Paris Journal

UntitledPart design blog and part travel log: my journal of sharing a sublime sourcing trip to Paris with my daughter, Coco.   

Highlights include perusing the antique markets, attending the iconic design show Maison + Objet, and creating precious family moments in the spectacularly beautiful city.

Moving from New York to Austin a year and a half ago to launch HACIENDA has been wonderful for our family, but we do miss city life from time to time.   Roughly six months after our launch the store was on solid footing, permitting me to resume my travels in search of fresh design inspiration. The January Maison + Objet home décor show was the main purpose of my trip, as I hoped to discover some new European brands that I could bring exclusively to Austin for HACIENDA.

What made this trip one of the most special of my life was I was able to share it with my five year old daughter, Coco. One of the benefits of my thirteen year career in finance was it afforded me the opportunity to travel the world, some alone (riding an elephant in Thailand on a quick jaunt after a business trip to Hong Kong felt a little lonely) and some with my accommodating husband, Ken (no plumbing in Rwanda, or captive on an arctic train in Hudson Bay? Sure – let’s try it…). Ken and I continued traveling with our twins after they were born, but it was hard and we just kept telling ourselves that somehow these efforts were making little impressions on them along the way to make them more interesting and socially aware people, and meanwhile we all returned home exhausted from what inevitably turned into kid-centric trips. For this trip to Paris I decided to bring just Coco in an effort to do real design scouting and not make it all about the twins, and also to spend some real time with just Coco as I had never done since the twins were born. Jack was equally thrilled to embark on his own fishing trip in Florida with Ken and Jack’s beloved grandparents (and promises of a mommy-Jack trip the next time around). He gloated about packing swimming trunks and sunglasses while Coco, a warm weather girl if ever there was one, quietly insisted she did not mind the cold and readied for her Cinderella moment in France.


Untitled1Day 1: Arrival

We flew through New York and connected with Jackie, Coco’s former nanny, in JFK. She had graciously agreed to travel with us to let me attend the Maison show, share some girl time with us in Paris and to squeeze in a little delayed honeymoon with her new husband, Jordan, who was set to meet her in Paris in a few days. Coco and I would then be on our own for the last few days of our trip. Fortunately the kids are comfortable on planes and we enjoyed an easy overnight flight.

We took the metro to our apartment in the seventh arrondissement, rented through One Fine Stay. I chose the 7th because I was most familiar with that neighborhood, having stayed there with friends on a prior visit and felt like the residential area’s wide boulevards, beautiful shops and markets and relatively central location in the footsteps of the Eiffel Tower would be the ideal home base.

We roused ourselves after a quick rest to venture out. It was too cold that evening to wander leisurely through the neighborhood so we headed straight to Café du Marché for our first meal, which is sort of a tradition of mine when in Paris anyway since my husband and I dined there on our first trip to the city together. I ordered confit du canard and ‘la meme chose’ for Coco. It was a perfectly casual but quintessentially French first meal and seemed to put her at ease that I was telling her the truth when I promised her she would love French food. After all, the girl would live on bread, crepes, fish and poultry if she could.


Untitled3We shopped the lovely produce vendors along Rue Cler to stock up one some provisions – a huge advantage of staying in an actual apartment rather than a hotel. I loved returning to the quaint urban concept of specialty artisanal shops (bakery, butcher, cheese shop, fruit vendor, wine, etc. – all lined up in a stretch of two blocks on Rue Cler) and managed to make all my purchases speaking only in French, prompting Coco to ask me to teach her some. We watched a sweet animated film set in France called Ernest and Celestine back at home and tried to get some sleep and adjust to the time zone.


Day 2: Antique Shopping at Marché aux Puces

I love layering in some antiques to a generally modern design pallet and for me, the largest flea market in Europe is a must-see. True, I remember being heart-broken when an 18th century marble table I bought at the market years ago arrived shattered in my NY apartment, but now with several trans-Atlantic HACIENDA shipments under my belt I was determined to give it another try. I also recall the trek from the Paris city center to Clignancourt being a little sketchy so I was very happy to discover the advice in the blog: A Girl’s Guide to Paris to access the market from the quieter back end at the Girabaldi metro stop, a much more pleasant option with Coco en tow.

