Day Seven in Paris (and some additional observations on style)

Our last day began with a walk from our apartment over to Jardin des Plantes, which turned out to be further than it looked on the map as we had to walk all the way to the far side to enter. But it was a very pretty botanical garden, though many specimens were past their summer peak and beginning to go dormant for fall/winter. (So far, Jardin du Luxembourg still holds title as my favorite public garden in Paris.) We strolled and explored the gardens for about an hour, but soon the rain began to come down fairly steadily, and we decided to move on to get lunch and pick up some wines to bring home. We stumbled onto a lovely little wine shop in the 6th and began asking questions in French only to find that the manager was from California! He gave us some tastes and recommendations and we left with two bottles of very interesting reds, and picked up a couple of champagnes at another shop.

The very best part of the day, however, was being able to meet the fabulous Tish from A Femme d’un Certain Age! We rendezvoused in the afternoon at Angelina for a cup of the amazing chocolat chaud and what turned into hours of conversation. Tish is every bit as gorgeous, stylish, gracious, erudite, witty, warm and charming as you would imagine from reading her blog. We felt as if we’d known each other for years, and getting to meet her was a real treat and privilege.

Dinner for our last evening in Paris was at Christophe in the 5th (right near the Sorbonne, the streets awash with college-age kids). We’d heard that the food was great and the atmosphere lacking, but we found the minimalist, zen decor serene and soothing after a week of so much sensory stimulation. Yes, the food was as amazing as we’d heard. Back to the apartment to pack and crash, and the next day, an early morning cab to CDG. Always too soon we must leave!

I found some additional style notes I’d jotted down, and had forgotten to include in my style posts.
–Bags: hardware is minimal and mostly functional, few metallics are seen and those are more muted and subtle. (Did see some metallic shoes…gold Pumas, bronze ballet slippers.) Most bags observed still pretty substantial in size and soft, outnumbered the smaller structured “lady bags.” Most of the more structured bags seen were croc-embossed (or real, peut-etre?). Did not see patent leather bags this time which were popular last fall, or flat square totes, unless cloth. Hermès Birkins still seen far more frequently than in the U.S. Some Louis Vuittons are seen, but more often the Damier canvas (my preference) than the more well-known “LV” logo design.
–Plain black tights far outnumber patterned versions, but occasionally the latter are seen, usually on younger women.

–Maquillage really is minimal and subtle, especially on les femmes d’un certain age. One doesn’t see many brightly colored lips, frosted looks or obvious goopy glosses. No “raccoon” eyes. (Check out Tish’s post from yesterday, enlarge the pics and you’ll see what I’m talking about.) Likewise, you don’t see the effects of very obvious plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures, (and if you do, the women are probably from the U.S., like the very loud and obnoxious American women who sat at the next table our second night at dinner discussing their various cosmetic procedures in more detail than fellow diners should be subjected to). No trout pout, unnaturally smooth or stiff skin, or cheekbones that could cut glass are observed among les Parisiennes.

–Not a lot of bling. I did see an occasional naturalistic rough stone or ethnic-inspired necklace, but one doesn’t see women dripping in diamonds and gold chains, even the obviously wealthy ones. Jewelry is minimal and subtle for the most part.
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  1. Oh! We love Christophe. Le Duc actually wept over a dessert there.

    Your descriptions are spot on. NO goopy lip glosses on grown women. I also notice less ‘supergroomed’ brows, and unvarnished nails are acceptable (though nails are still manicured). I have seen some extraordinary jewelry in the evening, though Parisiennes are not all about big diamonds. (The huge, modern ER/wedding ring set is a billboard that screams North American.) By day, discreet real or interesting costume.

    I admired the bold ring a 20 year old acquaintance wore, set with two half-carat ‘diamonds’. “Agatha?” I asked her, “No, Cartier”, she said with total nonchalance.

  2. Wonderful to hear about your last day in the beautiful city of light and about your meeting with Tish too. I’d imagined that she would be just like you described too !Great that you were both able to meet up and the chocolate chaud sounded delicious! Mmmmm….
    Also a big merci for the final style notes from Paris – did you have a little notebook for all your in depth observations?
    Thank you again for ‘taking’ us virtually to Paris too!

  3. pseu, I’m certain some Parisiennes with money or in theatrical and entertainment worlds have work done. Not overly taut. Deneuve has great bones and beautiful skin, but I’m sure she’s had a bit of help with her chin line.

    There are of course obnoxious Frenchwomen too, but they are obnoxious in other ways. One might well consider the “vieille bourge” comment I reported in the last instalment – from women who were in no way proletarian – is rather obnoxious, non?

    I can’t abide people who discuss surgery, diseases and medical procedures in public places – was privy to such a conversation on the métro the other day. I’ll spare you the gory details.

  4. One of the reasons there is so little (obvious) plastic surgery amongst “les parisiennes” is that French women are taught from their teens to take exquisite care of their skin. From “gommages” to “toniques” to “cremes” of every sort, these women are not messing about.

    The philosophy is that, in the same way that a beautiful dress depends first on the quality of the fabric, a beautiful face depends first on the quality of the skin.

    And really, that beauty begins in raw materials is the French outlook on most things — they should be quality materials, well-made, beautifully (but not overly) designed, and meant to last. It’s not beyond the reach of the rest of us, of course, but given the ubiquity of trash clothing, shoes and accessories in the U.S., it’s more of a challenge.

