Paris Day 69: Parlez-Vous Fashion and Beauty?

I can’t lie. I’m a francophil. Thanks to my parents, I heard French at home and learned to speak it as a kid. I could live on a diet of cheese and wine. I listen to French pop music, read French authors, and I absolutely love French style. When I was a teen, I dragged my mom around Paris searching for Chanel and oogling all the clothes I was determined to buy when I was “older.”

Today, I’m older and I’m sharing a few of my favorite French beauty and fashion items.


French pharmacies are AMAZING. Well, depending on which one you stumble in to. Some have more selection than others, but in general, they carry brands that are only to be had at Sephora at home. I could spend hours looking at everything, but I doubt the pharmacists would like that. They tend to want to help and solve any problem I may be having. Browsing doesn’t seem to be a thing they understand.

L’Occitane. This line is now available in the US and has its own stand alone shops in Paris, in addition to being in the pharmacies. I adore the smell of Shampooing Réparateur and the Aprés Shampooing. Plus, it leaves my hair shiny and silky soft.

L’Occitane Shampoo

Phyto. Paris water is very drying. I’m not sure how that works exactly, but it’s true. Liam, the hairdresser with mesmerizing chest hair, ordered me to get hair oil and explained that I must stop washing my hair everyday. Since taking his advice, my hair feels and looks so much healthier.

Phytolisse – great for fixing dryness and fly aways.

Before coming to France, I was already a fan of their Smoothing Mask which I liked to leave on overnight, but I’d never considered leave-in hair oil before. Phytolisse is amazing. It smells nice, can be used on damp or dry hair and keeps all the frizzy, dryness at bay.

Skin Care

I love La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60. It’s one of the nicest, lightweight, non-greasy sunblocks I’ve ever used and I’m trying to figure out how to keep myself in supply once back in the States.


Repetto is my downfall. Some women love Christian Louboutin, but I love Repetto because it’s less “statusy” if that makes sense. They also make toe shoes for ballerinas which, I think, is why my high arches fit so easily in their shoes. I went a little crazy the other day and bought all of these:

Suade, olive green boots.
I’m in love with these.
Mine are navy. I wore them yesterday with merlot knee socks…so cute!
I don’t wear black, so I bought these in a brown color with deep purple undertones.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a single shoe shop that would stretch them because they are “too delicate.” As soon as Bug took the box out, the clerks would shake their heads. However, BHV (a great department store in my neighborhood) has a crazy shoe repair department and Bug was able to buy high heel stretchers. We’re about to see if my time managing a shoe department back in college will pay off 😀


Chanel. Every year (except last year when he was enthralled with his bitchtress), Bug brings me back perfume from his fall trip to Europe. Always Coco Mademoiselle. Yes, I know it can be bought in the US, but I love the presentation of it when you buy it in Paris. And I love Coco.

While in Paris, I’ve also picked up Chanel cosmetics. I don’t know why I’ve never tried them before, but I’m very impressed by the lipstick. It stays on all day and through a well-dressed salad. I bought Rouge Allure in Excentrique which is a gorgeous tangerine color and when I wear it, I’m frequently asked about it.

Beautiful orange and it lasts forever.

This summer, I had been wearing OPI A Roll in the Hague, a yellow-ish orange (seeing a theme here?) that I loved for its cheery brightness. But then I discovered Chanel’s Blue Rebel and it was GAME OVER. A nail polish that looks like dark denim? YES, PLEASE. Even better, it goes on evenly with two coats.

Chanel Blue Rebel.


Myla and Wolford Okay, so Myla is British and Wolford is German, but I’m going to include them here because French women speak my language. As in, we love pretty under things. Even before I was a stylist, I preached the importance of nice foundation pieces – both for support and creating good lines, but also to just make yourself feel a little sexier. Someone once asked me if Wolford stockings and tights were worth the investment, to which I said, “Hell, yes.” They feel amazing on, are super soft, stay up, and never bag out. Of course, they do make insanely sexy leg wear that I’ve seen women here wearing during the day. I doubt anyone at home would dare wear bondage inspired tights out of their house – or to the office.

