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the client list.

 illustration by cassandra rhodin

As many of you know, an article was published a few weeks ago in The New York Times that got a lot of people -- mostly the expat community here in Paris -- pretty miffed. And that's putting it lightly. 

For me, the OpEd piece didn't incite the strong reaction that it did for so many, however, one of the writer's points did call forth one of my stranger memories I've had here in Paris. In the article, he laments that the decline of "seedy" hostess bars "marked by barely dressed women perched in the window" are sterilizing any vestige of the old Paris, eliminating its character and grit.

So I don't know exactly what happens in these hostess bars (one can guess), but it's understandable why such blatant establishments would become fewer. Perhaps a response to their decline is the rise of the more discreet (or are they?) massage parlors that seem to be popping up all over the city, some sadly offering the same idea. And I happened to stumble upon not one, but two of them.

Only me, I swear.

It was around this time last year, I was waking up regularly with stress-induced stiff necks where I was needing to be hoisted up just to get out of bed in the morning. A normal reaction to this would be to go to a licensed chiropractor, but I didn't and sought out a cheap fix at one of the many massage shops located near Aurel's office over in the 9th.

It was a cold afternoon in November where the rain was charging down on a diagonal, rendering my umbrella completely useless. On a street lined with several parlors to choose from, at random I chose one with twinkling lights hanging in the window and a poster of an official looking back chart taped to the door.

I walked in and as much as I would like to say that I was greeted with service, I can't; the staff seemed kind of pissed that I had even entered. That should have been my first indication that I was in the wrong place. In front of me at the reception desk was an older woman, modestly dressed looking at me with a skeptical eye. On the couch to my right were two women eating snacks in mini skirts, high heels, and barely-there tops; one was purple lace revealing a red push-up bra; the other was thin white crew-neck top with an illustration of a rabbit on it. Dripping wet and overdressed in my rubber rain boots, wool leggings and hooded coat, I assessed the scene and decided that I was extremely uncomfortable. But of course that didn't stop me from leaving.

While I was paying upfront for my massage (indication number two), the two scantily women were having what I instinctively felt was a heated conversation, presumably pawning me off: the undesirable woman client. In a huff, the purple lace masseuse jolted up from the couch and guided me down a narrow hallway to an available back room.

Getting undressed, where I was directed to take my panties off to avoid ruining them during the massage, I noticed two identical signs posted on both the south and north facing walls. They were informing clients that the parlor is strictly for massages, no other services are offered, and touching the masseuse is strictly prohibited. (Indication number three -- I don't remember reading signs like this at my message at the Dior Institut)

My "massage" which consisted of me lying naked like a greased up pig on a table, while she slapped me with hot jasmine-scented oil and tugged at the first layer of my skin with absolute boredom. Bored myself, I opened my eyes to let my thoughts wander, guesstimating how much longer the treatment was going to last. It was then that I saw through the massage doughnut where my face was nestled, that she had pulled her skirt up revealing her beige panties along with a grown out shaved bikini line, mere inches away from my face. 

(Indication number four! Indication number four!)

Obviously, I was not interested in her up-sell but in a way, I did feel kind of bad. It's like when you don't buy the products used on you after a facial or at the hair salon. 

Her gesture invited a host of questions flooding through my at-the-time frantic mind: If I was interested, how would we even go about it? Would I have to pay up front again? Was I wrong for feeling flattered? Did she really think I came in for hotsy-totsy? Was this a silly misunderstanding and she was just getting some air? And did Aurélien ever get around to downloading season two of The Client List? I had so many questions that I knew would never get answers to. (Except for the last one. He still hasn't done it.) 

Being stark naked does add a level of vulnerability where simply walking out poses much more of a challenge than you'd expect. So I just closed my eyes, grateful that I didn't purchase an entire hour. 

The massage itself was awful, I woke up the following day with bacne from the oil she had pickled me with, and having a crotch in my face during a massage will forever be burned in my book of Paris memories. My second experience involved an actual physical proposal resulting in me screaming ça va pas -- again totally naked.

So if there is any question that Paris is losing it's grit and character, look closer, it's still here. It's just more concealed. After all, it is called the oldest profession for a reason.

postcards from a party.

 Photo courtesy of Prête-Moi Paris

After months of planning, just like a wedding, The Champagne Social just seemed to come and go! How did that happen? One day I was sitting in my scorching hot apartment in July discussing the possibility of a party in November, to picking up Cara at Gare de Nord with bags of decorations, leaving a trail of glitter and confetti throughout Paris!

