better with friends: lunch and French boutique shopping

La Caserne Restaurant
the lovely patio where we enjoyed lunch. sign in back says “Pompiers,” as this used to be a fire house.

Without a doubt, the very best part of my eight plus years of blogging has been getting to know and often getting to meet so many fabulous, intelligent, caring, thoughtful, supportive, funny and accomplished women from all over the world. Some of the people I now consider my dearest friends are those whom I’ve met through our blogs.

So the opportunity for a blogger get-together in the company of one of those dear friends (Tish Jett) and to meet another woman (Sharon Santoni) whose blog “My French Country Home” I’ve read and admired for many years was something to look forward to and plan our time in Paris around. Sharon was wonderful company and I immediately felt comfortable with her. She is vivacious, funny and a straight-talker. I’m hoping that next time we visit France we’ll be able to make time to schedule one of her amazing brocante tours.

Tish had made plans for us to have lunch at once of her favorite restaurants, and then do some shopping at Babette’s boutique in the village near where she lives. In addition to the company, I welcomed the opportunity to see more of the French countryside outside of Paris. I took the train from Montparnasse, and the ride out clocked in at around 45 minutes through some gorgeous country, woods and rolling fields. Tish and Sharon picked me up at the station, and we went straight to lunch. The restaurant was lovely, with a patio backed up against a wooded hillside. The sky threatened rain but lost interest after a few random drops.

salmon carpaccio
smoked salmon with a bit of caviar for good measure. I skipped the optional shot of vodka offered on the menu.

Of course when bloggers get together, blogging is the first topic of discussion. 🙂 But over lunch and dessert we also covered the conversational gamut from families to work to a bit of politics to real estate in France. It’s a pipe dream at this point, but perhaps someday…..

Lunch was divine, and we could have lingered over another glass of wine and much more conversation, but Tish had made arrangements at côté rue, Babette’s boutique, for a personal shopping session with Babette!

When we arrived, Babette visually assessed my size (and was right for the vast majority of pieces she chose) and started pulling items from the racks for me to try. She really knew her inventory, and which pieces might work well together.

boutique shopping in France
reviewing the selections with Babette.

By the time I ducked into the dressing room, she’d already placed about a dozen pieces in there. Babette also pulled a few pairs of shoes from her shoe store next door. The idea of this exercise was to expand my horizons a bit, to try some new styles, and to have the experience of shopping with a French perspective and eye toward style. I’d promised myself to keep an open mind. Tish took some pictures with her camera (which she’ll share on her blog), and Sharon kindly snapped some photos with my iPhone. Both women offered straightforward and honest opinions on the pieces I was trying on. I really appreciated the feedback, and with all of the attention felt like Queen For A Day!

boutique shopping France
ignore that derpy look on my face…I liked this outfit a lot!

I tried these pants first with a couple of “crisp” blouses which we unanimously ruled out as unflattering. This softer top and whole look above worked for me, and I put both the pants and top into the “maybe” pile.

no, just…no.

I’d promised to keep an open mind, remember, and everyone thought this jumpsuit looked adorable on the hanger. Not so much on me, though, another unanimous opinion. I liked the bow on the shoulder, but everything below that was All Wrong. I’m laughing here because it was So Not Happening, even with a cute jacket. Most of those dresses on the rack to the left were adorable, but just too voluminous for 5’1″ me.

French boutique shopping
nice fabric!

I liked this blouse from the get-go, especially the color, print and asymmetric pleat detail at the neckline. This one went right into the keeper pile. The style of these shoes wasn’t “me,” but after seeing how much the red footwear adds to this outfit, I’m determined to find some nice red sandals, wedges maybe, or some espadrilles. (If that mannequin in the background looks mighty short, it’s because the small shop had started to fill up and the only place to stand for a clear photo was in the children’s section. BTW, the kids’ section…très mignon!)

French clothing boutique

This little bouclé jacket had beautiful fabric and was a good cut for me, but was just too heavy and warm for our LA climate.

French clothing boutique

Likewise this jacket which had an interesting detail in the knit cuffs. You can see the shoes Babette had chosen to go with the clothing she’d selected.

petits pois dress

Of all the dresses I tried, the one that I hadn’t expected to work was the navy petits pois (polka dots). The shape didn’t look like much on the hanger, but I loved how it looked on me. I wouldn’t let Tish take a picture, though as I’d taken a spill on some cobblestones back in Amsterdam and my lower legs were still quite scabby and bruised. I hemmed and hawed over this one, and decided to leave it behind, a decision I regretted by the time I’d returned to our hotel room. In the meantime, I did purchase the red spotted top and the purplish navy pants, both of which will work with other pieces already in my wardrobe. A mental inventory reminded me that I have plenty of blue tops already in my closet, and left the navy printed tunic behind. As I was standing by the register, I noticed a cute white cotton tee with splashes of gold from a brand called Hello I Love You / Leon & Harper, which I tried on quickly and purchased. We didn’t get pictures but will post some soon.