My first find was for my home, not the store (it seems to happen that way…), an over the mantle mirror circa 1860 from a stunning shop located directly to the right of the Serpette market entrance. Lila, the shop’s proprietor, specializes in beautiful mantles, mirrors and chandeliers. The price was high so we kept looking but now I had mirrors on the brain. Wonderful, another huge, expensive item to ship via ocean freight with an enormous potential to break! Next we discovered a salvage studio turning old French doors into mirrored panels. A bit of negotiation later and two sets of door pairs were marked with stickers, soon to be en route to HACIENDA Austin. I started spotting mantelpiece mirrors all over, and at €700 compared to €2,500, but Jackie agreed not as beautiful as Lila’s…”Why all this looking at mirrors?” Coco starts to protest – fair enough. We divert to look at vintage fashion: sparkly flapper style dresses, lace hats and vintage wedding veils. Coco selects a pair of vintage rhinestone hairpins and pays with the Euros she had brought in her own little purse (discovered in a drawer in my closet at home, left over from last year’s trip to Spain).

Untitled7Time for lunch. Lila directed us to Ma Cocotte, a modern brasserie designed by Phillippe Starck surprisingly plopped right next to the Paul Bert section of the flea market. The roasted chicken au jus with a mason jar of pureed potato served as the perfect refresher.

After lunch Coco found the perfect jewelry box to hold her hair clips, fashioned from an angel wing shell rimmed in brass with a little clasp. She even managed a little bargain on that purchase and concluded with a polite “merci madame.”

Refueled and energized by her finds, Coco is now bubbling – “Let’s go shop mama! Jackie, you need those elephants, come on, let’s go!” We peruse vintage Goyard steamer trunks and copper pots and I find myself wondering if our new laundry room should have a vintage standing sink…but try to stay on task for HACIENDA.


Untitled8Ultimately I feel called back to Lila’s shop for that mirror and we come to an agreement – dealer to dealer – with mutual hopes of future HACIENDA orders from Lila and her exquisite finds. If it were just me I could shop that market all day but one thing I have learned traveling with twins, even it is was just one this time, is to quit while ahead. So I carried Coco back to the metro station and we rode back to the Left Bank, intending to freshen up a bit and then head out for dinner. But shortly before 7PM Coco turns to me and says “OK mama, let’s get me in my pj’s and off to bed.” Jackie and I look at each other and tell her we were thinking of dinner first and she tries to be a good sport – “OK then, dinner, then bed…” Not wanting to push our luck we decide to stay in and dive into our provisions of wine, cheese, bread and chocolate mousse. After all, what more could we want?



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Day 3: Fancy Hotel Breakfast and Eiffel TowerUntitled9

I find multi-course tasting menus to be too much for kids, especially considering all the lovely neighborhood brasserie options for lunch and dinner, but to show them the “fancy” side of Paris breakfast is a perfect opportunity to go opulent. We splurged on a decadent breakfast at Le Cinq in the Four Seasons George V hotel. Ken and I have stayed at that hotel before and I knew Coco would love the regal setting. Coco’s hot chocolate, with its own tray of accouterments, was itself a work of art.

I , of course, had to try the ouefs bénédictine – perfection. We could not finish all the crepes, pastries and fruit we ordered but risked being tacky and asked to pack it all up to take back to the flat for later. We both loved the tea service and resolved to start building a tea set of our own with one cup and saucer from each trip. Maybe the giant red bears in the George V lobby were left over from Christmas but I had to take a picture because Jack would have loved to see them.

Untitled11Coco and I were both struggling with colds and so I missed one of my “must do” agenda items – shopping at Montainge Market on Avenue Montaigne near the George V. Mid-late January is the Soldes (sales) time in Paris and an excellent time to shop, not to mention that this year the dollar was gaining on the Euro by the day. Previously during January soldes I found a cashmere YSL blazer and knee-high Alaïa boots at Montaigne Market so that shows just how ill we felt to skip it as we walked across the bridge over the Seine back to the 7th, passing right by the princess Diana memorial torch. Jackie carried her HACIENDA backpack!

Jackie met up with Jordan, her jet-lagged husband, at our apartment and they left to find their own pad in the neighboring Saint-Germain area and to rest. Feeling superior for already being on Paris time, Coco was ready to get going again so we decided to climb the Eiffel Tower.








