Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy birthday to me...

We discovered the village Villaines la Gonais on my birthday and found it to be completely charming

Since last talking to you here on the blog, I have been having a non-stop birthday celebration. It began when Emily and family came chez nous for the actual day which happened to correspond nicely with the kids spring school holidays. It was so pleasant to have everyone around for a few days, even if during most of the time Quinn was rather ill.

Quinn and Zinnie survey the Place outside the gates.

We spent a certain amount of time in the garden where we are just beginning construction of a playhouse for the children.

football on the garden lawn

The weather wasn't nearly as balmy as it had been earlier in the month, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway. It's really wonderful to have a place to "get away."

Relaxing in the garden

On the actual day of my birthday, I requested that we find a riverside somewhere and enjoy the water running idea of heaven. We were delighted to find a little park right next to the Huisne where we spread out a blanket and relaxed all afternoon. It was perfect.

The banks of the river Huisne, not far from home

On the day after, in the early morning hours we woke up to a huge amount of commotion and uncharacteristic traffic just below our windows. I looked out to discover that our local restaurant and two adjacent houses were on fire. In the end, they burned to the ground. It was quite a dramatic and sad moment for our little village. My birthday happens to also be the day the Titanic sank and Lincoln was shot. Somehow my birthday seems prone to catastrophes and disasters. I try not to take it personally.


Emily's birthday present to me (among several others) was to take me out for a girls' day in Paris. She had an adventure all planned, so we went along to the big city last week. Rick stayed to babysit and Emily and I enjoyed ourselves with eating, shopping and discovery.

At the junction of Ave de la République and Oberkampf

Emily wanted to introduce me to the chic neighborhood called Oberkampf, on the border between the 3rd and 11th arrondissements, an area I have little experience with. It is a laid back part of town, with much less traffic than the center and not many tourists. But it is a definitely upscale location for Parisian residents.

Charming little park

 This neighborhood is quite fashionable with lots of great restaurants, art galleries and shops.

Chic little shops blend with elegant apartment buildings

I love Parisian architecture and one can always find quirky and cute little buildings along side the grander traditional ones.

On the Passage Saint-Sébastien

I am especially attracted to beautiful doors, which, of course, can be found in all Parisian neighborhoods.

Two of the doors that caught my eye during our stroll through Bastille

Our first stop was at the boutique of our friend Sophie (14 rue Ternaux Paris 11ème. m° PARMENTIER), the wife of our printmaking neighbor Georges. She has a "pop-up*" shop in the neighborhood where she sells her beautiful jackets and bags. She travels to India every few months to purchase antique fabric, out of which she designs and has made her delicious products.

*A pop-up shop is one that is open only temporarily, in this case in someone else's office space.

Unfortunately when we arrived at her attractive shop, it was closed for lunch

These are one-of-a-kind garments. I really love them. The jackets are completely handmade, lovely and flattering to wear as well as reasonably priced. If you want to visit her on the internet, go here. She also has a Face Book page.

Jackets by Sophie Escojido

Her bags are also unique items, made from recycled Indian wedding dresses.

Bags by Sophie

Emily had chosen a very hip restaurant named Au Passage with fresh tapas style plates as our luncheon destination, but unfortunately it was closed that day. We didn't have to go too far afield to find another very special place, albeit casual. It is a taco bar called Candelaria. If you live in the U.S. this may not sound so extraordinary, but for me it was a real treat, as authentic Mexican food is almost impossible to find in Paris. This little trendy place is very small but serves the most delicious tacos, guacamole and handmade tortilla chips in the whole city. It was lots of fun and satisfying.

Candelario Taco resto

We wandered into Atelier 154, an upscale furniture store with gorgeous and very expensive minimalist chairs, desks, tables and so forth. Emily is seeking inspiration for the new bigger house, which they will move into in July.

Atelier 154 showroom

The place was really vast with an eclectic mix of simple classic furniture and brightly colored accessories.

another of Atelier 154's showrooms

I really enjoyed the very interesting concept store* called Merci. It is much bigger than it looks from the street, with several floors and many shops in a kind of open floor plan. They sell the most luxurious clothing, home ware, linens and kitchen gadgets. One could definitely spend all day here and never get bored.

* A small shopping outlet that specializes in elite and fashionable items that are often arranged thematically.

Merci is a very popular place for shopping

There are two cafes here including this one which has thousands of used books on the walls to either read while you sit here, or buy when you leave. All the tables, lamps and chairs, and presumably the dishes as well are for sale.

We had coffee and crumble at the cafe

The theme of the store this season is plants and animals. They were selling chickens and goats in the nursery section...of course the chickens were not any ho hum variety, but these extravagantly colorful ones.

Chickens for sale in Paris

Emily wanted to take me to Anna Ka Bazaar to pick out some fabric. She is making me a skirt for another of my numerous birthday treats. She really spoils me. The fabric here is all made in Japan and has that whimsical Japanese elan.

Anna Ka Bazaar

Our last shopping stop was the wonderful Les Trois Ourses which we have both wanted to visit since learning about their workshops and handmade book showroom. Some of the most clever book artists in the world have limited edition books for sale here. There are so many clever forms, all fresh and very graphic.

Les Trois Ourses showroom

We spent a long time looking at various books and choosing one apiece to take home with us. Emily chose a box of transparent pages that could be arranged and stacked in different ways to create stories. I bought a book that opened up to reveal four small slip covered accordion fold pages that can be viewed two ways to see two different pictures. Both so very clever.

Emily at Les Trois Ourses

Before taking the bus back home we stopped off for a few dinner supplies. We bought some excellent bread at Le Pain Quotidien,

Pain Quotidien

and chose a couple of excellent bottles of wine at Septime, a wine bar that is attached to a very chic restaurant. The white, a Maçon from Burgundy, was particularly wonderful. We also got some green olives there which were the most delicious I have ever tasted.

Septime wine bar


We spent the night at Emily's house and the next day Rick and Quinn joined us for one more shopping errand. We went up the hill to Montmartre to buy yet more fabric for several other sewing projects that both Emily and I are at work on.

This neighborhood is not so quiet. There are always crowds here.

Just below the wedding cake church, is a beautiful old merry-go-round.


Quinn happily took a ride with Rick watching, while Emily and I went to fabric stores.

Quinn has all of a sudden shot up


At home the kids enjoyed their evening rough-housing. Emily and Jos generally put music on in the evening the the children run and dance and bounce on the couch. At the end of it they (and we) are ready for bed time.

Zinnie and Quinn in PJs doing their evening dancing

Zinnie is quite the little girl these days, chatting, joking, playing and learning. Her mother makes her the most beautiful outfits which Zinnie is very proud of.

Zinnie at home


News from the village includes the birth of the blackbirds and by now their flight from the nest. That happened fast. I think the mother sat on the eggs longer than she spent with the young chicks. They're all gone now.

fledgling blackbird

It's lilac and iris time in the garden, making for extravagant bouquets.

First garden flowers


  1. wonderful treat indeed ! I can guess you had a lot of fun with Emily as girls shopping, sure you know Paris now far more than I do

  2. Just back from a whirlwind trip to New Zealand and popping in to say,somewhat late, Happy Birthday. You certainly had a marvellous time!