salons of paris

Marie Antoinette at hotel soubouise
leaving for paree in 10 days. it seems like a dream and i’m so tired i’m sleepwalking! no rest for the weary till i tie up the annoying loose ends that bind me! my friend carol k’s been helping make that happen. i see how important a brilliant team is, so thank you girl! now just putting final touches on the itinerary. i appreciate but can’t go to monuments in paris. what gets me are places that were homes, apartments, salons, or Hôtels (aka mansions). i did mention i was a voyeur…


one palace i love is Hôtel Carnavalet, a little palace in the Marais and former home of Madame de Sévigné who was famous for hosting parties in her Salon. she wrote hundreds of letters to her daughter during the reign of Louis XIV. they’re like a diary of life in 1600’s paris and tell about her life’s struggles.

l’Hôtel de Soubise



Soubise is another beautiful mansion in the same neighborhood. lots of the marie antoinette film was shot there. i love the turquoise ceilings.

i’m dreaming about staying longer, forgetting ny for awhile and drifting along the french countryside in october. in my fantasy i’d rent a car and jet down to provence and explore more. a blogging friend invited me and i’d love to take her up on a cup o tea down south. But my REsPoNsIbIliTieS!!

i fell in love with the countryside as a kid travelling with my family. after graduation i went back with Volunteers for Peace for something to do between college and the real world. i just came across the ran into the link yesterday from another cool site:


maybe i want to re-live the good times i had? it really was THE best time, restoring ancient chapels and living with such fun people. you choose your country and interests. france has 45 camps going on right now that you can live/work and and have a blast for like 2 weeks, $250. i’m gonna check out what’s happening now. (it was 20 years ago)!

i just found this one:

Project: The municipality of Montendre has already played host to several
international work camps. The restoration of the town’s castle, using traditional,
old-fashioned techniques is something many of the local people keep close to heart,
but currently, their castle is in need of a hand from the younger generation! The main
objective of this year’s work camp will be to repair and refill the joints of a section of the
wall, in order to keep it in good condition. The local community, now well accustomed to
the work camp dynamic, are present on a regular basis to meet and exchange with the
volunteers. ACCOMODATION: tents. LOCATION: 75 km from the sea and to the north of
Bordeaux .

wait tents? maybe when i was in college…now i want to sleep in the castle!

August 19, 2007. Uncategorized. 10 comments.

puttin’ on biarritz


allo toute le monde! it’s travel day and we’re leaving paris in just a few minutes. it was supposed to be a surprise for my 50th birthday but i couldn’t help asking my dear old friend where we were heading next. when she told me the name of the hotel of course i had to google it and she’s about to kill me for falling down the rabbit hole digging into the history of our incredible next destination.



i’m rushing through this post to quickly publish before a). she throws me off the balcony and b). i see the hotel for myself. as a lover of history i can’t help but imagine what we’re about to see when it was just a concept, to think of the men and women who conceived of it and created it out of thin air. the place we’re heading is now a palace, has been called a villa, a hotel, a casino and home. so much fascinating history! i’m having to skim it and apologize for probably not documenting it properly but please enjoy a little history on the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz.


The former imperial villa became an example of neo-Louis XIII-style palace. Towards 1854, the imperial couple bought acres of dunes he did develop the Dagueret engineer to create a domain with park, woods, meadows, vegetable garden, pond, outbuildings and summer residence. The work of the villa began in 1854, led by the architect Louis-Auguste and Bertrand Couvrechef inspector. On the death of Couvrechef in 1857, they continued under the direction of architect Ancelet and Inspector Oscar Tisnès. The villa had a long main building with three perpendicular wings, the last shorter than the others who formed a court of honor. In 1867, the villa was haussée one floor and transformed. On the death of the Emperor, the Empress Eugenie sold the estate in 1880 to the Bank of the Parisian Union. The villa was turned into a casino hotel. In 1903 a fire destroyed the building. The architect Edouard Niermans raised the hotel from its ruins. The program included the preservation of the exterior walls, creating three hundred rooms, apartments, lounges and a dining room. The ground floor has a large hall, a party room and a winter garden rotunda. Construction introduced the use of reinforced concrete and chaining between the preserved parts and the news.