Untitled13The New Yorker in me did not want to wait in line to buy elevator tickets so Coco hopped on my back and I started piggy backing her up the stairs. Coco heard me coughing and wanted to hop off. She ended up walking the last ten or so flights herself and was proud that she did some of the actual climbing. We took a selfie at the top and celebrated our summit by purchasing a purple blingy eiffel tower from a nearby souvenier shop and having a quiet dinner at a local cafe. We stopped at a pharmacie for some cold medicine for both of us and called it a night, snuggling together in bed. I couldn’t help but remember our last year in New York, after Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to our neighborhood and little three year old Coco wanted to help by walking some of the 25 stories to our Tribeca apartment. The girl is a trooper.

After she nodded off I jotted down some notes from the excellent New York Times Travel Guide for Kids for the next day, when Jackie and Jordan would take Coco while I attended Maison + Objet.


Day 4: Maison + Objet / Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle

I only allocated one day to attend this massive show so I mapped out a game plan ahead of time to be efficient, targeting primarily bedding, jewelry and lighting (three categories we are looking to expand at HACIENDA). I found some good candidates, mostly from vendors that lacked U.S. distribution. As I have learned that can make purchases erratic and expensive but some products are worth the effort to give HACIENDA a unique collection.

There were almost too many beautiful linen lines to consider, but I liked the simplicity of a line out of Barcelona called mikmax. All of the hand-made jewelry looked so delicate and refined – a nice compliment to our existing bold pieces. I’m always a sucker for minimalist Danish pottery, so Hübsch was an intriguing new find. I also spent some time with a rug purveyor who claimed to supply “all of the grand bazaar in Istanbul.” That claim seemed a little dubious but we did talk about experimenting with some vintage and custom pieces. Some of the point of attending Maison is not just about ordering right away but about seeing new trends in designs and fantasy vignettes. I stopped to marvel at the Missoni and Christian Lacroix colorful displays – not really right for HACIENDA but simply gorgeous. Two conceptual lines that actually could work for HACIENDA (or, again, for my new home…) included Sophie Mallebranche woven metal tapestries, custom made in Paris, and SERIP, an innovative line of custom lighting out of Portugal. I also kept my eyes open for novel display concepts that would work well at HACIENDA. Lots of follow up is in order.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 10.41.48 AMWhile I was away Jackie and Jordan took Coco to the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle and the nearby Menagerie, a nineteenth century zoo inside the Jardin des Plantes. The zoo had some unique animals, including snow leopard twins and a clouded leopard, but the museum was by far the bigger draw for everyone.

Jackie bravely used to take the twins on the subway to NY’s Museum of Natural History from the time they were barely walking. That was always a special place for our family and when Jackie reported that the Parisian version of the natural history museum was even better I was sad to have missed it. Highlights included a hall of evolution, where the animals were lined up in the center of the hall rather than staged in individual scenes behind glass like the NY version and a multi-story simulated indoor rainstorm, which was the first thing Coco could not wait to tell Jack about when we returned.

We capped off the day all together by having dinner at a classic Saint Germain café – Les Deux Magots, a place once frequented by Picasso and Hemingway. While it might be a bit of a predictable tourist spot we had another lovely and classic French meal. We parted after 9PM to let the newlyweds have some alone time but Coco was not ready for bed. When she is “on” my little peanut is not one to leave a party early and I had to corral her, skipping and singing, into a taxi, whereupon she promptly fell asleep.

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Day 5: Sightseeing and Shopping in the Right Bank

While I love and miss my Jack Brody, one of the lovely benefits of traveling with just Coco is (without him to wake her) she sleeps in past 9 o’clock, allowing me to tend to work, make some tea and shower. She is also perfectly happy with a croissant and some strawberries for breakfast. This morning I learned of a large HACIENDA order placed by HGTV for a design challenge home – exciting stuff! Since yesterday was basically an all work day I let Coco set the morning’s agenda and she picked The Carousel in the Tuileries Garden, a lovely park dating back to the sixteenth century situated between the Louvre Museum and the Place du Concorde. Maybe it was because it was a cold day in January or perhaps it was because at that very moment Chanel was hosting its couture show in the nearby Carrousel du Louvre (sigh…maybe next time…) but Coco was the only rider.

merrygoroundCoco loved the delicate French music and stayed faithful to the horse that most closely resembled her gray and white pony at home. Nearby she pleaded with me to buy a carousel-replica music box, which overall is her favorite memento of this trip and still puts her to bed every night.

Next we strolled along the Rue Saint-Honoré, stopping to shop at Goyard, Vanessa Bruno and Laudrée for chocolates. While in the 1st arrondissment we stopped in at the Paris tourist office to buy a museum pass so we could skip the line at the Louvre (or any other museum if we felt ambitious enough to visit more).

