Happy Monday Everyone,
It’s finally here…our 2016 Gum Tree Guide to Paris!
I know, I know, why did this take so long?!
Well, the container full of everything I purchased in Paris is arriving this week! I promise, I’ll Instagram as soon as it all hits the shelves, but for now, please read along…so exciting…
As soon as I got back from our trip to Paris, the editor of Southbay Magazine, Darren Elms, sent me an email. He asked me if I would like to write an article, specifically a travel journal detailing my Paris trip from a design perspective, for the April issue of Southbay Home.
So of course I typed “absolutely, no problem”, hit send, and then immediately had a panic attack… because, oh my god I am not a writer, I own a couple of boutiques! Sure I have a blog, but holy smokes this will be published in a real life magazine that I love.
See, I even made it onto the Contributor page, and under my name it says Writer… It’s hard to describe the feeling I got when I opened up the mag and saw this. Very exciting stuff. Big Thank You to Southbay Magazine for this opportunity. You can click on the link here to see the article on their website, oursouthbay.com, or grab a copy of Southbay Home today.
But, I also want this guide to live on our Gum Tree Blog forever, with lots of photos and easy links to everywhere we loved. So here goes, hope you like it!
Paris by Design…
Let me start by saying, I love my job. It’s been just over 7 years since I took a chance on a lifelong dream of opening my own shop. Gum Tree is a Home and Gift shop and Aussie café here in Hermosa Beach. The “Aussie” is my husband Will, he grew up down under, and he runs our café.
With two small kids and a new puppy, our life is full. On top of that, small business is not for the faint of heart, it can feel like you never have a minute off, let alone a day. But, it is also incredibly rewarding, and now, finally, it allows us to travel for work!
After all, it is my job to bring fabulous things to my shop. The mix of things we carry and how we display them is what keeps our customers coming in, and consequently, I’m on a never ending hunt for inspiration. Remember when I said I love my job? The hunt is the reason, it never gets old.
Which brings me to Paris. Every January Europe’s premiere home and gift trade show, Maison Objet, takes place. I usually hit the shows on my own, but this seemed like a great opportunity to bring my husband along for the ride, what better café inspiration is there in the world, right?
I should mention that I’ve been to Paris a few times, but Will hadn’t. He’s been all over the world, he is an Aussie after all, that’s what they do, but Southeast Asia is more his jam. He says he just never felt the desire to go to Paris. Who doesn’t want to go to Paris? I was hoping to change his tune.
We took a direct flight overnight to Paris on Air France, easy peasy. We are big fans of good public transport, and Paris has one of the very best systems in the world. We hopped on the RER train at the airport, and 25 minutes later got off right in the heart of the city, in my favorite neighborhood, Saint-Germain-des-Pres.
I booked us an apartment through AirBnB, a sweet little one bedroom on the top floor of a 200 year old building with a teeny tiny elevator, and views of the rooftops of Paris and the church of Saint-Sulpice. We met the owner, dropped our bags and hit the streets to find a cup of coffee and something to do to keep us up till bedtime.
It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, and only 35 degrees outside. January in Paris is chillier that I had imagined, but no less beautiful. We decided to stroll our neighborhood to get our bearings, starting with a quick cappuccino and a quiche Lorraine, then it was all about shopping. This is not my husband’s favorite activity, but this trip he was really game for seeing what my life is like on my work adventures, so he tolerated it, and dare I say, even began to enjoy it toward the end of the trip.
There are two darling shops I love on Rue Mabillon, Sandra Seraf for womens clothing, and Laurette for the kids. The tiny handmade dream catchers at Laurette were my favorite find, and I always love the curated jewelry selection at Sandra Seraf. Then on to Rue St. Sulpice for more dreamy women’s clothing shops including Antik Batik for boho embroidered pieces, Vanessa Bruno for that sleek French girl look, American Vintage for great basic tees and sweaters, and Mes Demoiselles for over the top feminine bohemian fashion.
By this point Will was getting antsy, so I spared him any more clothing stores and took him someplace I knew he would love, Le Grande Epicerie. Whenever we travel we make it a point to seek out a really good grocery store; food is key to understanding another culture. Le Grande Epicerie is like no other grocery store you’ve ever seen. It’s located on the first floor of the famous Le Bon Marche, the world’s first department store, opened in 1852.
