy. Walking further up the famed Avenue Montaigne, not wanting to get too close to the end as I would be greeted by the Champs-Elysées, I had to make some moves and ask for directions. I passed the chichi restaurant Avenue and looked down rue Francois 1er where the cafes on this warm afternoon were pouring with patrons. I forgot that this part of town is really for the beautiful folks who lunch crowd. I haven't been here during the lunch rush since my tax filing days at the somewhat nearby office. Arousing scents of coq au vin, beef (origine française, I'm sure), rich sauces based with sauteed onions, a faint trace of cigarette smoke mixed with the low hum of French chatter transported me right back to 2011. Having fully moved on from the grief of those days, I didn't mind reminiscing of yet another life gone by, even if the geography has pretty much stayed the same.

I walked into a building that seemed official enough, figuring they would at least point me in the direction of where I should be going. I walked in one door and was immediately greeted with another. Pressing on the door, it was locked. Okay, I thought to myself, I guess they're closed, perhaps for lunch and turned to the door that I had arrived in, which was now locked too. Great. I knew all too well where I was. I was in a bank. And I hate banks here, as some of you know. What I found strange was how I didn't recognize it sooner as pretty much all of the bank insignias and color schemes have been branded into my cerebrum. Was I that tired?

It was then that I heard a voice on the intercom asking what my business was there at the official bank of Iran, while then including that they don't do money exchanges. Crouching down and screaming into the metal square that was presented as my source of communication, I explained that I was slightly lost and if they knew were rue Marbeuf was. Well, they were far from impressed with my request, and responded by buzzing the door, the first one, to let me out. If I thought Sociéte General were snobs, well the Iranian bank made them look like a batch of newborn kittens tumbling in the field.

I then asked a well-dressed gentleman coming out of an apartment building whom I was pretty sure would help. Immediately, he detected my accent and proceeded to give me the directions in English. Okay, so I'm not one of those expats who gets offended when I'm responded to in English. Just like I would enjoy having a conversation in French in New York, sometimes people just want to practice their English here. It's fine. The only teeny tiny problem with his directions in English was that once I started circling the neighborhood a bit and saw the Champs-Elysées and all of its massiveness approaching, I realized that he had confused his left from right, and basically gave me conflicting directions. Luckily it didn't take long for me to realize this and was able to back-step to my destination to middle school maxi pad bliss.

On my walk back to the office, I recounted this to Aurelien, enjoying the last seconds of my break before returning to my remaining eight hours of the day I had left. When I got home last night, I had a gift waiting for me on the dining room table. Aurelien feels that if I am going to be adamant about not having a smartphone where finding things like Marbeufs would not at all be an issue, I'd have to accept the next best thing: a map. So now in my bag, I have the Paris Plan Eclair (in hot pink) which has every single street corner in Paris. It only took four years, but better late then never, eh? 

My week at the showroom is coming to a joyous end, and am considering it being my last, well, at least at this house. This week has been awful due to some small restructuring where pretty much my position has been blended in with interns, temps, and cleaning ladies. All I can think of is "What would Blair Waldorf do?" Certainly not accept this. After four seasons, I think it's time to move on...

 In happier news,
Perhaps this is what I really should be doing during Fashion Week... 


Why yes, yes I do...  
I found this postcard today in the Marais. I had to buy it.
Here it is sitting proudly at our place.

just came to say hello.

Cou cou everyone! I'm reporting to you live from the showroom of Paris Fashion Week! No, I'm not (but I've always wanted to say that), we've been crazy busy, plus I'd get in trouble as social media use is scorned upon in fancy establishments such as this. Boo. The action going on makes even me, someone who has a 10€ Nokia phone want Instagram.

So this year, all staff is required each morning to get full hair and makeup done by the make-up artists who did last week's runway show. Sounds so glamorous, right? Well it isn't when the look is fashioned after a 1980s Robert Palmer video girl with super slicked back hair in tight headache-inducing buns and coral glossy lipstick. Most of the girls can pull this look off with their sweet little faces and fine hair, but some of us look just heinous. For instance, me. An Italian girl with a pointy nose, thick eyebrows, and sideburns can't really pull off that androgynous high-fashion thing. At one point in the day I considered shaving my sideburns off when I got home but thought better of it, because we all know they'd grow back in like a dude's beard.