Hotel du Palais has a spectacular location right above the beach of Biarritz (Grande Plage) with a view on the Atlantic Ocean, the Pyrenees and Spain.



1854: Construction of Villa Eugenie, summer home for the French Emperor Napoleon III and Emperess Eugenie. The architect is Hippolyte Durand, followed by Louis-Auguste Couvrechef.

The last French Empress, Eugenie, loved Biarritz vacationing as a child. After her marriage to Napoleon III in 1853, the couple spent the summer in Biarritz and in 1854 built a palace to house their court: The Villa Eugenie.


1855: Grand opening of the Villa – Napoleon III gives many hi profile receptions.

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1858: Portrait of the Emperess with view on the grande plage de Biarritz.


1873: Empress Eugenie inherits the Villa on the death of Napoleon III.

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1880: The Empress sells the Hotel to the Banque de l’Union Parisienne.

Villa Eugenie becomes the Palais Biarritz, a Casino Hotel.

1893: The Palace is renamed Hôtel du Palais and opens as a Palace Hotel.
Queen Victoria and Empress Siss of Austria are among the guests.


1903: February 1, A fire destroys the Hotel.



1903-1905: Reconstruction of the Hotel. The architect is Édouard-Jean Niermans.
The former walls of the Villa Eugenie are repaced by a Louis XIII style.



The salon imperial and the Retonde are added.
1915: Coco Chanel opens a Couture Salon on 2 avenue Edouard VII not far from the Hotel du Palais.

1920s: Biarritz is very fashionable and known as « queen of resorts and resort of Kings »

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1922: Bal du Second Empire given by King Alphonse III of Spain.

1950: Closing of the Hotel.
1954: To save the Hotel the city of Biarritz buys it.

1962: January 1, Foundation of Socomix, a company in charge of the Management of the Hotel,
partly owned by the city of Biarritz.

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1963: Jean Louis Lembacher arrives at the Hotel as receptionist.

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1991: Hotel du Palais decides to open all year.
Jean Louis Leimbacher becomes the director of the Hotel.
Didier Borota from the city of Biarritz pushes investments
to attract clients to come all year round.


1993: August 21, Ira von Fuerstenberg organizes the Windsor Ball.
The are more photographers than guests.

1993: December 24, Hotel du Palais gets listed as a Historic Monument.
1999: Duchess Rixa von Oldenburg organizes the very spectecular Bal de l’été.

2006: Opening of a 3000m2 Spa (the largest Spa in France)

2011: Mai 5, Hotel du Palais receives the new official Label « Palace ***** »
given by the French Ministy of Tourism to describe a new elite categorie of 5 Star Hotels in France.
Unlike Hotel du Palais not every French « Palace » is part of « Palace Hotels of the« ,

2013: January, Hotel du Palais becomes part of Orient Express with a special status of beeing the very first Orient-Express Associate Hotels (a Hotel which is not owned by Orient Express).
2014: March 10, The « Orient Express » Hotels brand is rebaptised « Belmond ».



ok gotta go, it’s become an obsession and i’m about to miss our train…here are a couple more links if you’re interested!

June 24, 2015. Biarritz, France, Hotel du Palais Biarritz. 6 comments.

Bringing Parisian Style Home













bonjour everybody! please accept my apologies for not gettng back to announce the winner of the book last weekend as promised. i’m heading out for a month and it’s been crazy trying to tie up loose ends and just generally keep it together. the poor blog seems to come last which is sad cause it’s actually my favorite venue and I really thank you all for your wonderful comments through the week. i wish I had a case of books and could give one to each of you! but i will be getting review copies of lots of books this summer so there’ll be plentry of giveaways on the horizon. in the meantime, the random number generator was #63, so please, Ms. Lewis send me your address and i’ll get it out to you right away!

in other news, i came across this interview just now that my dear friend and colleague did with me a while ago. i’m reposting it here since some of you are going to paris this summer and i’ve been getting a lot of emails and questions, so i hope this helps and i’ll elaborate on it over the next couple posts. our iphone app also has lots of info like metro, hours etc.  it’s on the sidebar.

