09/25/2017

Travel – Experience the Transition of Greenport

I often thought of Greenport, Long Island, as the Hamptons’ challenged stepsister. During the drive for a quick getaway to investigate the area I adjusted my stance. The North Fork is the one who gets it but has no interest in letting too many in on the secret for fear of spoiling its inherent nature.

Greenport’s pier is the site of the North Ferry to Shelter Island.

The North Fork has been lauded for its agricultural bounties, dense with farms, vineyards, lavender and seafood operators, though characteristics of its tony neighbor across the bay have steadily been encroaching.

There are Hampton styled cottages that are softly updated aside homes that could benefit from a visit to the Home Depot just three town aways. I saw such a ramshackle home on the drive to the hotel. Aside a cheerful sunflower patch was an antique farmhouse with no trespassing signs nailed to its side. A crusty character sat on the porch who would not appear out of place holding a shot gun and wearing long johns held up with suspenders, perhaps guarding his moonshine.

In the hub of Greenport’s town consignment shops may outnumber organic lifestyle retailers, which works with me as I returned home with a set of china not made in China, fuchsia slip dress and gilded picture frames. The stores were decorated with vintage flair, a gratuitous use of patriotic emblems, which reminded me of Southampton in the bicentennial year. In fact Greenport may be Southampton in the 70s but it’s in a conflicted pace to catch up.

The 67 Steps that give the beach its namesake.

The region offers a mix of activities. You can tour wineries, stock up on just picked produce from the farm stands or swim along hidden beaches that offer stunning views of the bay and coast.

A private watering spot to help you forget.

We stayed at American Beech, a hip boutique hotel that could be the country version of a SoHo counterpart. Proprietor Brent Pelton is suitably qualified in acknowledging Greenport’s innate charm while giving the town a nudge into its deserved haute destination category, using his background in hospitality and law to create a lifestyle resort plotted within town. The compound includes a check in bungalow with a well edited shop, restaurants, bar and five tasteful suites with those details travelers adore like crispy white linens and bottles of Fred water for a charge.

In walking distance is shopping, restaurants, IGA market (another relic from a past decade) and pier with a quaint carousel. The Monday evening we visited the town hosted a band with dancing where you will fraternize with New Yorkers capitalizing on a three day weekend along with locals who have the we’ve-been-here-first elitism. I’ve always found that a devoted supporter to a town’s native essence allows a gem’s preservation to be thoughtfully handled.

Local band with dancing along the pier.

The pull between local and upscale is evident in everything from the boutiques to service the urban crowd like Calypso, or restaurants such as The Frisky Oyster if you have a hankering for duck confit spring rolls.

Wandering the town and you will find personalized authenticity in the seaside storefronts.

Autumn is another known commodity known to true North Forkers, its golden season is when you sieve out the ladies-drink-free and families with Thules clasped on to their SUVs crowd. The agricultural bounties kick in, with farm stands bursting with harvested crops and corresponding activities like hay rides and fundraisers. There are events aplenty, which include an Oyster Festival and East End Maritime Festival to showcase the area’s rich nautical history.

Even the locals have more of an edge to them versus the typical coastal native profile who speak with heavy accents that can be sourced to the colonial days and eat lobster for breakfast. This is Long Island.

Hotels:

http://www.greenportvillage.com/category/lodging/hotels-and-motels/

Restaurants:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g47827-Greenport_North_Fork_Long_Island_New_York.html

 

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08/11/2017

Ultimate Guide to Resort Town Shopping

The time has come in your vacation to investigate town, usually between beach and dinner. You navigate a sidewalk with other tourists who share a reddish tan that happens when you fall asleep to the ping ping of a Kadima ball in the bright sun. The town charms with a hotel that hosted famous Colonial folk. Cafes decorated with local art. Stores merchandised for the season. Some shopkeepers let you browse with a drippy ice cream cone, the window lists their other resort locations: Nantucket, Palm Beach, East Hampton…

Here, we cultivate highlights from resort establishments, hocking everything from cocktail attire, sustainable flip flops and shot glasses with the town’s zip code.