Velvet de Luxe 50 stay-up. They really do stay up all day long.

As for Myla, I think every woman should have at least one pretty thing to sleep in. It doesn’t have to be super sexy, and I think Myla does a nice job balancing comfort with pretty.

Mira Babydoll in champagne from Myla

Let me know if you have any favorite french products, I’m always looking for more 😀

Paris Day 68: Making an Impression

I love music. So much that I almost always have over-sized headphones with me and have been known to walk around singing loudly, lost in beats and lyrics – especially when drafting a new book. Music has a way of guiding me to the right emotional tone and helping me work through tricky scenes. Plus, I can’t listen to a great song without dancing around, and who doesn’t love dancing???

At times, it does make me wonder if I could write without the constant soundtrack running through my brain. Then I tell myself all artists – whether they write, draw, paint, sing, sculpt, dance – search for their elusive muse. Divine inspiration.

For Impressionist painter Cluade Monet, it was the gardens of his home at Giverny, a beautiful, tiny town situated on the Seine about 80 miles west of Paris. I have never seen anything quite like them before and I’m a garden dork. The color, texture, depth…arghhhh…I seriously just wanted to hide in a corner, lie on my back, watch the clouds and bees, and soak it all in. Gorgeous.

Garden at Giverny

We took the train from Paris to Vernon, and, instead of taking the shuttle bus, we decided to walk the 5km to Giverny along the old train route. It’s now a lovely path that meanders along the river, past a strange little farm, and through trees and fields. The only other people we came across where locals out running, but I’d encourage anyone who visits to try the walk.

Since we read the lines for Monet’s house and gardens are ridiculously long on weekends and in the summer, we had arranged our day so that we’d arrive close to opening time. Luckily, neither the house nor garden were cramped and we were able to enjoy everything without hordes of people.

Dahlia’s are my favorite flower in my own garden and they play a special role in Nightingale.

The boys ran around smelling and touching, and enjoying being released from the concrete jungle of Paris. From the gift shop, each boy chose a small Monet print and I picked up a book about Impressionist art for home school. Of the three boys, my youngest is my art lover and he immediately began discussing his plans to copy the water lily picture he selected. He also launched into a critique of the work, noting that “Monet doesn’t use enough green. Where are the pads? All I see are flowers.”

At least one of my kids seems engaged….
View out of Monet’s bedroom window.

The Fox begged us to “Please, please, please have a picnic.” While picnicking at Monet’s house isn’t allowed, a few of the places in town do sell “baskets” of food. However, when we left Monet’s, the sky looked threatening and we convinced our son to eat at a quaint cafe with an outdoor courtyard. Good thing we did – twenty minutes later it began pouring, and since The Fox’s arm is covered in plaster we had to hustle him inside. Luckily, it was a quick shower and the cast was saved.

Bug and Me in Monet’s garden
The Colonel is OBSESSED with lily pads, so Monet’s water garden made his day.

After lunch, we walked across the street to the Impressionist Museum. It’s small and completely manageable for young kids. I walked the boys through the exhibits, using my Art History major (I knew it would come in handy some day!). Just outside the museum is a grassy area with haystack recreations and apple trees. Bug and I decided to let the boys play before hiking them back to Vernon. They scooped up a bunch of apples, found a stick, and began a game of “baseball.”

The boys playing “baseball.”

Since we still had four hours before our train home, we grabbed a taxi at the Vernon train station for the 2km ride to Chateau Bizy. It’s a gorgeous chateau nestled among extensive gardens. The only way to view the inside of the house is with a tour…that’s only in French. They do have a print out for English speakers, but I ended up translating into Pudge’s ear during most of the tour while Bug helped the other two boys find hidden horses for a treasure hunt. I will say, I felt pretty good about my French skills because the guide spoke FAST 😀

After the half-an-hour tour, we let the boys run loose in the gardens. Mazes, hills, trees, stick, fountains…it was a kid’s paradise.

