Friday, October 8, 2010

Heaven in the 7th


After my big loss of Le Sublime, I took a little break from trying to find the perfect Paris pad. I tried to ignore the barrage of emails, with pictures of seductive floors, enticing moldings and 19th century stone facades. I tried not to click on google maps for a daily walk up and down the streets of a neighborhood. I avoided some of my favorite French websites and didn’t try to hone in on buildings from the sky, at different angles, to measure the angle of the sun at various times of the day. I tried not to focus on Paris and instead kept busy with a multitude of other projects, with the gallery, trips to Provence, and of course, my little family. And I was successful at it … until this photo popped up in my inbox.

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Followed by another one, that just clarified the location for me.

Realtor view cropped

Some people might think, what’s the big deal? So you have a view of the Eiffel Tower? What makes you think this is a great apartment?

But you see, I’ve been doing this for almost three years! I know this neighborhood inside and out. I can look at this photo and tell you that the apartment is within a stone’s throw of the rue Cler, one of the most bustling and colorful market streets in Paris. I know that it’s around the corner from the rue St. Dominique, home of about six fabulous restaurants, most of which are owned and run by that new prince of cuisine, Christian Constant. I know the buses that run up and down the street and I love the metro stop, which is a five minute walk away. I’ve walked the short stroll to the Seine river, and to the Champ de Mars, and know that from this location, my puppy will get the most scenic work out that she’s ever experienced.

Champ de Mars

And although I’m not an haute couture kind of gal, I certainly like the idea of being just minutes from the avenue Montaigne, even though I’ll probably never set foot in Chanel, Dior or Christian Lacroix.


Without even looking further, I know that this apartment is in “my” hood. Oh dear. These don’t come up very often. I may just have to pursue it.

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And then I catch a glimpse of the floors! “My floors!” I’m in trouble now …

Floor detail

From the floors and the moulding, I can tell that it’s a Haussmann style building, probably built a little before the turn of the century (1890’s). I’m pretty sure that it’s on the 2nd floor, which is not my favorite, but I do see advantages to not being up high, especially since I’ve had experience with Parisian elevators. And, this apartment is on a very wide street, so there’s nothing blocking the sun from pouring in, which is another check in its favor.

Sunshine cropped

I read the description and the size and realize that it’s perfect. At 800 square feet, it’s just enough to be a small two bedroom, which is exactly what I’m looking for. There’s only one bathroom, but that can probably be remedied. And the pictures of the kitchen are definitely not what I’m looking for. But that too, is a cosmetic fix. I’m starting to hyperventilate, just a little.

Front hall detail

It’s time to look at this building from the sky, measure the sun and walk to the nearest bakery. I see that it’s on a large courtyard, so I figure that the bedrooms, surely located in the back, will actually get some good light. I look at the angle of the sun and figure that in the summer time, the front of the building will have sun pouring in from early afternoon to sunset.

Realtor outside cropped

I get out google maps, and sprint around the neighborhood, counting the number of restaurants, gourmet shops, pharmacies (my personal favorites!), and yes, even veterinary clinics. I visit some of the local dress shops, antique stores and art galleries that dot every street. I look at the florists, the hair dressers, the shoe repair shops, the cheese shops, the wine stores, and start counting the bakeries and take out gourmet shops, until my stomach begins to rumble. I ensure that there are no restaurants downstairs whose odors could penetrate the apartment. And I count the number of buses that all stop within a five minute walk. By the time I finish my tour, I am panting, exhausted and exhilarated. And ready to call the realtor.





But what if this one turns out to be sold? Can I bear another loss? Can I take my poor readers through another roller coaster ride? Will I finally find my little slice of heaven in the 7th?

I have no choice. This apartment speaks to me. I’ll make the call and hold my breath.

Stay tuned!



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Reflections

No such thing as too much basil At the market preparing for our group – no such thing as too much basil!

I am in France right now with Linda on a gallery trip to Provence and it’s one of the most fun trips we’ve ever had. I know, that’s a dangerous thing to say since we never want to play favorites and of course we love all our children equally! But what makes this trip so special is the camaraderie of the ladies in this group whose deep bonds of friendship date back to college days. They know each other so well that the jabs are flying constantly while the laughter is contagious, and Linda and I are spending half our time doubled over in stitches. Perhaps there is a little wine flowing in the evenings, but all in all, it’s such good fun.

One of my favorite parts of this trip is that for at least one guest, it is her first trip to France. Seeing it all through her eyes is like reliving it and appreciating it for the first time.

We’ve got a great system of helpers on our trips, the main one being the ever adorable and so fashionably footed Christophe, our driver. Today, taking a little side trip to the train station with Christophe, I learned that his motivation for guiding people around France is the same as ours – which is the joy you get for playing a part in showing people the unexpected, whether it’s the first time they’ve seen it or not.

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Christophe 1 The Fashionable Feet of Christophe

Christophe was a pilot in a previous life who took clients on circuits over parts of the marvelously varied Provence countryside. He said that the holidays were a busy season for him with many people offering his plane trip to their friends or families as a very special Christmas present. His favorite clients were the skeptics, like the farmer who was born and raised on his land and thought that nobody could teach him anything new. He described the farmer arriving begrudgingly to the airport, reluctant to get on a plane because he’d seen it all and knew the land thoroughly from the ground. And then slowly, as Christophe guided the plane over all the familiar territory, the farmer became mesmerized and enchanted by the countryside below, seeing it for the first time from a completely different perspective. By the time he finished the trip, Christophe said that the farmer was enchanted and beguiled by the beauty and the experience. Christophe said he loved that kind of client, and was so excited to appreciate it all over again through someone else’s eyes.

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The fabulous and fashionably footed Christophe

I could really relate to this. The ladies on the trip often say, “Don’t you get tired of doing the trips and taking people to the same places every day?” and my answer is a resounding no! With each new group I get to see it through their eyes and appreciate it all over again, reliving it for the first time. Like Christophe, I sometimes even get a skeptic, someone who expects all French people to be rude and a tad anti-American. I try not to say anything, and just let the week unfold. And then little by little I get to hear each night about some random act of kindness or some unusual quirk that happened during the day. As the week evolves, I usually find that they discover something new, not just about the French but about themselves as well.

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Our ladies of the week

In some ways it reminds me of life the gallery, when clients come in and admit their fear of buying art or of appearing uneducated by asking the wrong question. If there is one thing we have strived for, it is to make that person feel comfortable in our gallery. We hope they come away from their visit knowing that there are no right or wrong answers, that art is subjective, and that they should buy what speaks to them personally for whatever reason. We love it when that person comes back to the gallery, having enjoyed the process -- and the paintings.

And so it goes with these trips. If we can succeed in showing you things you’d never experienced before and opening your eyes and all of your senses to appreciate something new and unexpected, not only have we done our “job” but you will have given us an equal amount of pleasure.

On top of the world

New friends, on top of the world!

And that’s the case with our trip this week, and what a pleasure it has been! All I can really say is thank you to this tremendous group of women, who have given us the opportunity to see the beauty through their eyes and have taught us all again about the power of friendship, laughter and the deep bonds that connect us all together. Merci mesdames, for the week and for the happy reflections.

Ralph Lauren Model

Our beautiful Ralph Lauren model, and her reflections