 

  1. Navy Canvas Tote 2. Watercolor Waves Bag 3. Beach Volleyball 4. Embroidered SkipJack Key Fob 5. Intergalactic Bath Bomb 6. Marine Blue Handwoven Throw 7. St. Barths Tunic in Sailing Stripes 8. Roses Quilt 9. Original Salt Water Taffy 10. Scotland Nation Airlie Sweatshirt 11. Trucker Hat 12. Beach Towel in Mega Joyride 13. Fallera Azure Women’s Mule 14. Backpacker Cologne 15. Deer Valley Mountain Legging 16. Laraju Elephant Printed Silk Scarf/Throw

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08/05/2017

Travel – Chatham, Cape Cod, MA

We reach the final leg of our trip in a Jeep weighed down with too many people, beach gear, unzipped bags and many towels since our rental does not provide them. The main road that takes us to our cottage is not cluttered with commercial behemoths. There are antique stores in historic homes, hardware stores hocking rain barrels, fishing outfitters and a nature center that hosts midnight walks along the seacoast. This could be the scene of a summer experience decades ago but it’s not. We are in the town of Chatham, plotted on the elbow of Cape Cod, Massachusett’s arm.

An antique store seen on route to our cottage.

A Cape experience and there is no preoccupation with such things as matching your pool float to your bathing suit and securing appointments for an onsite hair stylist to prep you for an exhausting roster of fabulous events. We omit any scheduling to follow the simple offerings the town provides. Ridgevale Beach is in walking distance. There are plenty of restaurants. The main supermarket and fish stores provide local ingredients for meals at home.

Typical day at the local beach.

In town they have the expected tourist destinations—art galleries selling aerial shots of the ocean, Cape merchandise, trendy clothes designed by entrepreneurs who gave up corporate life to follow their dream, cafes that freeze extra coffee into ice cubes, choice of ice cream and fudge shops and more than one knitting establishment. On a morning when half our household made their tee time, we explored the two block town. An excursion where Cape appropriate trinkets were bought. Ate more ice cream, cookies, Italian ice and candy where I thought tongues would permanently stain blue. We gave in to the impracticalities of resort living. By the end of the trip there is life reassessment and talk of starting a clam bake outfitter.

Walk away from the crowds for a vacant plot.

In the dramatic shift from August to September the town’s tourists return to routine life, leaving the Cape’s most spectacular month. Days have the perfect ratio of crisp to warm temperatures, cool evenings, no crowds–an ideal time to clear the mind and draft a business plan.

The view from Chatham Pier and Fish Market.

Places to eat/market:

400 East Restaurant & Bar: A bulky menu that serves everything from nachos grande to broiled scrod, tuna poke and ribs.

Candy Manor: An old-fashioned candy shop who homemade fudge and bins of candies.

Chatham Pier & Fish Market: Buy the catch of the day with on site entertainment provided by frolicking seals.

JoMama’s NY Bagels: Servicing our morning needs with great coffee and bacon, egg and cheese bagels.

Kream ‘N Kone: Fried fish selections, Cole slaw and soft serve ice cream in a family friendly atmosphere. Take out or dine in booths from plastic trays.

Marion’s Pie Shop: The morning line moves fast for coffee and all kinds of pie, even clam.

Buffy’s Ice Cream: In town, jovial pink setting, with a menu of flavors and soft serve.

Schoolhouse Ice Cream: An assortment of homemade flavors and other ice cream shop favorites.

Sundae School: A chalkboard lists innovative flavors you can create into a sundae with hot caramel, pineapple and other toppings.

Places to shop:

Ducks in the Window: If you are in the market for a rubber duck, this is the destination. A collection of rubber toys, candy and trinkets where shoppers inspect wares like displays in a gallery.