It was a rare occasion to see my favorite bloggers and friends really let loose, especially on Monday night. As much as I would love to take credit for that, I really can't; that was all the handy work of Peaches and George Michael allowing our girls to unleash their inner divas. I think I even heard someone reenacting vintage Tyra strutting down the runway in the "Too Funky" video. 

Okay, "someone." That was totally me.


Cara's book "Sparkle" was gifted to guests.

 
Photo courtesy of The Champagne Diet

The Habitat Parisien loft was pretty much incredible. And I'm not just saying that because they were gracious enough to let us celebrate there, but because it was. I have never seen so much space in a Parisian apartment outside of the 16th! It took me the entire weekend during our decoaration installation to discover the three story loft with its secret rooms, little nooks and unique layout. I didn't think a loft could be cozy, but it was and I didn't want to leave. I'm still having Popincourt Loft withdrawals. 

Working with Habitat Parisien was an absolute pleasure. They made us and our guests feel special, going above and beyond to accommodate I hope they are pleased with the outcome and that we didn't scare them off with our "I Love The Nightlife" group singalong. We had to. Imagine a glitter party without any disco. That would just be mean.

The Hydration Station
My 20s taught me how to drink, my 30s taught me to hydrate.
Faux-jitos encouraged guests to pad each glass of bubbly 
with a little sparkling eau.

No champagne party is complete without tiaras and a magic wand.
I mean, come on.

The photo "booth" 
Check out some of the shots on Prête-Moi Paris.
 
A portion of the bubbly was graciously provided by 
Did you know that they offer a champagne bottle 
hand-dipped in chocolate
So coquine!


Tassels, tassels, everywhere!
Lauren of Folies du Bonheur 
made our tassel dreams come true with these 
hand-sliced and hand-twisted beauties.

As the holidays approach with many people heading back home to snuggle up with their families, it was perfection to have one last bang before 2014. I don't believe in investing too much into New Year's Eve parties. (Is it just me or do they tend to always disappoint?) But a little pre-holiday champagne-fueled party with fabulous guests? Now that's a good time. 

Thank you to those who came and made the party so special just by being you, and to you dear readers for your encouraging comments. I hope you enjoyed these party pictures and recaps. I've since turned back in to a pumpkin and am back to work and do I have stories for you, oh to the là là...until then, bon week-end!

For more Champagne Social recaps and photos please visit:

Out and About in Paris

Paris Living 

The Champagne Diet

Danielle Abroad

Expat Paris

Prete Moi Paris

Patricia Parisienne

crafting bad.

 

What a whirlwind weekend! What was supposed to be a small get-together to welcome Cara to Paris, manifested itself to what will always remembered as The Champagne Social. After one wine-fueled meeting, a trip to Ikea, Pinterest exchanges and many emails with Lauren the décoratrice mastermind, the decor went from having a few scattered candles and a vase of flowers to a project with more glitter than Liberace would know what to do with.

Spending the weekend at the gorgeous Oberkampf loft that Habitat Parisien was kind enough to give us access to for the installation, we decided to document our efforts with a short montage. 

Two girls in Paris prove that crafting is a serious undertaking not to be dismissed as a mere girlish hobby. A spoof of this scene on AMC's "Breaking Bad", please enjoy the Pinterest version of Jesse and Walt in "Crafting Bad".




Some stills from the shoot... 




the champagne social.



It's about time to let le chat is out of le sac. The big mystery behind last week's Champagne jaunt was that I was moving and shaking, meeting with producers to score some bubbly goodness for a little pre-holiday fête happening here in the City of Light. 

Along with the inspiring Cara of The Champagne Diet, the decoration master-mind Lauren of Folies du Bonheur and taking place in a gorgeous Habitat Parisien apartment, we collectively present The 2013 Champagne Social. 

the-champagne-social-blog

*Pop*!

How this whole thing came about was on a humid mid-summer's afternoon Gchat session with Cara. Fanning myself with a paper fan in my stuffy Parisian apartment, with great joy she informed that she had booked a ticket to London! With Paris being a Eurostar train away, she asked if it was worth seeing for the first time, even if it was only for a day or so?

Well I stand by the fact that Paris is always a good idea. Of course Paris is worth seeing for even the shortest trip! That's all I needed to say; within an hour her train itinerary was sitting pretty in my inbox.

Wanting to do something special for her first visit to Paris (God, I remember mine, do you remember yours?), I was planning on a small dinner party but as we got talking the plans got bigger, as did the guest list, and the concept morphed into not only celebrating her first trip to Paris, but the city itself and how it inspires so many women to create a new life, seeing beyond the basic geography of the move. 

