Painted Ladies

Painted Lady Butterflies took over the Front Range this September, gracing the sky with an orange tinge and dainty wings. They frequented rose bushes and comfrey alike pollinating as they made their way south to Mexico for the winter. What struck me the most was their presence up in the mountains on a harsh, cold day, which they evidently have to cross before the first frost hits. Its rather amazing how something so small and seemingly unequipped for such a long journey can accomplish such a feat. Even amongst nature we find examples that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass“.

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Le Pavillon Vendôme

Tucked away in the periphery of Aix-en-Provence in the Faubourg des Cordeliers district and accessible from Rue Célony or Rue de la Molle, sits le Pavillon Vendôme, a spacious 17th century mansion overlooking a sumptuous French-style garden. Built as a haven to shelter the forbidden love of Louis II de Vendôme and Lucrèce de Forbin-Soliés -King Louis XIV opposed their marriage – the mansion was erected in between 1665 and 1667. 

It is written that upon nightfall, the Duke of Vendôme ushered into the mansion Lucrèce and her ladies in waiting, all of whom were disguised in masks to avoid being recognized. They became knowns among the peasants as “Birds of Prey”, “Las Machouettos” in the Provencal dialect and “Les Chouettes”, in French. Upon the death of the Duke, whispers said that is was Las Machouettos who had killed him.

The mansion is styled after classical Provencal architecture was built with Bibémus stones, which came from a quarry on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence. At the time, the yellow luminous stones were very popular, but were later abandoned for similar stones of a higher grade sourced from Rognes, a village 30 minutes north of Aix en Provence.

The front facade of the mansion features various ornements including fruit garland meant to represent summer. There are two mascarons, stone carved human figures, flanking the entryway. These rather frightening figures served to deter evil spirits from penetrating the demure and some even said that the figures resemble Lucrèce de Forbin-Soliés.

The mansion has undergone changes since it’s original construction most notably the addition of a level during the 19th century.  The two stone consoles on the second floor for example once held the bustes of King Louis XIV and the dauphin.

The enclosed French-style garden of the the Vendôme is today a public garden lined with plantains and benches to the east where the walls are covered with climbing rose bushes. In the center resides a circular fountain, a junction joining four walkways that divide the garden into four plots of grass with parallel flower beds. The path facing the mansion is lined with hedged bushes and trees. Opposing the mansion on the opposite side of the garden is a secondary fountain conceal by greenery, and in the left hand corner adjacent to the mansion sits a pavilion, the last of four, which was transformed into a chapel during the 19th century. Outside of the main gates, is a small garden alive with a bed of rose bushes.

Today the Pavillon Vendôme reminds us of the grandeur of yore and is a gallery for various expositions open to the public for a self and guided tours.

Marché aux Fleurs

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Flowers are such dainty creatures, animating effortlessly the space they inhabit. Ephemeral by nature, their beauty leaves a enduring imprint on our hearts.

Oscar Wilde once said, “A flower blossoms for its own joy.”  I suppose it is for my own joy then that I constantly have flowers in my living space. The variety depends upon the season, the cost and my frame of mind, but something about having a bouquet around me makes me feel a little more alive, a little more joyful.

Among the myriad of markets Aix-en-Provence has to offer, my preference is the Marché aux Fleurs. Every day except the first Sunday of the month, various producers and vendors convene upon la Place de l’Hotel de Ville, and their selection does not disappoint!

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Le Marché aux Fleurs d’Aix en Provence
La Place de l’Hotel de Ville
Tous les jours sauf le 1er dimanche du mois.

Tea and things

Spring cleaning has me moving files from my computer onto my external hard drive. In doing so, I came across these photos from this time last year while visiting Bordeaux.

It was my last day in Bordeaux. I was visiting the city interviewing for a masters program with une grande école, to which I was accepted. I then delayed my start date and eventually forfeited my place in the program. I’m still rather bummed about the whole thing, but it was the best decision at the time. One has to believe like Sinatra says, “the best is yet to come”.