Fat Face: BoHo, urban sweatshirts and cool clothing in a hip corner store. The helpful salesgirl gave us the store’s background about British designers with the ideal to sell t-shirts and naming the store after their favorite ski run, but we were too busy inspecting the merchandise to catch it all.

J. McLaughlin: In even preppy resort town you can count on a J. McLaughlin for stocking up on pretty printed dresses, swim trunks and accessories.

Jack Wills: Come here for classic styles like striped teas, kick please dresses and wardrobe basics with an updated take

White Marlie: Designed tees, suits, hats and hoodies that offer a more styled assortment than a touristy shop selling Cape Cod emblemed clothes.

If you have any questions regarding your Chatham trip, please email us at jdemontravel@ducksgoose.com.

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08/02/2017

Best Travel Apps for Grownups

If the most fun you’ve had this summer is cooling off in the kiddie pool it may be time to get away. A proper trip, where you discover a new place or eat something so delicious the taste will be imprinted to memory. Travel can do everything from restore well-being to giving kids a summer that involves more than making some really cool sand art.

Before you hit the road, load up with apps that will facilitate travel needs.

 

Though traveling can come with some challenges. There are endless car rides that turn a vehicle into a mobile prison. Or trying to get by in a foreign territory without having to pantomime a lunch order. We uncovered apps that will cut through the tests of travel and build on your vacation experience.

HipMunk – Hotels and Flights

HipMunk is your virtual travel agent that will find the best accommodations, transportation and tour packages at an affordable price. Whether you have a getaway in mind or want HipMunk to find one for you, be prepared to sift through plenty of alluring options.

TastySpots

While we have sampled our way through every food app, what makes Tasty Spots so palatable is that it is intended for the foodie with I-really-ate-there reviews, pictures and content. The app will find a restaurant, help you order the best meal, and you can set up your own profile.

Walk Jog Run GPS Running Routes

For the exercise enthusiast, avoid getting lost or following a hotel map when drafting your workout route. WalkJogRun uses a phone’s GPS with millions of worldwide running notes to establish a customized route.

Glympse

It’s one of those group travel challenges–someone wants to go shopping while the other rather hit every tourist attraction at record speed. A difference in itinerary does not mean you can’t meet up for a drink. Glympse reunites parties by safely sharing your location.

Postino

When sharing your vacation on social media becomes too impersonal, revisit the classic custom of sending postcards but with an updated twist. Positino allows you to send real, tangible cards. Simply take a photo, select a background, write your message and for $1.29 the high quality customized card is sent between 2-5 business days. Sure beats finding a post office and licking stamps.

Mobile Passport

Want to feel like a VIP when you enter that dreaded moment at the customs line? While you don’t have to know a senator or titled official, Mobile Passport will certainly make you feel like you do. Officially authorized by Officially authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the simple process involves filing your profile, submitting answers regarding your trip and scanning your travel docs. The app will allow you access through U.S. Customs and Border Protection in over 20 major destinations.

Google Translate

Speak in your host country’s native tongue without having to take a lesson. Google translate is your app translator, which is the best way to connect with foreigners and navigate countries through language. You can even use your camera for a nifty text translation.

Waze

Waze is a navigation app that is far more than punching in a destination for directions, it is your virtual traffic guru. While turning off the highway and hitting a string of country roads that may make a simple trip seem like an epic odyssey, Waze will get you there faster by using driver shared traffic info.

Sit or Squat

Until apps can figure out a way to bypass rest stop visits, we must depend on public restrooms. Avoid that scary moment when opening the door of a pubic restroom—Sit or Squat is a handy app developed by the clever folks at Charmin with a listing of user generated reviews for over 100,000 bathrooms nationwide. Though it’s always a good idea to pack that handy roll of toilet paper.

whats app

If you go into shock when you receive a data usage email alerting the added cost from all your use of data, cut around that expense with What’s App, a free communications app.