The women I know here never cease to inspire me. All of them have taken on such passionate projects inspired by their circumstances here in Paris where a traditional job hasn't always been possible, or for those of us with jobs (you know, like my glamourous English-speaking nanny gig, FML!), still carving out time to pursue our goals, little by little, one day at a time. 

And that totally needs to celebrated. 

My days this week have been stuffed with planning and organizing as the date gets closer, but I will keep you all posted on the turnout with pictures, fun gossip...and perhaps even a video? 


What do you think? 
What were your first impressions of Paris? 
Did it inspire you as much as it does us or is it a hyped up cliché?
Thoughts! 

no tulle at the louvre!


Let me start this post off with a confession: a dark, dark secret that I have keeping from all of you for years now. I have to just come clean with it. So I have lived in Paris for over four years and up until last week, I had never been to The Louvre. I repeat, up until last week, I had never been to The Louvre.

What kind of Fauxrisienne am I? I'm not even a proper tourist!

Okay, so here's the thing: I have been to the Musee D'Orsay, Rodin, heck, I've even been to the Musee de la vie Romantique! It's not that I have an aversion to museums in Paris per se, it's that I have always found the Louvre to be extremely intimidating; the crowds, pickpockets, which day of the week to go, when to avoid a three hour line, what to see, what to wait to see until the second visit. It all seemed so overwhelming!

So what made me suddenly decide to pop my Louvre cherry after all these years? Being on school vacation, I decided to take advantage of having my early evenings free and finally signed up for a treasure hunt at the Louvre hosted by THATLou

And you know what? I get what all of the fuss is about. Along with the hunt, The Louvre is pretty amazing. I know, duh, but still.

In observation of Halloween, the theme of last week's hunt was death. With it taking place on Hallow's Eve Eve, I felt it appropriate to get into the spirit with a Halloween-inspired getup. With my hair slicked in a tight Wednesday Addams braid, my orange tights peeking through the layers of my black tulle skirt, a dark wool cape, and running a bit late, I hightailed it to The Louvre on a moody October night in Paris. What I really needed was a lantern and a few bats flying around me, you know, to really add to the already dramatic scene.

At the meeting point under the Louvre Pyramid, the founder Daisy - uber-adorable in her pumpkin orange corduroys and rocking a pointy witch hat - greeted us hunters with team packets and team announcements. 

To explain how the hunts work, I took the description straight from the official THATLou site because I don't feel like I could explain it any better. Actually, I know I couldn't, so here goes: "THATLou is quite simple: teams consisting of 2 to 4 people compete, following a list of clues that lead them to works of art – or “treasures” – in the museum. Team members photograph themselves in front of as many works of art on the list as possible, earning varied points per treasure. Sometimes bonus questions are embedded in the accompanying texts – either requiring silly poses for photos."

Pretty cool, right?

With our map in hand, team jobs allocated (I was the photographer!), and our tricked out team name "WITCHLou" (Witches In The CHateau de Louvre) we headed to the entrance to get this party started. Well...the guard collecting tickets, looked at us in what I interpreted as distaste and informed us that we were not allowed to enter the museum with our costumes on. Sylvia who was wearing an elaborate deep purple witch hat embellished with black tulle was asked to check her hat in the coat room. Refusing, she offered to stuff it in her bag, which I thought was a fair compromise to his ridiculous request. He didn't.

After some persuading, he gave in and we proceeded in. But not so fast! He then noticed my "costume" and wasn't sure if he could permit me to enter. For real? I had nothing on my head, no crazy makeup, just a tulle skirt that I actually wear in real life (if any of you saw my Househunter's International episode, that one). Unlike Sylvia, I couldn't just stuff my skirt, the bottom portion of my outfit into my bag and walk around the museum in tights. As Blair Waldorf says, "Tights aren't pants!" In utter disbelief, I stared at him, waiting for him to come to his senses, but he did not seem to be budging.

"Sir, I would like to see where, anywhere, it says no tulle at the Louvre." I said evenly. 

As suspected, he had no response to my challenge but at that point we didn't wait for his permission, handed him our tickets and walked right past him. We had no time for his drama, we had a hunt to win. 

Speed walking (along with tulle, there is also no running in the Louvre!) through the museum, I got a flash experience of as many rooms as we could get to in under an hour. It was invigorating being on such a mission that separated us from clusters of international guided tours.

The "offensive" hat.

Bonus point shots!
Point at the art! Group shot with the doves on the ceiling!
These little exercises got us some major points...or so we thought.
As funny as the shot of the girls posing like the dogs in the
"Wedding Feast at Cana" oil on canvas which got us 50 extra points,
I don't think they'd appreciate it being published.
So I didn't.