The morning was gray and drizzly, not uncommon for the season. As the morning progressed, a huge thunderstorm erupted. I spent an hour or so waiting out the storm over verveine tea and a croissant at Miremont – the most perfect salon de thé – before dashing off to grab my suitcase from the hotel to catch the train back to Marseille and then home to Aix-en-Provence.

I love the liveliness of this space. The glass chandelier adorning the salon is gorgeous and the chocolates, honey pots, pearled candies and jam jars are irresistible!

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Fall is coming

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I have this oil that I apply each night before I go to bed (I love oils). This particular oil is a blend of several oils, namely grape seed, argan and sesame. I love the scent of this blend. Even more so, I find fascinating that scents have a way of carrying me off into memories and dreams. They elicit my emotions and shape my day to day experiences. I love this interaction between olfaction and experience.

I also love these little white chairs, the dainty flowers and the end of the season bunny snacks. They are charming, delicate and romantic. The scent of my oil brings me back to this place. It’s so lovely.

I have been pondering this quote on love: “Love … is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is more than the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arches across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the yearning of youth, the adhesive that binds marriage, and the lubricant that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, church, and neighbors. Love is the very essence of the gospel, the noblest attribute of the human soul. Love is the remedy for ailing families, ill communities, and sick nations. Love is a smile, a wave, a kind comment, and a compliment. Love is sacrifice, service, and selflessness.” Read more here.

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Aix en Provence Wedding Inspiration

Having fun modeling for a shoot featured in French Wedding Style.

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Brides Dress: Christina Sfez | Decoration: Okiss Wedding DesignHair and Make Up:Flatmakeup  | Lead Photographer: Malvina Molnar Photography | Videographer: Simply lovely Photography | Accessories: Corpace Joaillerie | Reception Venue: Hotel du Pigonnet 5* | Stationery: Creme de Papier | Planner: Mademoiselle Chahnez

Smart Jewelry

I am loving the LEAF health tracking system by Bellabeat! 

This is portable technology to sync your body and mind. 

Engineered with highly sensitive movement trackers and secure backup, this health tracker lets you monitor your daily activity, sleep quality and menstrual cycles as it supports your meditation and mindfulness practices.

LEAF is crafted for YOU with Nature in mind.

PURCHASE:

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LEAF 

 

 

 

Vineyards

Complementing the wild thyme, rosemary and innumerable flowers that grow lawlessly in Provence are uninterrupted rows of grape vines. The vines are certainly characteristic of many other regions of France, but for me, there is magic in the Provençal countryside.  A short drive from Aix-en-Provence to the north, intermingling with picturesque Provençal villages, you will find these parallel lines of paradise.  Although I personally don’t drink wine anymore (or any alcohol), I still adore the whimsical “farniente” invitation of the vineyards.

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Les Coquelicots

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Spending time in the countryside is therapy for my soul.  This period of the year is especially lovely as nature is alive with blossoms and buds. I am constantly in awe of the beauty that envelopes Provence. Vibrant green grape vines stretch for miles and contrast with fields of fiery red poppies. The lavender and sunflowers are soon to follow in due time. l feel extraordinarily blessed to be able to be surrounded by such beautiful creations.

Did you know that poppies (les coquelicots in French) have various virtues and can be used as a treatment for insomnia and persistent coughing?  The petals can be dried and consumed as an herbal tea. The flowers can also be put to use in the kitchen.  Fresh petals can be prepared into syrup and added to beverages, applied as a glaze to dress tarts or to accompany duck. The seeds are often used in baking to adorn cakes.

The other day, I went searching for a field of poppies. I didn’t have to go far before stumbling upon one.

Water + Lemon

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For the past several months, a habit I have adapted in the morning is to drink freshly squeezed lemon water. This ritual is touted for numerous health benefits.

 

Continue reading to explore the benefits of incorporating lemon water into your morning rituals.