Minube

For the traveler inspired by the beauty of a destination and insider info, Minube is an artistic compilation of user-generated photos and tips that allow you to sample a destination well before you hit the road. There are also recommendations based on your travel criteria and an ability to create a travel scrapbook.

 

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07/03/2017

Ultimate Guide to Paris with Kids

L’essential est invisible pour les yeux. On ne voit bien qu’ avec le couer.” Translation: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

– The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A present day Parisian chocolate shop, selling every imaginable confection.

It seems appropriate, albeit a bit deliberate, that I read The Little Prince to my seven-year-old son and his cousins during his first visit to Paris. It is the story of a lonely young prince who explores the galaxy and inevitably lands on earth. Along the way he connects with a diverse cast of characters who mainly lead him to the realization that grownups see the world in measured experiences rather than live with their heart.

My guess is he is not calorie counting.

Morning chocolat chaud that goes perfectly with bakery croissants.

Paris is for the nostalgic, romantic, and those who are whole-heartedly connected to the bewilderment and untainted vision seen through a child’s lens. They do not jabber on endlessly about work, will eat an ice cream before lunch and look better than us all, and manage to take in a moment rather than check in with their thrice connected devices on an appropriate time to relax.

It has always been known that Paris is a city for new lovers who linger in cafes over strong coffee. Though, after this trip, I’d have to counter this assumption. The city fosters daydreaming, a sophisticated escape from the everyday, and who better to experience such mental travel than with kids. Seal your young explorers global citizenship by introducing them to a city punctuated with puppet shows in the park, street jugglers, and bakeries on every corner.

Luc taking in the street music at Sacré-Cœur.

Paris is a place where children can easily break from their pixel world into a real, enchanted one with walks across bridges and engaging with children of all nationalities at a park. It has an enchanted feel with a menu of options that will delight children. They experience culture without realizing it’s good for them, like blending kale in a yogurt smoothie.

Outside the Louvre, which is plotted within the Tuillieries Gardens, a constant rotation of prime character observation, carousel and a trampoline park.

We found our rental home in the Marais district from Commendable Rentals. It was a very Parisian, cave like dwelling rich with tapestries, heavy linens and a laundry that took nine hours per small load. Even with our party of eight we managed quite nicely. The en suite bathrooms are a plus as well as the adjoining private garden.

The typically French garden on the grounds of where we stayed in Marais.

Our method in travel is to experience cities as locals, not tourists. There are no maps, guides, and the constant punch into the phone in lieu of a compass. It begins without the rattle of an alarm. We wake at our leisure, have a breakfast of jam, croissants and hot chocolate, while composing a semblance of a plan. Once we pinpoint our geographical placement within the city, I pack the trusted book Paris with Children and dress Luc and I in good walking shoes with a hint of stye. This is Paris.

Day 1: Eiffel Tower/Notre Dame/Sainte-Chapelle

The only tickets we purchased prior to the trip were for the Eiffel Tower, €17 for for adults and €14.5 for children, which is recommended since they do sell fast and helps to avoid lines.

Even cars take a photo opp outside the Eiffel Tower.

What is as fun as exploring the interior of the tower are the grounds below, consisting of parks, carousel and fountains, which on this particular day was especially inviting since the temperatures climbed into the 90s. Children stripped down and splashed about. (This may not be allowed but not enforced.)

Notre Dame on the left bank is closer to our apartment in Marais. We wandered the perimeter, sat in the back garden but avoided the line. A few blocks away we took in our dose of stain glass and spiritual beauty at Sainte-Chapelle in Palais de la Cité, which is less of a destination, thus manageable lines, and has its own sparkle as a supreme vision of gothic architecture.

Day 2: Shopping/L’Arc de triomphe

Window shopping in Marais.

We are in what has become designated spots around the farmhouse table. Adeline, the younger of my nieces, looks like something from a children’s story about Colonial girls with a streak of tomboy. I ask her how she slept. Always in a giggle, she says it was very hot but fine, more giggles. I love this about Addie. Even inconveniences amuse her.