Sharon had other obligations and said her goodbyes at that point.Tish took me on a walking tour around the village, and we stopped in to the pharmacie where she introduced me to Christine, her friend the pharmacist whom you might also remember from Tish’s book and who provides such knowledgeable advice. Tish drove me to the station to catch my train back to Paris, and we chatted for a few minutes more before the train arrived. Tish and I never seem to run out of conversation, and our time together is always too short! Exquisite company, delicious food, and personalized shopping…it just doesn’t get any better than this.

But people, that navy dress haunted me for days. It was a serious case of Non-Buyer’s Remorse. As soon as we arrived home, I emailed Tish to see if there was any way to complete the purchase remotely and have it shipped here. Tish and Babette’s crew came through like champs, and the dress is on its way to me now. I promise pictures. 🙂

The red top is from a brand called Attic and Barn, made in Italy. More Attic and Barn styles on The pants from are Bensimon Collection, which does not appear to be available online in the U.S. More Leon & Harper at I don’t remember the brand of the dress, but will update once I have received it. Le Monsieur, who had spent the day on a bike tour in the Champagne region, gave an enthusiastic thumbs up to the tops and pants. (He’s always happy to see me wear more color.)

Thank you again Tish and Sharon for such a lovely afternoon! We’ll talk more about that petite maison… 

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  1. Am struck by how charmingly relaxed and cute you look while trying things on and shopping! That sort of activity can be so much fun, especially when you are bagging a few special items… Ah, the thrill of the hunt!

  2. Lucky girl to have such an afternoon in Paris! Couldn’t get much better! Oh! BTW…I liked the red shoes. A slight departure from your usual, but, fun and unexpected! Cute and feminine bow! would be great with all the neutrals you wear.

  3. I think you look really gorgeous with the lighter colours near your face, which really suit your hair and skin colour. Plus where you have contrast.rather than just dark neutrals. I love that red blouse (we’re going to France at the end of August so I’ll look out for that brand!) and I suspect the white tee with splashes of gold will flatter you too!

  4. PS As a fellow petite (though not as slim!) I’m always looking for pants that aren’t too long me. Would you mind telling me which style the Bensimon pants are? They have a shop in Aix en Provence, which is where we’ll be staying for 5 nights!

    1. Hi Sue thanks, the style # on the tag is F03248A06115 “Pant Marlton.” They are SO light and will be a nice warm weather pant!

  5. Love the navy polka dot dress and the red and cream blouse but, frankly, I think your California style is more youthful–but never in a desperate way–than much of what you tried on. To my eye, the French clothing reads as ‘chic matron’ and rather than ‘chic casual’ and strikes me as self-consciously ‘stylish’. But I agree that color flatters you and a red wedge shoe sans bow would be great.

    1. As a Californian, I too prefer your usual edgy styles. That said, the red top suits your coloring really well, and a little versatility and style adventuring is always good.

      1. Perhaps this is a more ‘European style’ ? Although , we are seeing these items in their basic incarnation . I’m sure with accessories & personal touches they will take on a new life . It will be interesting to see how they appear next time we see them

    2. Hi Dianne, my objective here was to try some styles I might not either find in the states or try on otherwise. I was also looking to add some color and pattern to liven up my summer wardrobe, and some pieces with a little more polish for those days at the office that involve meetings, etc. I do think the pieces I chose will work well into my California aesthetic while providing some variety and will share some outfit photos in coming weeks.

    3. As a 50-something Californian transplanted to NY, I totally agree with the above 2 posters that your usual style is a lot more flattering, youthful and effortless in vibe (and more slimming too). @Dianne above summed it up perfectly – everything she said! (“Matronly” is the exact word that came to mind when I saw the photos too.)

      Don’t sell yourself short and buy into the notion that “French” is automatically “better” (gasp! and this from a self-avowed Francophile!). Looking back at your evolving style over your years of blogging, it’s clear you’ve refined your style to something that really works for your body type and lifestyle, and that avoids the 2 major pitfalls of our age group, namely “frumpy” and “desperate to look young.” What really brings that home is seeing you in pics wearing stuff other people have chosen for you that doesn’t work.
      Happy to see that in the end you stayed true to your own style by only choosing the red top, which I can see meshing with your wardrobe once put together and accessorized by you.

      And the shoe suggestions – just no. Heels? So silly. Please – can’t we get beyond footwear that harms our bodies, hampers our movements and makes us look like dress-up dolls? A red flat (smoking, loafer, ballet) à la Linda V. Wright-style would be brilliant though.