Upper Garden at Chateau Bizy – perfect for rolling and running down.

Since we used our last few dollars to pay for the Bizy tour (FYI – cash only if you decide to visit), we had to walk back to the train station. Since we still had an hour before our departure, we stopped into the brasserie across the street. Unfortunately, they weren’t serving food. They did however, serve The Fox hard cider. The look on his face, when he took a huge swig was priceless.

After the long day (we left our house at 7am for two metro rides and a connection to the train), everyone was exhausted in the happy, deeply satisfied way.

The best part for me? When Pudge, my 10-year-old, grabbed my hand at the train station and told me how much he loved the day, and thanked me for sharing it with him.

Life doesn’t get much better than that.

Paris Day 62: Normandy

The beaches of Normandy.

Omaha. Utah. Juno. Gold. Sword.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know what D-Day was. Maybe I was that kid – the one obsessed with history – but I remember pouring over pictures of World War II and searching the faces of the soldiers who sat in the boats waiting to disembark. I’d stare at them and wonder what they felt and if they survived. I marveled at their bravery and cried sometimes when I thought about their fear.

One of the main things I’ve wanted to do since arriving in Paris is visit Normandy, so yesterday, Bug and I drove the boys to the coast. Our first stop was Le Mémorial de Caen. Here we found a detailed exhibit of life in Europe, America, and Japan from World War I up to post-World War II. Pudge, having studied World War I and the period leading up to the Second World War, impressed Bug with his knowledge and helped me guide his younger brothers through the start of the exhibit. The museum has a “children’s room” where parents can leave their kids, but we decided against it, wanting our kids to learn about the horrible impact of war. While our boys did fine in general, the part discussing the  Holocaust was difficult for The Fox. He kept asking if he’d be safe, why didn’t anyone try to save the kids, and why didn’t anyone stop the Germans from hurting all those people. Tough questions and I’m not sure I gave the best answers.

The German Cemetery at La Cambe was nearby, so we headed there. The boys immediately scrambled to the top of the monument (there are stairs in the back) while I wondered around.

The entryway to the German Cemetery.

I know the Germans were the aggressors, but as I read the grave markers, I noticed that most of fallen soldiers were seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old, and my heart broke. They were boys, probably off on a grand adventure, not fully understanding what they were signing up for, or even the politics behind it.

Reading the gravestones of unnamed German soldiers.

Our next stop was La Pointe du Hoc. If you have a chance to visit Normandy and want to see – really see – the effects of the bombardment, visit this place. Artillery craters, while now covered in grass, dominate the landscape.

A crater created by the artillery bombardment.

Broken chunks from concrete bunkers litter the bluff and rebard pokes up randomly from the walking paths. The command center still perches over sheer cliffs that American Rangers scaled under heavy gunfire with rope ladders. To everyone’s surprise, the Rangers took the cliff faster than anticipated, secured the site, and were able make sure the guns (which turned out to be nothing more than logs) wouldn’t be fired on nearby Utah and Omaha beaches. It was a huge strategic win for the Allies on that long day.

The ruins of the German Bunker system at La Point du Hoc.

Looking into the lookout of the command center where the gunners aimed toward the ocean.
And looking out.

After leaving La Point du Hoc, we drove to Omaha Beach. It wasn’t anything like I expected. People frolicked on the beach, fancy ocean front homes lined the area, and tourist shops dotted the street along the main drag. I know that time marches on and it’s been nearly seventy years, but to me, it felt a lot like building a house on a graveyard.

Instead of tanks, there are now tractors and boats on Omaha Beach. Notice the chunk of concrete in the foreground.

We next drove to the Musée Mémorial d’Omaha Beach. Here, the boys spent a great deal of time studying the exhibits of American GI gear, guns, and ammo, as well as a breakdown of the D-Day’s events on Omaha. Bug and I read the first hand accounts from survivors and studied an impressive collection of pictures from the invasion and the liberation.

It was a long day, but one I know none of us will ever forget.