Children are free at most Paris museums but €42 for an adult two day pass felt like a worthwhile option for the lines and prospects of rainy days ahead. We then took a short taxi ride west to explore the winding, medieval streets of the Marais neighborhood (Paris’s 3rd arrondisment).

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 10.38.50 AMIn addition to some of the more trendy boutiques and art galleries in Paris the Marais also contains historically Jewish areas and we paused to pay our respects to victims of recent attacks.

Usually I like to wander around interesting neighborhoods without an agenda but before Coco started to fade I wanted to make sure to hit merci, a philanthropy-minded lifestyle concept store on Boulevard Beaumarchais opened in 2009 by the founders of the Bonpoint brand. Wow, am I glad we bothered with the taxi over there – I now have a major design crush on this emporium for everything from fashion to tabletop, bedding and even gourmet food.

Entering into the hollowed out atrium in the remodeled nineteenth century building elevated the presentation of various tschotchkes laid out on tables, kind of like an updated version of Colette.   The real draws for me were the street-savy fashions, eclectic homewares and simple pallette of linen bedding around the corner to the back and upstairs. We picked up some delicate jewelry pieces for Jackie and some friends from home.

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After merci we found ourselves in between normal meal times so we stopped in at a creperie for two classic nutella versions, which we enjoyed in the nearby and exquisitely beautiful Place des Vosges. Two metro stops and a reasonable schlep with packages home put us both in the mood for a rest. I asked Coco if she felt like venturing out for dinner that night or if I should run out to bring something back? With very little hesitation she waved her hand dismissively, offering “Oh, mama, let’s just have chocolate mousse.” We’re in Paris, after all so nutrition be darned – I really love that girl.


monalisaDay 6: The Louvre, Notre Dame, a meeting with R&Y Augousti and a fabulous, intimate dinner

 The forecast called for rain so we ear-marked the day for some indoor classics. We met Jackie and Jordan at the Louvre in the morning and breezed in thanks to the museum pass. The underground medieval portion of the museum building and the Egyptian artifacts captured our interest. The obligatory Mona Lisa was less impressive to our untrained eyes. We made our way through the Italian paintings (Coco wondered why painters nearly exclusively seemed to paint Jesus) and paused behind the throng of tourists with selfie sticks working their way toward the masterpiece. After a communal shrug we did a bit of a cursory pass through the Greek wing, pausing to admire Aphrodite, and left Jackie and Jordan to stroll through at their leisure.

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At Notre Dame we were on a mission to spot one of the thorns from Jesus Christ’s crucifixion crown, rumored to be in the Treasury. We think we may have seen it but are not sure. I had an even harder time trying delicately to reconcile the ornately luxe Catholic artifacts to my daughter’s Methodist reference of a more unadorned view of Christianity, but the razzle dazzle girl part of her marveled at the jeweled pieces nonetheless.

late afternoonWe walked over to the Saint Germain neighborhood for lunch at the touristy Café de Flore. Those not traveling with kids might want to try the small plates at L’Avant Comptoir but I tend to shy away from “tough tables to get” when I’m with my kids – there are too many wonderful neighborhood gems that I find simply perfect. Coco took a break from her “go-to” duck and tried soft-boiled eggs. She usually won’t eat eggs so this showed me just how much she was trying to keep an open mind and step into Parisian life. Well, my mentioning there would be bread for dipping probably helped. Success! Soft boiled eggs can now join our at home repertoire and we decided to keep our eyes open for some cute little egg holders to take home. I got seriously side-tracked while in a pharmacy getting some cough medicine for both of us and walked out with enough fabulous lotions and potions that I committed to break my cardinal rule of travel and actually check a bag on our return. For those so inclined, Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop did a rundown on some of their picks awhile back.

 Near the Luxembourg Gardens we did follow suggestions to try the chocolat chaud at Angelina’s. This exceedingly rich confection is closer in consistency to a melted chocolate bar than an actual beverage. We brought it home with us and noticed it cooled to a semi-solid state.

Late that afternoon I imposed on Jackie one last time to watch Coco so I could meet with Yiouri Augousti, proprietor of the R&Y Augousti brand at his Paris showroom, located at the corner of Rue du Bac and Rue de Commaille, also in the 7th arrondissment. Side-bar: if you are in the left bank and want to shop along a less touristy stretch of beautiful small boutiques, you can’t find a better stretch than Rue du Bac.