  • Smoother Digestion
    • When I was younger, my mother always drank warm water in the morning to start the day. The jump start to the digestion most likely comes from the water rather than the lemon since its the first things to enter into the digestive track after a nights sleep.
  • Brighter Skin 
    • This added benefit most likely comes from the high content of vitamin C contained in a lemon about 44.5 mg per lemon. You may notice your skin is less inflamed which most likely is due to the pH balancing effect of lemon.
  • A balanced pH 
    • Although Lemons are a citrus fruit and contain acid, they are alkaline for the body. This means that in the body a lemon does not act as an acid but rather helps to establish a balanced pH (measure of acidity) and fight inflammation.
      • Alcohol and caffeine deregulate our bodies pH and cause inflammation which can have damaging effect on our heath and lead to the development of various diseases – all the more reason to stick to lemon water in the morning
    • Increased Energy
      • Lemons are a source of folate (vitamin B), which has been linked to brain and nervous system health and cardiovascular health.
      • Try replacing your caffeinated beverages in the morning with lemon water and see if you feel more awake and energetic than before.
    • A Detoxing Flush 
      • During sleep, our organs work hard to process all of the nutrients we consumed during the day “rest and digest”.  Flushing our system with water prepares the body for the day, removes unwanted toxins and ensures we start the day hydrated.
    • Kidney Health
      • Lemons are a source (low) of potassium, 80 mg. Potassium has been shown to neutralize acidity in the blood stream, which keeps blood pressure under control and the kidneys happy.

 

Beautiful Bordeaux

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It rained. It poured. There were spring sun showers. There were gray skies, blue skies and sunny skies. The weather wasn’t quite sure what to do with itself. I on the other hand, spent a short weekend in Bordeaux explore new opportunities and soaking in this beautiful city.  This city has been on my bucket list for quite sometime. A weekend was enough time to get my feet wet, but more exploring is needed.  I did find great joints for oriental food: thai and homemade ramen noodles. The city has an electric vibe to it. You can feel the dynamic motion and energy which is quite different from Aix which has a secure homey feel.  The streets are huge and you can sense the sprawl around – such a contrast to my provencal alleys. It was a refreshing whimsical 3 days to clear my head and take some photos.

On My Nightstand

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I am trying to diversify what I read. And If I am completely honest, make more time to read in general because it is something I really enjoy. Currently on my nightstand is Originals by Adam Grant, the latest special from National Geographic and #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso.

I was introduced to Originals by an NPR podcast on conformity and web browsers. Not your typical mix.  Needless to say, I was intrigued.

I picked up the National Geographic by chance as compensation for permission to use the powder room in a local shop while waiting for public transportation. If you have been to France or live here you know that this is basically impossible. Go me! The ever so kind sales clerk even let me know… “Oui mais normalement non, c’est une exccception.” The bathroom was located under the stairs and the light came streaming in from pockets between the stairs, but I digress. I flipped through the magazine earlier and filled out numerous personality tests. It’s very interactive and as someone who enjoys psychology, I am pretty pleased.

#Girlboss has been catching my eye for sometime now. I started it tonight and can’t wait to continue. Sophia Amoruso has a wit about her that draws you into the pages and leaves you wanting more.

Last month I read Big Magic, the latest from Elizabeth Gilbert. Loved it!

SHOP THE POST

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Big Magic

La Brûlerie

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La Brûlerie est une petite pépite à Aix. Pour les matinées vives, ensoleillées et en agréable compagnie, c’est le bon endroit. Situé dans le cœur du centre ville d’Aix, avec des tables orange et parmi l’agitation des marchés, ce petit café est connu pour le café qui est torréfié sur place. Pour ceux qui ne boivent pas de café comme moi, il vous sert aussi des tisanes et des chocolats chauds.  Toutefois, le chocolat chaud n’est pas votre chocolat chaud habituel. Il se rapproche plus avec ceux que l’on trouve en Italie. Un chocolat fondu et épais à la bonne consistance et la bonne température. Il y a également l’option d’ajouter un arôme.  Nous avons pris le chocolat à la menthe et puis nous avons aussi osé goûter le chocolat au coquelicot.  Délicieux et à refaire.

