Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Venice of the Alps

I recently blogged about my very favorite place in France, the little village of Collioure, in the south of France.  I do have a second favorite right now, and that is the town of Annecy in the Haute-Savoie region.  This beautiful town is known as the "Venice of the Alps", with very good reason.  The town is crisscrossed with canals full of crystal clear water feeding from Lake Annecy at the edge of town.
Annecy is about half an hour from Chambery, the town where my son lived for two years, so one crisp November day, we jumped on the train for a day trip.  It was very cold, but it was such a wonderful  town, we forgot all about being cold!
The water in the canals and lake have to be seen to be believed.  It's CRYSTAL CLEAR!  Throughout the town there are also the most gorgeous wired bouquets hanging from window boxes and along the railings of the canals.

If you're anywhere near Grenoble or Chambery, make sure you don't miss seeing Annecy!

Chanel...the Couturière at Work

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only; fashion is something in the air.  It’s the wind that blows in the new fashion, you feel it coming, you smell it.  Fashion is in the sky, in the street,  fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” ...Chanel

 I am a huge fan of Coco Chanel's little black dresses and her trademark suits, but it wasn't until I read Chanel, The Couturière at Work, that I realized just how far back in "fashion time" she actually began her career.  I was surprised to discover that she first started out by trimming and designing hats in the early 1900's.

This fascinating book written by Amy De La Haye and Shelley Tobin, published by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, describes Chanel's work, saying, “In the years around World War I Gabrielle Chanel challenged the world of fashion head on.  Jersey fabrics, easy to wear garments often based on mens’ sportwear, showy paste jewellery and the little black dress are just a few of her innovations that have become fashion staples.  Other books have dwelt on Chanel’s tempestuous private life.  Here, for the first time, the focus is on Chanel the couturière, her innovations and the immense influence she has had on the way women choose to look in the modern world.  The story is brought up to 1994 in the final chapter based on an interview with Karl Lagerfeld."

Costumes de Jersey, by Chanel, from Les Elegances Parisiennes, March 1917

Chanel's beaded and embroidered silk evening dress, 1922
Red silk evening dress, early 1920's and matching silk shoes
Chanel wearing her signature costume jewellery in 1928
 Chanel photographed in 1929 wearing a straw cloche hat
 Portrait of Chanel at work in her studio, 1937-1938
 Chanel beach outfit, 1930's
Portrait of Chanel by Lipnitzki, 1936
Portrait of Chanel by Roger Schall, 1938
Portrait of Chanel by Francois Kollar, 1937
 Cocktail dress, 1958
 'This Year's suit', 1959
Chanel Brooch in Renaissance style made of gilt metal set with faux gemstones

 The timeless appeal of Chanel

Karl Lagerfeld, 1991

Monday, June 28, 2010


It's no secret.  I happen to think that French women have such a special quality about them, especially Parisiennes.  These women can take a pencil skirt, a subtle, understated blouse, throw on a scarf, and take elegance to a whole new level.  If I've learned nothing else from being in France, it is that it's better to have a few quality pieces of clothing which can be added to each year, rather than go out and buy whatever is the latest in fashion.

A favorite book in my reference collection is this one dedicated to all the glorious Parisian women of the 20th century.

Amazon describes this book, saying, "This light-hearted and nostalgic romp through 20th-century Paris creates a beautiful history of the world’s most romantic city and its exceptional women. This collection of one hundred and thirty duotone photographs captures the essence of the Parisian femme fatale. All of the great French photographers from the late 1930s through the 1960s are featured, including Robert Doisneau, Brassaï, Willy Ronis, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Edouard Boubat, Jean-Philippe Charbonnier, Sabine Weiss, and many more.

The photographs reveal Parisian women and all of their glorious facets: from the love-struck waif strolling along the banks of the Seine to the belles of the neighborhood balls flushed from their raucous dance moves, from no-nonsense career girls to flirty neighbors. Chanel-clad locals and runway models alike showcase the glamour of the fashion and haute-couture world with inimitable style. 

One chapter pays homage to the courageous women who battled for justice in World War II, the Resistance, the Liberation, and the revolts of May 1968, including role models such as philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir and journalist and playwright Marguerite Dumas. The Parisiennes featured here go to work, ride bikes, pose seductively, smile coyly, and are all devastatingly irresistible."

When I saw the following photo from Parisiennes, I immediately thought of the main character, Madame Renée Michel, from the book I'm just in the middle of reading.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery was translated from French by Alison Anderson.  It's a very amusing look into the life of Madame Michel, who is the dumpy, nondescript, 54 year old concierge of a small and exclusive apartment building in Paris. 

Amusing, no??

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Close the door behind you.....

One of my favorite places in all of Australia is Hobart, Tasmania.  If you ever get the chance to come to Australia, make sure you include a visit to this beautiful town and state.  There are now a couple of airlines, Virgin Blue and Jetstar, that fly regular, relatively inexpensive, services to Hobart and Launceston daily from either Sydney or Melbourne.  My husband and I love Tasmania so much that we plan to retire to Hobart in a few years.  I can hardly wait!

I think one of the reasons I love Hobart so much is that, as far as trees and climate go, it reminds me of back home in the States.  The air in wintertime is very cold and crisp thanks to its close proximity to Antarctica.  The trees have leaves that change colors.  People wear beautiful wool sweaters and the wood fires are kept burning.  It's absolutely glorious in the wintertime!

The place to be is downtown near the old wharves at Salamanca Place and the neighboring residential area, Battery PointThere are several nice places to stay in the neighborhood, including The Lenna, which also has apartments right in Salamanca Place.  We've stayed in the hotel a couple of times, but we really preferred the apartments because we were able to buy fantastic food from places like The Wursthaus Kitchen and cook for ourselves.   The Lenna now has a couple of penthouse apartments on top of the hotel, which would, undoubtedly, have spectacular views of the harbour and the Derwent River.  One of the best things about staying in Battery Point is that you don't really need a car, you can easily walk to the market, shops and cafes in both Battery Point and Salamanca Place.
If you do come to Tasmania, be sure to arrange your stay so that you can visit the Salamanca Market at Salamanca Place on Saturday morning.   Rain or shine, the market is on!  There are stalls selling everything from organic vegetables, flowers, gorgeous woolen items, wood crafts, food, and of course, most importantly for me, vintage clothing.   There are also many stores and cafes in the old wharf buildings, as well.  My favorite shop is Fellini, which sells the loveliest men's Italian clothing.  I love shopping there for my husband!  Of course, they sell women's clothing and Italian shoes, and I must confess, I have done a bit of shopping for myself there.  I just cannot resist Italian shoes.......

One of my best memories of Hobart is of one cold winter Saturday morning, strolling through the market, being serenaded by a group of Chilean musicians.  There is a large community of Chileans who originally came to Tasmania to pick apples in the orchards southwest of Hobart in the Derwent Valley.

On every visit there I walk around taking photos and I just love the doors and windows of the gorgeous old Georgian homes in Battery Point.  They are all the colors of the rainbow.  Here's a small collection of some I took on my last trip to Hobart.

And here's a couple windows and gardens to round out the tour.  Don't you just love the lace curtains?

So, ya'll come on down to the SOUTHERNMOST part of Australia!  I promise you, you'll just love it!


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