The cheese section of this food emporium is larger than our house, and smells like heaven. There were aisles of foie gras, charcuterie, fresh seafood, and chocolate-among other things. In the center sits a beautiful fresh fruit and veggie section, and just down the steps you’ll find an entire basement full of French wine and Champagne!
We headed home with 4 different cheeses, 2 different types of charcuterie, some grapes, a box of crackers and a bottle of wine. And that, my friends, makes for a perfect first night in Paris.
Day 2…Le Marais
The jet lag got to us and we slept a bit late today, or was it the wine? Anyway, around noon we headed out to another favorite neighborhood, Le Marais. We took the metro, and exited at Filles du Calvaire, which is a very short walk to one of my favorite stores in the world, Merci.
Merci is a mix of housewares, fashion, art supplies, décor, and excellent coffee! It is basically everything you want under one roof. Speaking of the roof, a giant skylight in the center bathes the whole place in amazing light. There are also 3 different cafes inside, and the Used Book Cafe is where we sat for a lunch of creamy pureed vegetable soup, a salad of burata, tomato confit, and prosciutto and some perfectly chewy/crunchy baguette.
My favorites of the store include a section of bedding in a rainbows worth of washed linen, the perfectly Frenchy women’s clothing section, the kitchen section full of beautiful black and white enamel, and the art supply section (I am always a sucker for tiny notebooks, colored pencils, and washi tape).
If there were a kids version of Merci, it would be Bon Ton just up the block. It’s 3 floors of gorgeous, from décor, to toys, to clothing, there’s even a vintage photo booth on the main floor. We had a few favorites here, the pops of neon on neutrals in clothing and décor, the golden stars and neon sign on the wall downstairs, and the whimsical party goods section. All of these inspired plenty of new arrivals to Gum Tree Kids for spring.
The rest of the day was spent wandering the tiny, charming streets of the Marais on our way to dinner with a friend at L’Indochine. We popped in and out of many little jewelry stores on Rue Ville du Temple, wondered how there could be so many quaint little shops full of only sunglasses or tea, and bought my mom jars of tapenade and mustard in a gorgeous epicerie, Premiere Pression Provence. She’s a fantastic cook, and she was home with our kiddos, so we picked up gifts for her and our beloved sitter Rianna all along the way.
If we had more time in the day I would have loved to explore the Picasso Museum. This is also a wonderful neighborhood to walk on a Sunday, as it’s one of the only neighborhoods where shops stay open.
After a delicious dinner at L’Indochine (French Vietnamese) we walked home in the chilly night, passing the glowing pyramid at the Louvre. We crossed the river Seine on the Pont Louvre and stopped to gaze at the Eiffel Tower and pinch ourselves that we were really here. Finally we hit the Boulevard Saint-Germain, where we made a stop for a nightcap at the famous Café De Flore. Hot chocolate for me, and a glass of Moet for Will. We sat amongst some beautiful people and wished we spoke French so we could properly eavesdrop.
Day 3…Maison Objet
This is the reason I came, to walk the Maison Objet show. We started with a quick and supremely delicious quiche with goat cheese, a pain au chocolate, and a couple of capuccinos at the beautiful little bakery Gerard Mulot. Sitting in the window, we watched everyone from chic Parisian grandmothers to construction workers pop in to grab a baguette wrapped in paper for breakfast. How do they all stay so thin?
Maison Objet takes place in a large convention center complex near the airport on the outskirts of town. It’s about a 25 minute train ride, which I always love because of the opportunity to gaze out the windows at some incredible graffiti. It lines the tunnels and train tracks the entire way, and the riot of color makes me happy and hopeful. On the train back I catch up with my journaling, it’s refreshing not to have to think about traffic, or driving at all for that matter.
This is a trade show, so it’s not open to the public, but rather designers and shop owners like me who go there to place orders. These vendors are always ahead of the trends here in the states, it’s endlessly inspiring to see how they set up their booths, and to get a sneak peak of what’s to come in Home Décor.