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The Brûlerie is a gem in Aix. For a crisp sunny morning spent with good company, La Brûlerie is just the place. Located in the heart of the Aix city center amidst the bustle of the markets, this little cafe with its orange tables is known best for its coffee, which they roast on site.  For those who do not drink coffee like myself, they also serve tea and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate however is not what you think. It is closer to what you would find in Italy; a thick chocolate melted to just the right consistency and temperature. There is the option to add a flavor as well.  We went with chocolate and mint and then decided to try the more daring chocolate and poppy. It was delicious!

Brûlerie Richelme

1 Place Richelme

13100 Aix-en-Provence

Summer Evening at Goudes

DSC_0998 DSC_1000 DSC_1002 DSC_1005 DSC_1019 DSC_1024 DSC_1034 DSC_1040One of my favorite places are the Calanques especially now that we are deep into summer and the water is warmer (I did not say warm) The calanques are a series of inlets cut into the coast line. These sheer cliffs and rocky slopes plunge deep into the Mediterranean Sea.  I have explored my fair share of calanques but there are many left to the unknown. I recently embarked to Marseille for an evening picnic and swim in the Goudes Calanque. This little haven is situated next to a darling village and feels untouched and newly discovered despite the families, friends and couples that have come to soak up the last of the suns rays and take in the breathtaking sunset.  The water was icy cold but we went fir a swim to cool off (ha!) anyways before we started the music and dined on the rocky slopes. It was the perfect was to spend time with friends and loved ones.

From the calanques, to the north you have the harbor of Marseille. You can see Notre Dame de la Garde perched high upon her hillside. To the west a view of Marie Island and Tiboulen Island and to the South East out in the distance lies Jarron Island, Jarr Isalnd and Riou Island.  The islands make up the Archipelago of Riou a national reserve that was once used for military purposes during the war. High above Goudes you can still see remnants of an old fortress carved into the rocky slope where soldiers kept watch on the water during war times.

Les Goudes

13008 Marseille

France

La Ciotat

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Sometimes you need to escape from the city to the sea. A girlfriend of mine was staying in La Ciotat the other week, so I seized the opportunity to pay her a visit.  The salty air and sea breeze work such wonders on the spirit.  The morning was spent swimming in the sea of Figuerolles, a small calanques surrounded by beautiful colors and rocks that plunge into the turquoise water. The swim was followed by a hike to the church Notre Dame de la Garde which was built in 1610 and is situated at the sommet of a hill. From the church you have an unobstructed view of La Ciotat. There was randomly a jazz band playing Take 5 by Dave Brubeck while we were exploring the grounds. For a secluded little chapel not what I expected! The architecture of the church and the houses next to it reminded me of the Adobe style that you find in New Mexico.  Lunch was in the port over looking the boats in old harbor of the city we went with a simple but delicious crêpe, then we wandered the streets stopping to look at an exhibit of old movie posters and for a quick stroll by the oldest public cinema in the world, the Eden Theater. We ended the day in a café before I headed back home to Aix.

De temps en temps il faut échapper à la ville et aller à la mer. Une amie à moi passait une semaine à La Ciotat l’autre semaine, donc j’ai saisi l’occasion de la revoir. L’air salé et marin produit des effets merveilleux sur l’esprit. Le matin comprenait une baignade dans la mer de la calanques Figeurolles, une petite calanques encaissé aux couleurs merveilleuse et aux roches qui plongent dans un eau turquoise. La baignade était suivi par une randonnée qui a abouti à la chapelle Notre Dame de la Garde. Cette eglise a ete constuit en 1610 et se situe au sommet d’une colline. De l’église, vous avez une vue imprenable sur tout La Ciotat. Il y avait des musiciens qui jouaient Take 5 par David Brubeck pendant que nous explorions la site. Pour une chapelle retirée ce n’était pas ce que je m’y attendais! L’architecture de la chapelle et des maisons juste à coté m’a fait rappeler du style d’adobe que l’on se trouve en Nouveau Mexique. Le déjeuner s’est passé en face du vieux port avec une vue sur les bateaux puis nous sommes flânées dans des ruelles arrêtant pour regarder un exhibition des vielles affiches de cinema et pour une petite balade devant le plus vieux cinéma du monde, l’Eden Theatre. La journée a pris fin dans un café avant que je sois partie pour Aix.

La Ciotat

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