  5. That sounds like a wonderful last day in Paris — and a very packed one! I can’t imagine having Angelina’s chocolat chaud AND dinner at Christophe in one day, but I suppose there are sacrifices one has to make 😉
    Like Le Duc, I had one of my most memorable desserts — an amazing lemon feuilletté creation — at le Christophe. We, too, like the low-key atmosphere there — on a slow night, the chef came around and chatted amiably with us.

    Ohhhh, you’re making me feel Paris-sick. . .

  6. Thanks for the week of interesting observations and posts! Saved me a lot of euros 😉 Waiting to see your bags!

  7. Oh, D.P.,

    You are so kind. I’m blushing in front of my computer. I should have written the same thing about you in a post. I did in a comment which you may not have seen, so let me repeat:

    Meeting Une Femme was heaven and the idea one can find someone so sympathetic you really do think, “O.K. if not in this life, I’ve definitely known her for years and years and years in another.” D.P. is, for those of you who don’t know her: strikingly pretty; has a special smile that is warm and lovely, lighting up her entire face — with perfect skin I might add; we share lots and lots of opinions in common which made for lively conversation; she looked very chic; she’s funny and verrrrry intelligent.” (If I think of anything else, I’ll be back.)

    P.S.: It’s fun to read your astute observations about the streets of Paris. Well done. Your fresh eyes bring a new perspective which is great for all of us.

    I’m starting “Mad Men” tomorrow. I’m sooo excited. Thank you again.


  8. Duchesse – and now I’m upset that we didn’t save room for dessert!! Despite the common belief that portions in French restaurants are small, more often than not we found ourselves unable to finish our plat and with little or no room for dessert.

    Anoninoz – one of my very favorite parts of traveling these days is getting to meet up with other bloggers and readers. I actually didn’t carry a notebook with me, but jotted some things down each time we returned to the apartment.

    lagatta – yes, I’m certain that those women in “display professions” have resort to surgical help. But even with that, one doesn’t see the freakish looking faces that have become not unusual in places like Beverly Hills or Newport Beach.

  9. Rubiatonta – yes, they may take care of their skin, but one can often see the effects of smoking.

    Indeed it is more challenging to find items of enduring quality here without paying stratospheric prices.

    materfamilias – I loved that Christophe was so small, intimate and simple. And yes, the chef did come out onto the floor in between cooking.

    WendyB – somehow I think you school them in great style when you visit.

  10. metscan – bags will be up on Monday, taking my pictures today.

    Marsi – it always goes by so quickly, and now I’m having withdrawals! Getting to meet Tish was such a treat.

    Tishjett – and now *I’m* blushing. You are far too kind. Hope you enjoy Mad Men!

  11. I love your style sum up. This is the kind of thing I wish magazines have(and they never do and that is why I quit reading magazines and read blogs instead). Thanks, Deja!

  12. Belle – I’m glad you enjoyed!

    LBR – Thanks! I really wanted to capture the “normal” people and not the fashionistas who seem to populate many of the street style blogs. I notice that even Bill Cunningham’s current piece talks about the prevalence of over-the-knee boots, but all of his pictures seem to have been taken at fashion events, and one really doesn’t see many of them on average Parisiennes.

  13. Rita – why thank you! I take that as high praise indeed. Tish is a really good photographer.

    Sher – thank you! I try to give a good impression of my countrywomen. 😉

  14. You did us proud! We need more like you representing us. American’s get such a bad rap and half of it is deserved, like those women.

  15. Hi,

    I enjoy reading your blog, but as an English woman, it’s sometimes a bit baffling. The people you’ve photographed really look quite nondescript. They could easily be in London, or most big European cities. What do you think makes the people so Parisian? Or is there just a big difference between how European people dress and how Americans dress? If so, how do Americans dress?

    We have the sterotype of fat Americans in tracksuits, but surely thats a minority? Could you take some photos of street scenes in the USA so I can compare? I’ve never been to the USA, so it would be interesting.


  16. Hi Kate – thanks for reading and for your comment. I deliberately looked for and posted pictures that I felt were representative of “average” people (as opposed to people one would find smoking outside of fashion show tents or who work in the fashion or design industries). To some degree (and others have remarked on this) the people I’ve posted don’t seem to look that much different than people you’d see in a US city with a similar climate, New York for example. LA is far more casual; you’d still see some nods to trends/fashion, but MUCH more variety, brighter colors and lighter clothing due to warmer climate and yes, more schlump (e.g. track suits, flip flops, cargo shorts, yoga/athletic wear). Here you see men in their 40’s in tee shirts and baseball caps, something I just didn’t see in Paris unless they were American tourists. In the US one also sees *generally* (please note the qualifier) more flashy clothing and jewelry, more “done” makeup and hair (though this is by no means universal in LA, where the natural/beach look still has its adherents), and definitely more artifice (artificial nails, cosmetic surgery). It really depends on where in the US one visits. Each region seems to have a bit of its own aesthetic, and even within a region what one sees in cities will be different than in smaller towns or rural areas. It’s my impression overall that styles are becoming more and more globalized, so that the general trends and colors that one sees on the racks in Paris are not entirely dissimilar to what one would see here.