I was struck by all of the beautiful natural materials we saw, a lot of wicker in furniture and lighting, my favorite treatment being the multitude of hanging basket lamps. Black and white, mixed with natural wood and marble, was beautiful as well. It felt so clean and fresh, and would work well for our casual lifestyle in the South Bay. For color direction I loved the range of blues from indigo to aqua, a bit of fresh mint green, and the pale peachy pink of the sky during sunrise.
I placed orders for rugs, storage trunks, pillows, ceramics, baskets, beach towels and more. I only regret not ordering any of the hanging lamps, they are exactly what I want for our newly renovated shop, and I assumed after seeing literally hundreds of them that I would find at least one the following week in New York, but it was not to be. In the entire NY show there were two hanging basket lamps, and neither was the correct dimension. This is a product I’m going to obsess over until next spring when the trend finally arrives in the states, fingers crossed! Until then I may have to make my own.
After a long day walking the show, we high tailed it back into the city for a dinner that was without a doubt the most memorable of the trip. We landed at Chez Julien in the Marais after a lovely walk across Ile Saint-Louie, a charming island in the middle of the Seine. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better Steak Frites in my life, Will had the lamb, and we topped that off with plenty of Cotes Du Rhone and a superb cheese plate. This restaurant was the perfect mix of charming Parisian decor, excellent friendly service, great modern music, a fashionable crowd, and perfectly prepared food.
I should mention that this place had the most striking bathroom of the trip. I have a thing about bathrooms in restaurants. I don’t understand why many restaurateurs in the South Bay ignore the opportunity to bring their aesthetic into the bathroom, it’s such an easy thing to do and can make such an impact. This one was perfection, black lacquered walls, a clean white pedestal sink, excellent lighting and a single white rose in a glass vase. I didn’t know I needed a black and white bathroom until I saw this one, now I know.
I began this day early and on my own at another trade show called Premiere Classe. This show focuses on jewelry and accessories and was an absolute treasure. A Perrier Jouet champagne lounge was perched right in the middle of the show floor… Vive la France! Here I placed orders for some gorgeous scarves from Denmark, embroidered clutches for the upcoming spring season made in Bali, and lots of new jewelry from a selection of French designers.
Around noon I popped on the Metro and headed off to meet Will in a neighborhood I’ve never explored before: Montmartre. This was an absolute treat, I think next time I’ll stay in this gorgeous area so that I can more fully explore it. We began at the Metro stop Julles Joffrin and walked up the back way to the famous Sacre-Couer- the giant white basilica on top of the hill, with the very best views of the city below.
But first, lunch. We lucked out with a classic French bistro, Café Francoeur, chosen when I was stopped in my tracks at the sight of their exquisite bistro chairs and red awnings outside. I have a thing for French café chairs too. Inside was even better, all white subway tiles, old mirrors and a comforting onion soup and stuffed mussels perfect for a winter’s day.
Did I mention the stairs yet? After lunch we traipsed up what felt like thousands of stairs, past immaculate white stone buildings with black railings and their classic blue tin house numbers. Finally at the top, we came upon the back of the Sacre-Couer, and I think this was key to our experience, as we were able to wander through a gorgeous quiet neighborhood before entering the plaza full of touts peddling selfie sticks. If we had come up the magnificent front steps with its fountains, gardens and hundreds of visitors my husband may have turned around and left. He has an aversion to anything even slightly touristy, despite being a tourist himself, but that’s another story.
Don’t let this stop you from seeing this magnificent cathedral, Sacre-Couer is stunningly beautiful. The brilliant blue in the mosaic on the interior dome must be how the name French Blue came about. Wander down the front steps toward the heart of the village, and glance back up at the basilica’s grandeur. You’ll find a gorgeous carousel at the base of the steps, turn right here and onto Rue De Abbesses for a walk down a charming street full of exquisite independent shops, be they fashion, décor or food.
We lucked out big time here, it turns out that there was an oyster festival going on this evening, and vendors set up tents on the street in front of the lovely cafes where they shucked fresh oysters and served them up on paper plates with slices of lemon. Will was in heaven. By the way, the bathroom in the cafe we chose, La Mascotte, was sublime, all pale green and grey tile, a mix of mosaic for the walls and ceramic on the floor, so pretty.