After twelve hours on my feet (as I've said in earlier posts, ballet flats aren't any better to break in!) I need a hot shower, a hot meal, to pull out the 25 bobby pins in my hair, and an episode of "Bar Rescue". I hope everyone is well, and not to worry I have some interesting things to recount soon!

tiny dancer.

Opening my mailbox on an otherwise cold and slightly melancholy Tuesday evening as the winter is taking its toll on most of us, an unexpected surprise was sitting in my cavernous tin boite aux lettres. No it wasn't an enormous bill from EDF. That was last week's surprise. On a white envelope, handwritten in whimsy calligraphy was my name and address. At first I thought it was a response card to our wedding but immediately dismissed the idea once it was understood that the envelope was only addressed to me.

Opening it, I pulled out a substantial piece of cardstock, the width of a quarter, with one side coated in deep red velvet. It was all so Eyes Wide Shut - well, not exactly, but this is the closest I'll get to a mystery invite so I'm going with the fantasy. What made is so very un-Eyes Wide Shut was the sufficient amount of information provided. Addressed to me was an invitation to the Nina Ricci showing of the Fall 2013 collection at the Jardin des Tuileries. Wow. Quelle surprise, indeed.

Rushing to the show on Thursday directly from work where even the notoriously honest four year old Franc told me I looked pretty with the "pink stuff" on my cheeks, I arrived at the side entrance, near the metro of the Tuileries....and there were absolutely no signs of a fashion show on the brink of starting. Trudging through the garden on another overcast Parisian day, a mild panic set in that I in the wrong place. With not much I could do, I decided to have a little faith in the gardener's vague instructions that the show was "là-bas", and continued walking through the eerily quiet garden listening to my towering wedged boots crunch onto the moist dirt.

It wasn't until I saw off in the distance (way off in the distance, may I add) the crowd, a white carpet outstretched from the entry of the Tuileries at Concorde lined with votive candles leading guests to the tent and well, Andre Leon Talley that tipped me off that I was in the right place. Not wanting to walk all the way to the beginning of the white carpet which would have resulted in an extra 1000 or so steps that my smashed pinky toes were protesting against, I shuffled in behind Andre and joined the precession. Walking on the carpet was intimidating and kept my head down from all of the photographers, not wanting to document my painfully dry skin. Clearly no one was after my photo per se, but they snap shots of everyone just in case. Ever wonder where those random shots of stars from "before they were famous" come from? Moments like these. Everything gets archived. Still, I felt pretty cheesy.

Inside the tent, that from the inside you wouldn't believe you were standing under mere tarp (yes, I thought of the toothless tent lady from last weekend), the decor echoed the invitation with a deep rouge carpet accented with red angled spot lights, placing the focus on the center of the runway of two face-to-face grand pianos. Knowing that the show wasn't going to start anytime soon because many of the important front row seats were still empty, notably Anna Wintour wasn't there yet, I made myself comfortable. I made adjustments to my camera settings to work with the fierce red, and took my time reading the provided show notes that annotate the inspiration and fabrics used in the collection.

Once the lights dimmed, after a long five minutes of silence where the photographers in the pit were making animal noises and shouting comments as if we were in a high school assembly and weren't allowed to talk, pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque took their place at their respective pianos. 

"Femininity is highlighted, with the purity and modesty that characterize the world of Dance" read the show notes. With dance being the theme, the red lights were perhaps a reference to the film Les Chaussons Rouges. Nina Ricci, whose collections typically err on the side of soft and feminine, stayed true to this exemplar. Inspired by the life of a ballerina, exploring all elements in flesh tone pinks, powdery ecrus and rosy beiges, the show took us on a journey of the enigma that is the ballet. Knit bodysuits layered by delicate belted mohair coverups, ribbon detailed parkas which lends an urban take on the life of a ballerina (because she does have to get to rehearsal during those cold winter days), complimented wool flared miniskirts teemed with matching cropped fur-trimmed hooded jackets. The inspiration expanded to even audiences of the ballet where evening gowns and cocktail dresses with crepe de chine rose detailing made an appearance. 

Being someone with a penchant for things girly, it was the best collection I had seen all week, as I revisited childhood memories of my mother taking me to amateur dance classes at the Joffrey Ballet on 6th avenue. Just when I'm feeling a little down and out in Paris, she sends me a little something; a message that establishes how magical this city really is. Walking out of the show, out on to Concorde, the Eiffel Tower was in full glitter, twinkling its on-the-hour light show. How apropos. 

To check out my shots of the show click here.