Addie in a successful shopping moment.

Luc is more interested in spending time with his cousins than seeing another mansard roof. The girls are at the age where no emoji can convey how cool it is to shop in Paris. Their mission is to return to the states with some new clothes worthy of inquisitions from their friends on where they scored such pieces. Paris.

Working our way through the cobbled, medieval streets of Marais, where fashionable boutiques hold reign.

While I am more of an online shopper, I work in deadlines, wandering the curvy roads of the Marais district is reminiscent of Manhattan’s Soho. The children look in the windows with the awe of a Christmas display. They are beautifully styled and always with a robust injection of color. We work around the narrow roads, remnants of medieval times, where wearing a harlequin mask would not seem out of place.

They found many stylish workhorse pieces to add to their wardrobe at Karl Marc John, from the fashion powerhouse triumvirate of Lagerfeld, Jacobs and Galliano. Though the Marais shop would not call in needed sizes from another location, our day’s travels extended to the Saint Germain store. The French do know how to create a chase.

An edited selection of colorful pieces at Karl Marc John that has both girl’s and women’s clothes.

We had lunch at a cafe, where our two youngest diners found their hamburger sliders to be inedible due to a smearing of hollandaise sauce. Their order was returned to the waiter, then given back to our table with an explanation that there was no hollandaise sauce. (The grownups sampled, it tasted of hollandaise sauce, which is a subtle reminder that we are not in America and to ask about any added sauces). The day ended at the Arc de Triomphe with the kids making trendy poses that apparently signify something.

Day 3: Musée D’Orsay/Tuileries Gardens/Trampoline Park

A fauvre painting or armless statue does not hold the interest of the Musée D’Orsay to a child, having the distinction of being housed in a former train station. The museum features primarily French works of art from 1848 to 1914.

The children start their tour of the Musée D’Orsay in the main hall.

Young art enthusiasts can view important masterpieces by Renoir, Manet, Tissot and Van Gogh. It also helps to keep them enlightened with a headset guide.

Posing for Degas.

Across the river to the Right Bank is the Tuileries Gardens, which is between the Louvre, Place de Carrousel and Place de la Concorde. We have lunch within the grounds at La Terrasee de Pomone, a creperie and ice cream bistro with a varied menu.

The carousel near the trampolines–if asking for directions, this is not to be mistaken with the Carrousel du Louvre, a private shopping mall beneath the Louvre.

Lunch at La Terrase du Pmone.

The children get out their kicks, or more specifically jumps, at the trampolines (€2.50 for five minutes). This ends a day composed of a formidable blend of culture and amusement.

Day 4: Monmartre/Sacré-Cœur

This was the morning when Luc discovered a wiggly tooth and that the French do not have a tooth fairy but La Petit Sourie (the little mouse). He rationalizes that it is natural for a food obsessed city to have a mouse collect baby teeth the way they would delicious crumbs.

Considering art for sale at Monmartre.

Our day’s plan is to to venture up to Monmartre and Sacré-Cœur for a very French, heavily touristed destination. While we have either walked or taken the bus so we can see the city, for this attraction we ride the metro due to the distance and efficiency. At our stop we wander up, essentially going up will take you there, until the cobble stones narrow and become more colorful with street artists and vendors. We begin with lunch, negotiate with artists, buy some souvenirs and have a glacé (ice cream) before taking the Funiculaire tram for the same cost as a metro ticket. What feels and looks like a large ski gondola, the Funiculaier tugs up and down the steep section of the hill to save tired legs from buckling.

Day 5: Batobus/Basque Festival

Today we go with the whimsy of the river Batobus, purchasing the day passes (€8 for child/ €17 for an adult), which circles around Paris and allows you to pop on and off stops at your leisure. While the boat moves at a site seeing pace, it is a good option for day five when we are in a slower mode.