We had recently received our first delivery of R&Y furniture and accessories at the HACIENDA Austin boutique after a considerable delay, which had me slightly nervous about the brand. Yiouri could not have been more gracious, not only in regards to our orders, but also in offering general advice to me as a new retailer concerning how to approach ordering from Europe. He even suggested some new possible brands to consider for HACIENDA. I suppose it is true in all lines of business that a personal connection can make all the difference and this was no exception.

At left: Mr. Augousti, seated next to the shagreen breakfast table we carry at HACIENDA.

 Walking back from the meeting along Rue du Bac I had to stop and pinch myself that I was really in Paris, building new relationships and sourcing for HACIENDA, and even better, getting to share this incredible experience with my daughter. This was my dream and after all the work of launching HACIENDA here we are!

bistrotI rejoined our group at Bistrot Le P’tit Troquet, one of those picture-perfect Parisian neighborhood restaurants with only a handful of tables. We enjoyed the best meal of our trip, a leisurely three course dinner with wine (at a bargain prix fixe price). As we strolled “home” along the now-familiar boulevards of the 7th I allowed myself to fantasize about this sort of a life. Coco might have been thinking the same thing because she asked me, “Mama, why don’t you speak French at home like you do here so I can learn?”

“Oh, because my French is not truly fluent, sweetheart”, I began. When I suggested I could start speaking Spanish at home if she wanted to learn another language and that was easier to reinforce at home in Texas, she demurred: “I just like French better.”

Day 7: Le Bon Marché / La Grand Epicerie

Coco and I met up with Jackie and Jordan at La Grand Epicerie on Rue du Bac to wish them bon voyage and then we proceeded to shop through most of the rainy day. La Grand Epicerie is a slice of heaven for even an uncommitted gourmand. The market section on the ground floor resembled the beautiful presentation of artisanal delicacies a la Dean and Deluca in New York (but nicer) and in the grand proportions of a large Whole Foods. I had to stop and marvel at an entire wall of butter selections, fancy teas and jams and even eggs displayed for individual selection, some with feathers still attached. We bought some supplies to cook our last meals in Paris at home.

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Upstairs we found Le Creuset egg cups and a horse-shaped silicone cake mold that Coco insists we will use for every future birthday and marveled at the la cornue test kitchen.

day6Next we walked next door to Le Bon Marché department store and picked up a few more items, including a magnetic wolf puzzle for Jack in their excellent toy department. Coco talked me into a new dress but I did pull her away from the jewelry cases.

At the suggestion of Mr. Augousti we enjoyed a lovely meal at La Table, a bistro in the upper levels of La Grand Epicerie. Coco was set to order duck when the waiter suggested a children’s offering: roasted chicken with béarnaise sauce and haricots verts. I just love that even the children’s menu is sophisticated.

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping our way through the Left Bank, including Jacadi for Coco (an old favorite from NY but cheaper in Paris, especially with the sliding Euro.) Checking a bag for sure.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 10.26.27 AMAt last we found a perfect porcelain tea cup and saucer painted with dragonflies and butterflies on Rue Grenelle, close to our flat. One last glance at the Eiffel Tower, lit up for the night and we headed in for the night.

Our last dinner consisted of all the major food groups: bread, cheese, butter, ham and chocolate mousse.


Day 8: Departure

Coco opted to stay in bed while I ran out to Rue Cler for some cherries and fresh croissants but she still admonished me in a groggy voice: “Don’t get distracted; we have to leave for the airport today.”

Over breakfast Coco reached out to squeeze my hand. I thanked her for being such a perfect travel companion, sick and all. I told her it was honestly one of the best trips of my whole life and I was so happy to share it with her. I asked her if, despite the January weather she was able to appreciate the beauty of Paris and she assured me she did.

“Maybe if we come back someday in a different season” I began, when she cut me off with a wave of her hand: “Oh mama, we’re coming back!” Smile.

day8One last glance at the Eiffel Tower and we were on our way to the Metro, heading back to the airport with all our purchases and fond memories of our first ever girls’ trip.

She may not remember this trip when she is older but in the moment there was something about this age of five that made Coco mature enough to appreciate Paris on a tangible level and roll with the time change and language barrier like a seasoned traveler.   It was amazing how much more impactful this trip was to her than Spain even one year before. And so I return home feeling validated about taking on the challenge of traveling with kids on a work trip, energized about all the adventures ahead we will share.