“Aux Champs-Élysées…”

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For me, a trip to Paris is never quite complete without a stroll down “the World’s most beautiful avenue” – the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The majestic Arc de Triomphe stands at one end of the avenue (if you want a view fromt the top, then the 300+ steps can be climbed for a fee) whilst the obélisque de Louxor waits for you at the other end. The obélisque, which is over 3,000 years old, originally stood at the entrance to an Egyptian temple – however, it was moved from Egypt to France around 180 years ago when it was given as a gift to the French government.

At just under 2km long, the Champs is the perfect place to stretch your legs and people watch – if you’re not afraid of a bit of hustle and bustle and having consumerism thrust into your face.  It’s a street where worlds collide and the activity of window shopping reigns supreme. Walking down the Champs, you’ll see all sorts of characters, from excited children on their first ever trip to Paris to little old ladies clad from head to toe in 1930s fur doing a bit of ‘lèche-vitrine’ whilst walking their poodles and pomeranians.

From Chanel and Louis Vuitton to Quiksilver and H&M, from Fouquet’s to Macdonalds, the Champs-Élysées has it all. The shops are all beautifully laid out  – particular highlights include the Nespresso boutique (which has walls studded with gleaming jewel coloured Nespresso capsules), the car showrooms, which always have intriguing displays showcasing the latest must have luxury vehicle and of course, the piles of cakes and sweet treats placed alluringly in the windows at Ladurée. My favourite part of the Champs are the arcades and galeries –  these areas feature stunning 19th century architecture and are tucked away under covered passageways sandwiched between the larger shops. Inside the galeries, chic boutiques, vintage bookshops, souvenir emporiums and James Bond-esque gadget shops nestle side-by-side.

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 So, with time to spare in Paris, it was only natural that I would be tempted to go to the Champs-Élysées – after all, window shopping doesn’t cost anything. After a breakfast of pastries in Villiers, I got on the metro and changed line a few times before arriving at my destination. I decided to walk the 2km along the Champs to the Louvre through les jardins de Tuilieries. As this was just before the festive madness, the streets were relatively quiet, and I slipped into a reverie, gazing at doubledecker tour buses, pastel green Ladurée vans and sparkly shop windows… until all of a sudden a  giantess came into view.

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 I feel that if David Bowie, a Falconer and Kirsten Dunst were fused together and thrown into the Baroque era, then this statue would be the outcome. The theme for the holiday season was ‘Noël Barock’ which was conveyed pretty well through the outlandish décor. I have to admit that glam rock Marie Antoinette was quite alarming (i.e.terrifying) but I headed into Sephora regardless.

Inside, I was greeted with the sight of stuffed cockatoos and a vast 1,500m² cavern of cosmetics, perfumes and powders.  Upon entry, I was duly spritzed with a Dolce and Gabbana scent by men (dressed as butlers) who were lurking just inside the entrance, waiting for unsuspecting shoppers to strut in from the street and down the red carpet. After checking out the new Ladurée makeup range, (originating from Japan, the cosmetics are sold exclusively in France by Sephora) I continued on my way and arrived at Place de la Concorde. Below you can see the obélisque de Louxor as well as la Grande Roue de Paris – a large transportable ferris wheel that has traveled all over Europe. I was particularly captivated by the mint green lamp post, which is quite possibly the most flamboyant LAMPADAIRE that I have ever seen.

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Eventually I found myself back at the Louvre. Feeling a bit peckish, I bought myself a baguette from PAUL (www.paul.fr) which had a little van situated next to L’Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. PAUL does great sandwiches (including, in my opinion, the best sandwich of all time) however when it comes to bakeries in Paris, then you really are spoilt for choice. If you’re planning a trip to Paris and are looking for ways to budget during your stay, you can save money food wise by having picnics or by eating on the go. Fruit, cheese and baguettes (and of course, wine) from the supermarket are all relatively cheap and taste great.

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Before I headed back to the deep dark depths of the Metro, I stopped to gaze at these giant bubbles that were being blown by a street performer just in front of the Palais-Royal. The buildings of the Palais-Royal are home to the Comédie Française (a famous state theatre group) the Minstry of Culture and a national library, amongst other things! La Place de Colette (named after famous French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, the writer of ‘Gigi’) is a particularly lively area, surrounded by grand hotels and antiquarian bookshops and has a very fancy metro entrance  –  the “Kiosque des noctambules”.

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See that dapper chap bottom right? That’s Molière, France’s answer to Shakespeare. If you’ve ever had to study French Literature, then you’ll probably be well acquainted with Molière. His works always feature somewhere on the literature syllabus of the French Baccalauréat!

Bidding farewell to Molière, I left Place de Colette and headed to Chinatown, where I was reunited with Florence, copies of Vogue, Normandy apple tart and a mug of hot chocolate! All we had to do was retrieve my suitcase from Claire’s flat…

 Coming up soon – Disneyland Paris, Place des Vosges and a recipe for galette des Rois!