  6. Oh, I do agree: nothing better, ever, than meeting up with fellow bloggers! I’ve gone into business with one I met, have stayed with another in England, and now will be meeting up with another in Rome in August. Unless you blog, you really don’t know or appreciate just how wonderful this is!!!

  7. I forget that you are 5’1 because in your photos you look much taller. This looks like a really fun day!

  8. Great choice in that red top. It fits you like a dream. IMO the length is very good on your petite frame. And I agree with Le Monsieur…colour suits you!

  9. Like Nell, I, too, was struck by how relaxed and cute…and young, I might add…you look in these photos. And, like your husband, I love seeing you in different colors occasionally.

    Thank you for all the wonderful pics of your trip.

  10. How much fun! Thank you for sharing. I love the personal attention and help from your friends. That’s how shopping should be.

  11. I like everything you picked out. So much of what was in the photos looked great on you. I am 5’2″ and always purchase petite sizes but I have problems finding petite sizes. Do you purchase petite sizes or is your wardrobe regular sizes? The proportions looked great.

    1. Hi Sara, all of the pieces shown in this post are regular sizes, except for the jeans which are my own and petite size. I often wear Petite sizes when available, but sometimes regular cuts work for me too.

  12. In Paris again? You really do need to have a little maison de vacances of your own. The boutique is lovely, like a well appointed closet in a bright, clean home. Babette obviously has good taste and picked some beautiful clothes. Judging by your smile, you had a wonderful time being spoiled! (I would have gone for that optional shot of vodka, though!)

  13. The afternoon just flew by Susan, and I would happily have sat and chatted at that table till dusk, I know there wouldn’t been any lack of topics to chat about …. next time you’re in Paris I hope you’ll be happy to jump on a train again and the lunch will take place in my garden!
    love to you

  14. I like most of the things picked out for you . Wish you had shown us everything in the shop ! Are you able to name the village where Babette has her shop ? For future reference you understand….

  15. This looks like incredible fun! And what a great selection to choose from. (It’s heavenly when someone is selecting for you and bringing so many choices.) Fantastic!

  16. What a fun outing! You had much better luck than I did and sI suspect that is at least partly due to your height, which is more in the typical French range.

  17. Also an admiring fan of your California style, but did love that red top and the blue polka-dot dress.

  18. Such fun! What a marvellous day you had! I love that red blouse on you, and I can’t wait to see the navy dotted dress on you, just as you must be eager to find it in your mailbox. I would have impulse-bought a T by Hello I Love You, while shopping with my sister in the Marais, except they didn’t have it left in my size. . . glad you grabbed yours.

  19. The Cali. Girl in France! I see fun, I see breaking out of a concept of ” French” . Wonderful
    Light for your coloring! You could do worse than move next door to Tish!
    Have fun with you purchases and let’s see them mixed up with your EF.

    New England Girl

      1. Dana, thanks! They’re cute. Sadly smallest size I can usually wear is a 37, but will keep an eye out for these.

  20. What a fun day!!! Would you please share the location of the shop. I am heading to Paris in October and would love
    to visit. Thanks you. You looked lovely in her choices

  21. I love all the items you chose! Sounds like a great time. I’d love to visit Paris one day, and I’d truly love to meet you one day. Love the taupe sandals you have on. Enjoy the beautiful clothes!

  22. What a wonderful day for you. I really liked the red print top on you. I can’t wait to see some of your Paris street style images too. We’re headed to Paris in a few days, but I still have time to tweak my packing list.

  23. I, too, love the red shoes, the substantial bow prevents them from looking too precious. Starting a search for a pair in nude or black.

  24. I have been following your blog for several months now and I think you have a wonderful sense of style. I agree with the woman (who moved to NY) that I think we believe that French style is the benchmark we should try and achieve. I was surprised how those French clothes were most unflattering, bordering on dowdy, although I would like to see the navy dress on you.

  25. For those who have asked, Babette’s boutique is called “Côté Rue,” and it’s in the village of Montfort l’Amaury, about a 40-45 minute train ride outside of Paris.

  26. Oh yes indeed, times don’t get much better than these… I love this post. It is what I do with my friends too. And with you haha. I am so sorry our cobblestones in Amsterdam hurt you. I didn’t know that. That will put a cloud over your Dutch memories. No sunshine and a fall. Bummer.
    All the pieces that you have bought in France are lovely. Cannot wait for the dress to show up. I had a similar experience with a blue dress thi spring. On the hanger it looked bad but on me, very good.
    Jackets with rolled up sleeves look good on you by the way.

  27. This’s a great post:nice photos and breathtaking,chic outfits…You look so pretty…You shine such Charisma…cheers