Believe it or not, the oysters and Sancerre were only an appetizer. I was determined to be standing under the Eiffel tower at the stroke of 9pm when the lights begin to twinkle. So again, we hopped on the metro and alighted at Ecole Millitaire. This allowed us to walk the whole length of the Champ de Mars, the large public green space that fronts the beautiful Tour Eiffel. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when you’re standing in the cold with the love of your life and that tower starts to twinkle. Incredibly lucky, yep, that pretty much sums it up.
And we hadn’t even had dinner yet! Tonight was a splurge at the fantastic La Fontaine de Mars, a short walk from the tower, it’s a classic bistro featuring traditional southwestern French cuisine. Every detail, right down to the incredible bouquet of roses on a shelf nearby that matched the traditional coral checked tablecloths made us feel as if we were dropped into the movie version of Paris. I have no idea what else was in that leek appetizer, but I will never forget the flavor. Roasted chicken with mushrooms, scallops, decadent foie gras, a bottle of Rose and a perfect crème brule capped off a wonderful day.
Day 5…The Flea Market
Whenever I plan a Paris trip I make sure to include a Sunday stay. My experience would not be complete without a trip to my favorite little Flea Market at the Porte de Vanves. Just a quick metro ride away from the city center, this is a small market full of little treasures. There are many markets in Paris, selling gorgeous big fancy antiques, but I can’t fit these in my suitcase. So I come to this little market in search of beautiful artwork and unique bits and pieces that will remind me of Paris when I sit them on my nightstand at home.
This time we struck gold at my favorite art vendor. We were captivated by the work of Raymond Debieve and came home with 3 of his pieces, I’m in a black and white mood these days, I cannot wait to frame these. We also just had to have 12 turquoise handled knives, circa 1980, yep that’s antique now, and would have come home with a vintage motorcycle helmet if it had fit my husband’s head. I’m a bit sad we didn’t bring it back, it would have looked great on a shelf in our son’s room. Here’s my flea market tip to you… just buy it, I’m still thinking about that silly helmet.
After the market we hit another Trade show, this one for kids, called Playtime Paris. The color inspiration here was fantastic. It’s no wonder all the children you see on the streets of Paris look more fashionable than me on my best day, the clothes were stunning. We placed orders for some amazing rugs, sweet handmade mobiles, fine knit baby blankets, and more.
After 4 straight days of French food, we decided on Indian for dinner. A friend recommended a place in our neighborhood called Ravi, and it was such a treat. It was tiny, all of 10 tables, with one jovial server, beautiful carved wood walls, and absolutely delicious food. We even skipped the wine in favor of a crisp cold Kingfisher beer.
Day 6…Au Revoir
We wandered down charming Rue De Buci in search of our last Parisian breakfast and found it at The Smiths. The name is the only thing that’s not French about this little place, and we sat outside, just as we did this whole trip, under heaters, in 40 degree weather with everyone else.
After plenty of espresso, a baguette with salmon and cucumber for Will, and a chicken curry quiche for me, we headed to the cathedral of Notre-Dame, because if you are in Paris, please just go. If French Blue didn’t originate from the mosaic on the ceiling of Sacre-Coeur, then it came from the stunning color in the stained glass windows of Notre-Dame. Take some time in here to marvel at the way they must have built this incredible structure hundreds of years before bulldozers, cranes, or electricity were invented.
We walked back to Le Marais in search of what we heard was the best Falafel in Paris and we were not disappointed at L’As du Falafel. But, perhaps even better than this sublime falafel from the decidedly no frills walk up counter, was the tiny macaroon shop next door, Damyel. Not just the best macaroons we’ve ever had, but the prettiest space I think I’ve ever seen. Every detail, from the aqua in the floor tiles to the exposed beams, soft white paint, graphic wallpaper, and the aged bent wood chairs, was just beautiful.
We took our time strolling back to the apartment, savoring every last minute of our time together in the City of Lights. This time we hopped in an Uber to the airport, because our luggage had somehow grown far too heavy to drag into the Metro.
Until next time Paris, J’adore.