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Scintillating Summer Nights

Happy August to one and all! Oh how I love the summer… and this year’s summer festivities in particular are shaping up to be rather glorious. Admittedly in the last couple of days there have been a few rainy moments – including the one day where I faced an unexpected cycle ride in a thunderstorm, but on the whole I have had the chance to bask in sunshine reading good books and I even appear to have a tan! It only seems like yesterday that I was bidding farewell to my student days living on the Bodensee, enjoying the last summer parties with my Konstanz friends before returning to Durham to knuckle down and get my degree… what a whirlwind of a year it has been. This year I’ve had the pleasure of graduating, I just received some good news regarding a job, and will be hitting up the South of France later this week! I am ridiculously excited. I haven’t written a decent blog entry in a while because I’ve been concentrating on soaking up the sunshine (wearing my sun screen of course) but I am breaking my silence to share a few of my July/August favourite things!

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Let’s start with beauty products, SHALL WE. I bought a new perfume to celebrate the summer (perhaps a lame excuse to splash some cash, but I think every girl needs a signature summer scent… or three). I chose Elixir des Merveilles by Hermés to be the scent that embodies my summer 2013. The fragrance actually came out in 2006, so it is not technically a new perfume, but it’s fresh to me! I fell in love with the warm orange aromas and the beautiful glittery bottle – it looks like Hermés managed to bottle a sunset – excuse the poetics, but just look at the sunshine glow in the picture above! 😉 I also decided to buy a light coverage Chanel foundation to accompany Mr. Elixir on my summer travels and received some great travel size skincare samples with my purchase. I have a ‘sophisticated summer lipstick’ in the form of Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet 33, La Distinguée – however my brother presented me today with a funny little present in the form of ice-cream flavoured lipbalm, which will probably be a lot more convenient down on the beach! I have included a photo below – growing up the Twister ice lolly was my summer corner shop standard!


So many flavours! I think 'Feast' is my favourite!

So many flavours! 

Entertainment wise, I have quite a bit of summer reading to get through in preparation for my new projects. However I’m also looking forward to reading “Tender is the Night” by Scott F. Fitzgerald (which coincidentally takes place on the French Riviera) and “The Little Book of Chanel” which was a chic and unexpected present from my friend Flo. The most recent film I watched was “Le Camping”, a hilarious French comedy that takes place on a campsite – I definitely recommend watching this film for an insight into French campsite culture!  If you are more of a discerning film critic (i.e. inflatable lobsters and campsite banter are not your scene) and you’re feeling in the mood for a sophisticated summer film classic then I would recommend Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” for stunning panoramas of Monaco and scenes showcasing timeless elegance from Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly

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I’ll leave you with a clip of my favourite fashion campaign from this summer – Dior Addict. I have not tried the product, but I love the fun, flirty video campaign that in my opinion captures the essence of a French seaside summer perfectly – it’s just a shame that I can’t find my heart shaped sunglasses – they would pay a perfect homage to Daphne Groeneveld!

Iridescence - Glittery Polishes and the Beauty of Vanessa Paradis

The sparkliest of nails. Natural lighting, with a vignette added. This is 2 coats of OPI “What Wizardry is This? with 2 coats of OPI “Which is Witch?” layered on top. Potentially a tad excessive but there you go. I have tried a few other combinations and will post them sometime in the future, when my hands look less ravaged! “What Wizardry is this?” is best on its own, but I felt like spicing it up a little anyhow! “Which Witch” has big chunks of glitter that have a wow factor, with little pieces of bar glitter also visible if you hold your nails up close! I apologise for the quality of the photo, it would be interesting to get a macro shot, but alas my decent DSLR is in Guernsey – the overdue library books had to take precedence in my luggage. Such is life! I have a lot of revision to do, and I’m listening to a lot of French music. I’ve only just managed to get “Bonnie and Clyde” by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot out of my head.
Currently I am listening to Vanessa Paradis:

I am a big fan of Vanessa Paradis – I think she is extremely elegant and classy. The thought of listening to her today actually occurred to me after having painted my nails…. I think the look of the glitter that I used on my nails is very similar to the look/effect of the lighting used in another of her music videos, “Divinidylle”, in that the glitter is striking (almost blinding) and reflects many colours… just like the spotlight on Vanessa.

Both these songs date from a few years ago! However, Vanessa Paradis’ new album called “Love Stories” will be out on May 13th. I just find her voice sultry and captivating and I wish her every success with her new album.

Magpie Nails

Today, I present to you a photo of the Glitter polishes from the OPI Oz collection. I initially wanted to buy them from Duty free in the airport but there ended up being no time in between my flights. When I had got to Durham, the only scrap of collection left was one bottle of the Liquid Sand polish as the glitters had sold out… My poor little bottle alone as all her pals had deserted her*… so I resorted to ASOS, which gave me a student discount. Thank you ASOS.

When these colours are worn, it looks as if a Unicorn has exploded all over my nails. Not the easiest look to pull off, but glittery nails do make me smile every time they catch the light. My two favourites are “Lights of Emerald City” and “What Wizardry is this?… the latter is is a liquid sand polish and I am impressed with the textured effect. In my opinion, it’s a lot more stylish and wearable than the liquid sand polishes featured in the ‘Mariah Carey’ collection.