Tallying up the scores at a nearby restaurant over wine and charcuterie, Daisy announced the winners with WITCHLou, sadly coming in at fourth place out of the five teams. Four out of five? Ca va. We did however, win the best team name, which I was extra proud of.  WITCHLou? THATLou! It still makes me giggle. (I'm doing it now.)

It's taken way too long to experience Paris' most celebrated museum, but I'm going to say that it was so worth the wait to see through the spectrum of THATLou. Now that I've seen the speed tour of the museum, it's clearly time for the extended, I'll just be sure not to wear damn tulle.

did someone say champagne?

It's mid-Autumn and for those of you have been following my blog may (or may not) know that mid-Autumn is the time of year we go on our French exploration trip! In 2011 we went to lovely Loire Valley, last year was our striped shirt Normandy excursion to Honfleur, Le Havre and Etretat, and this year, we went to a region I have been dying to go to since I arrived in France....

 You guessed it! Champagne!

I was pretty much in my bubbly glory the entire weekend as I felt no shame in ordering a glass of champagne with every meal, something I feel sort of diva doing elsewhere. But when in Rome, right?

We stayed in the center of Reims (which for the life of me cannot pronounce properly without spitting) in a curious little hotel called the Hotel Crystal. Dropping our things off and me wanting to change out of my peep-toe heels to my more weather-appropriate black Keds, much to my horror, I had packed two left shoes. Having several pairs of these sneakers and the dim-lighting in my bedroom, this was bound to happen one of these days, just not on a rainy weekend exploring champagne caves. Oy.


I had two choices here: drive out to the suburbs of Reims looking for an E.Leclerc (France's WalMart, more or less), and waste precious Champagne buying appropriate footwear, or deal with it and visit les caves in 2007 Dior Gladiator heels.

Do I even need to tell you which one I chose?

We kicked off our weekend with the bigger Champagne houses and paced ourselves by tasting not finishing the complimentary glasses offered at the end of each tour (this was me being an adult.) Although the bigger houses were quite impressive, I would have to say the tour that I was most enchanted with was hosted by one of my favorite champagnes, Demoiselle (part of the Vranken family who also produce Pommery.) Perhaps it was because it was the end of the day or because this more of a niche champagne, the Villa Demoiselle attracted a much smaller crowd where we could really experience the house with all of its art nouveau touches, we could actually hear the guide, and none of the other tour visitors asked annoying and irrelevant questions.

 The tour ended with a glass from their Diamant collection which was pretty much like sipping on sparkling liquid gold.
This glass, I finished.

A little purple lace coat and an Eiffel Tower box?
I can't.
You know one of these is sitting in our fridge right now.
I'm such a sucker for packaging.

Reims was nice, and while I appreciated visiting the famous Champagne houses and seeing their Notre Dame, I couldn't help but feel slightly uninspired by how commercial most of the town was. The Sephoras (there were two!), Jennyfer, and H&M stores reminded me more of a mini rue de Rivoli than the region where Champagne came from. I guess I had always imagined that my beverage of choice would come from a quaint little French village sprinkled with family producers on side streets, welcoming visitors, and encouraging tastings.

Not wanting to be a whiny little bitch, I kept these thoughts to myself; not every place in France has to be a postcard out of an Audrey Hepburn movie. I get it. 

Well, someone was listening to my silent "concerns" because the following day we headed out to Rilly La Montagne, and this is where I got to see the Champagne I had dreamed of.


Autumn in Champagne.
This is where the magic comes from!




Now this was more like it! Quiet and super quaint with the air smelling like wood-burning fireplaces. Walking around the village (still in my towering heels), we absorbed the countryside scenery that us city-folk had been craving. We may have even been the only people in town, because not even a car passed us by. It was divine. 

Faced with a myriad of fermé signs and locked doors, it had occurred to us that not many producers are open on Saturday, especially during a holiday weekend. And that's why it was super quiet, not because we had discovered a top secret town like I had hoped. Well, wise wife to the rescue, I reckoned that the only solution was to stop at Chateau de Rilly, the town's four star hotel that we had passed, order a glass of champagne (you know, for inspiration) and call several of the houses to request a reservation.

As suspected, it worked. Within the hour, we were welcomed to most of the houses that we called, were offered a generous tasting (more than just one glass!), learned the company history and chatted with the owners, and at some of houses with their kids and wives. It was a much more intimate experience than what we had experienced in Reims. 

It was truly a sparkling weekend (pun so intended), we came home a few cases of champagne heavier; one to keep in the house for the impending holidays and the other for a very special upcoming event....to be continued.