A view of Notre Dame from the Batobus.

My sister spotted posters for a “Basque Festival” that evening, which we enjoyed from experiencing a local event. The children competed in games of tug and war, admired wares of handmade jewelry and souvenirs peddled by Basque vendors, before we ventured out for more glacé.

Day 6: Centre Pompidou/The Latin Quarter

Today is our catch all day, the plan is to have no plans. After walking past the Centre Pompidou each day, Luc would like to ride up its escalators with the intrigue of exploring the inside of a machine. A late start and desire for lunch prevents us from going in the museum, where I find myself promising a return trip to Paris so he can view the modern art and activities for kids.

The colorful trademark pipes on the exterior of Centre Pompidou.

Along the Seine in the Latin Quarter are many cafes. We choose one a few blocks from the bustle and sample everyone’s meals of croque monsieur, frites, sausage, salads and cheese plates.

We walk, ogle at the shops, and the ones with a sweet scent prod us inside.

Getting inspiration from a boulangerie window.

It always ends with glacé.

Mango sorbet goes over well.

Day 7: Le Jardin du Luxembourg

On our last day we choose Le Jardin du Luxembourg for its combination of history, local amusement and classic childhood experience.

Luc stepping into another era at Le Garden du Luxembourg.

The gardens were designed for Marie de Medici in 1612, who was Queen of France through her marriage to King Henry IV. Less inclined to live in the Louvre, she created a more Italianate version of royal life with Le Jardin du Luxembourg. Ah, the life of a French royal.

Cheering on Team U.S.

The gardens fill a day with the charms of childhood from vintage boating and private playgrounds accessible with a small entry fee.

French and Parisian children mix together in the universal language of play.

Sweet options are always close by.

Zipline at the park.

Children play freely, while grownups view from the side as the park requires a small entrance fee.

Exploring the grounds.

A girl with Parisian style.

Luc lost his tooth while playing on the zip line. (The likely reason why he fell as you cannot tug a tooth and clinch onto a line simultaneously). On his last night he will be paid a visit from La Petit Sourie for a surprise of French candy and euros.

On Luc’s last morning he finds candy and coins left by La Petit Sourie in exchange for his tooth.

We are now back to the customs of our American life. Days spent driving to lessons, beaches and cookouts with platters of catered food eaten from disposable plates and plastic forks made to look like silver. I asked Luc what his favorite memory was in Paris. Walks, art, carousels… Without hesitation he said the ice cream they made to look like a flower. Grownups. We have a tendency to over complicate things but Paris is the remedy for reacquainting to the wonderment of youth. “All grown-ups were once children . . . but only few of them remember it.” – The Little Prince.

A cone of gelato from Amarino. (Not shown: the macaron on top that was swiftly eaten).

Resources:

Chocolatier: http://www.lecomptoirdemathilde.com/fr/

Berthillon Ice Cream: http://www.berthillon.fr

Gelato: http://www.amorino.com/fr/boutique/paris-l-ile-saint-louis.1.html

Paris with Children: littlebookroom.com

Violet candy: https://www.saveurdujour.com/old-fashion-candy-violet-p-2801.html

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04/21/2017

Stay Here: Luxurious Italian Treehouse

I want to travel to a treehouse and not with my child. Is there something fundamentally wrong with this? Though Casa Bartel is not your expected fort in a tree made from broken down orange crates for children enacting battles with styrofoam swords.

“No Kids Allowed.” A tree house built for romance or a creative escape, 20 minutes outside of Florence.

On the outskirts of Florence, the structure is plotted within a family compound that includes other residences, themed after the interior’s collections like the “Movie House” (decorated with vintage film posters) and “Ceramic House” (designed with handmade 18th century tiles).

The terrace acts as an additional room with views of the sublime grounds and Italian countryside.