Congratulations if you have read this far, I know not everyone likes polish, but I do like to document what I’ve bought from time to time! I didn’t buy any of the OZ ‘Soft Shades’ because none of them overly appealed to me, however the glitters work well over OPI Bubblebath and OPI Don’t Pretzel My Buttons.

*Personifying the bottle reminds me of a story I wrote once with my Dad about a lemonade bottle who was left alone on a skip and longed to be recycled. Green conscious from a young age or too many reruns of “The Brave Little Toaster”? You tell me!

April Snaps

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A few pictures from this month. Not particularly sassy, they were very quickly snapped with a filter or three slapped over them. Most of the pictures are of stuff I received in the post – a free Glossybox, an alternative Ariel tank top from Poland, and some Lush goodies. It’s been quite a hectic week, running around like a headless chicken hither and thither… but if I have to run up and down the hills of Durham, then I will do so whilst smelling of milkshakes, sea salt and raspberry ripple ice creams (odd combination but it works), wearing a T-shirt with a tattooed disney mermaid, thank you very much.

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Channeling Tim Burton

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This is what happens if I’m left alone with face paint and crayons. On the far left is a photo of me sporting what can be best described as a sort of Corpse Bride tribute look from Halloween 2012… the other two pictures came about one humid summer night in 2012 when I was feeling bored and unproductive. I was in Konstanz over Spring- Summer of 2012 and had bought a lot of cheap art supplies so that I could liven up the walls of my room… My room, which gradually became known as the honorary disco of my residence! Now, I’m not sure whether or not you can apply Tim Burton to Disco (maybe his film “Dark Shadows” is applicable to this concept) but this was what I felt like drawing that particular evening! These pictures feature Edward Scissorhands and Emily (aka. the Corpse Bride), two famous characters created by Tim Burton. I was looking through my Konstanz Photos, feeling all nostalgic, as I was just moving in to this town of dreams a year ago this weekend…. And I decided to give these pictures a viewing on my blog – the blog that seems to jump from topic to topic each post!

Drawing is something that I find really therapeutic and calming – There is something wonderful about being able to switch off to the outside world, channeling all the pent up energy in your mind onto paper, and creating something colourful. A couple of hours ago ,I went to a private viewing of an art exhibition in my college, and it has reminded me that I need to take time out now and again to pick up my pens and paints! I need to make a promise to myself to keep drawing, and to remember how happy it makes me feel… So that’s what I intend to do this evening 🙂 Read some autobiographical fiction and do some drawing!

Les Ongles d’une James Bond Girl!

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My favourite manicure of the moment! This is OPI Man with the Golden Gun (18k gold flecked top coat) layered over OPI Bastille my Heart (a glamorous burgundy colour from the OPI French Collection). Maroon, Burgundy and in particular, Oxblood, have been a big trend during this winter period… I’m not entirely sure how to differentiate exactly between the shades in this spectrum of deep reds, but I have noticed that these colours have been everywhere in the past few months! They have also been gradually infiltrating my wardrobe, starting with the purchase of a burgundy peplum coat in September. I can now count  leggings, tops, socks, ribbons and oversized hair bows amongst my burgundy cachet, although they are not to be worn all at once, of course! Call the colour what you will,  it has clearly been the shade of the season  – I reckon it’s been the colour most worn in lecture theatres across the country throughout September-Feburary 2012-13. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a colour trend being so popular before.  Students swanning around nonchalantly in burgundy chinos and artfully draped scarves, have meant that I am greeted each morning by a veritable sea of these rich hues on my walks around the city…

Back to the manicure!

OPI Bastille my Heart is a great way of adding an on trend accent to your outfit without blending into the crowd too much… It also feels luxuriously smooth if you run the fingers of one hand along the nails of the other hand. I know that textured nails are in, and I love glitter polishes (possibly too much), but you can’t beat a smooth and sophisticated finish. I’m glad that it is not a limited edition polish because I will definitely be replacing it when I reach the end of my bottle! If I had to describe this manicure, I would say that it is a perfect blend of two OPI collections – the French collection and James Bond Skyfall collection – culminating in a decadent look, reminiscent of the tones of a rich french wine. When peppered with gold flakes, you are left with a warm look which will brighten up the cold and drab early months of the year!

“Men say it’s criminal what women will do…

…What they’re forgetting is,  this is 1922!”

Somewhere in the archives, there is a photograph of me aged 15 in a flapper outfit and bob wig performing songs from “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. Well, you may not feast your eyes on that old treat but here for your eyes only is a 22 year old toned down version of a 1920s moi. This outfit was pulled together in about ten minutes for a 1920s evening that was held in my college.

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I’ve even thrown in a pout, pearls and a feather collar! I also had a feather boa which I lent to a friend visiting from Guernsey … there were feathers all over my room for days!

PS. Watch “Thoroughly Modern Millie” if you get a chance. It stars a young Julie Andrews and the hilarious Carol Channing, who originated the role of ‘Dolly’ in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ on Broadway.