Casa Bartel overlooks orchards, olive groves, the Tuscan landscape, pool, tennis court and a sole cypress tree. The terrace is spacious enough for dining, which you will share with the tree’s neighboring tenants of birds and the occasional squirrel. Inside and you will quickly forget that you climbed a narrow staircase up a tree to discover a room with a fireplace, bathroom and full-service kitchenette. The chalkboard wall behind the bed displays an artistic rotation of drawings and notes from past guests. The decor rivals most New York City apartments.

Travel has become a luxury service operation. We have glamping in pods equipped with wood burning tubs. Safaris where you can see wildlife outside a cabin that’s illuminated with antique chandeliers. Desert hotels with pools that can be dove into from a room’s terrace. Luxury tree houses are a natural extension for the traveler who doesn’t want to be close to nature but in it. While the sounds of birds and wildlife are engaging, there is something appealing to the swish of a running shower as well.

Creative impulses facilitated with a chalkboard wall.

Learn more about Casa Bartel at www.casabarthel.com. The owner’s design shop in Florence can be visited at www.riccardobarthel.it, www.desinare.it.

Photography by Elena Barthel

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04/10/2017

Ultimate Guide to French Living

The French have their beautiful little phrases to sum up life lessons. A beloved style that somehow cannot be replicated unless your passport is from France. Their mannered customs that fail to crumble in a fast-paced world. It’s all intertwined, how life can follow a joie de vivre approach.

A colorful view of French life, as seen in France: Inspiration du Jour.

Americans have a tendency to try too hard. We purchase an abundance of things we don’t really need. Test health fads that don’t seem to work. Fall into the influence of marketing manipulation. The French aren’t as quick to change their storefronts. They market by connecting to the supplier who grows the food, sliding soil speckled produce into a reusable bag well before it was trendy.

The French find time to enjoy and reflect, which is important considering what’s involved in all the buttoning and tying when getting dressed in tailored clothing, beautifying their meals with inventive sauces, and setting a table that could stage an Old Master painting.

The artistry of a French meal as featured by Rae Dunn in France Inspiration du Jour.

Mimi Bleu of Belle Inspiration, a delightful magazine (which I happen to contribute to) and imaginative nook in the online world that interprets Paris through an American’s eyes. Mimi married a Parisian but her romantic sensibility doesn’t end there, she treats each day as an adventure and shares her city explorations with those who want to taste a sample. Mimi breaks down French living into three important segments, as follows:

Food/Markets

“The food markets are serious business here in France. Living in Paris, or even during your stay, you’ll soon get to know your local fromagerie, butcherie, patisserie and the all-important boulangerie for your fresh baguettes, croissants and sweet treats,” says Mimi.

Marketing the French way is the only way for Mimi Bleu. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

Passport to France? Bonjour

“The food vendors take pride in their products and will gladly share their freshest picks, or even the perfect recipe for the veal chop you purchased. The key is to always (did I say always?) greet them with ‘Bonjour.’ In fact, this is the golden key to open all of France – cafés, boutiques, offices–you name it, bonjour is the way to start to friendlier service. And don’t forget to leave with a merci, au revoir,” she says.

Flea Markets

“French flea markets, or marché aux puces, are truly a window into Frenchness. Again, bonjour is your key and an opening to better negotiations. The big market at Saint-Ouen (Clignancourt) is an endless display of anything you can imagine in every price range–so everyone leaves happy,” says Mimi.

Finds at a Marche aux Puces in Saint Ouen. Photo courtesy of Belle Inspiration.

“Smaller brocantes (popup flea markets) and vide-greniers (attic sales, the French version of a neighborhood garage sale) pop up all over the Paris arrondissements each month. These are a fun way to get some great deals in a relaxed atmosphere to strike up a conversation with the vendors. Don’t forget that bonjour!”

Décor

“French interior décor has many faces and styles. Today’s modern touches make sure there’s not too much gilt or heaviness. True French décor is never overdone. It’s all about subtlety…and fresh flowers,” she says.