Interview by Linda Donahue (well an excerpt anyway, you can see the full thing here:

Your book, The Paris Apartment, is all about how to bring Paris style home—no matter where you live.  What was your inspiration for writing it?

I was asked to write a book on my style about 6 months after opening the shop. At the time it was something I had never thought about so it was a bit of a struggle figuring it out. It ended up to be my philosophies at the time, which are still the principals I hold true today. Basically it’s twofold: That four walls can become anything, and that everyone has a personal style to uncover and develop instead of following trends.

What would be the top tip you could give someone to bring some Paris style into their home?

Authenticity. Even if your rooms are completely furnished with IKEA, it will gain character from at least one great piece, from an antique mirror to a chair or chandelier. Don’t ever decorate with kitschy stuff like Eiffel tower lamps or Frenchy stuff from TJ Maxx with ‘Paris’ written on it!

Does Paris style have to be expensive?

Not at all. Flea markets are one-stop shopping and everyone knows that’s where the bargains are. That’s why dealers and decorators shop them early mornings to get the best stuff. If you wait till the end of the weekend you’re likely to get even better bargains cause some people don’t want to pack it back up.

You were featured in Travel + Leisure magazine as you took some clients through the Paris flea markets.  There seem to be so many such markets in Paris? Which ones do you consider the best?

Well actually there are only 3 or 4 flea markets in the Paris proper and Cligancourt is the largest and most comprehensive. It’s a city in itself, with both upscale and dangerous neighborhoods, so it helps to know where you’re going. I would say if you only had time to visit one though, go to Vanves because you’ll get the experience without having to figure out how to navigate the maze that is Cligancourt!

After the countless trips you’ve made to the flea markets over the years, do you have an easy time navigating through them?

Finally! It literally took years to figure out Cligancourt. Every time I go I learn something new. It’s a part of Paris’ history that the city treasures and protects so it’s constantly growing and adapting. There are so many sub markets and alley ways and secret sections and dealer’s areas and special showings…it’s absolute infinity!

The Vanves flea market seems much easier to navigate than St-Ouen. What kinds of treasures can one expect to find there?

Vanves is a great microcosm because it’s just two streets. You can find a condensed version of the larger markets with furniture, ephemera, lighting, accessories, books, lamps, and rugs.  I’ve found some of my best treasures there.

What’s the difference between antiquités, brocante and vide-greniers?

They difference is in the range from bric a brac to high-end items. You’re going to find the chi-chi stuff at a place with antiquités, (usually auctions and shops), more affordable items at brocante fairs (outdoor fairs that are seasonal) and much lower (but still great) household goodies at vide-greniers, which are also known as ‘attic sales’, usually held on the street like a block party.

Can you get through Vanves in a single morning or afternoon?

Yes bu it’s tricky cause it closes at 1pm so you have to get there really early. Even so, you have a lot of ground to cover. The good news is you can go there on both Saturday and Sunday and still have time to visit other markets. Different vendors are there each day so it’s worth it to go back twice in one weekend.

When is the best time to hit the flea markets?

Marche d’Aligre is held almost everyday and that’s right in the city center. Vanves is weekends only and Cligancourt has special days for dealers on Friday mornings. Otherwise you can find everyone there on the weekends and a couple on Mondays. Montrieul is Mondays.

St-Ouen (also known as Clignacourt) is the biggest flea market in Europe. I’ve heard that people have gotten lost in there. Is there a strategy one should adapt before even attempting to visit the flea market?

Not really because you’re bound to find everything you want whether you cover the entire market or not. The truth is you could never cover the whole market. Ok, well, I have, actually! But it’s nearly impossible even for me. I suggest taking your time to look down every alley and not have an agenda. Bargains can be found everywhere.

Is there a difference between the different markets in St-Ouen?

Yes. Every one of the markets has a range from true high priced antiques to the one euro items.

It’s expected by all the vendors that there will be negotiations involved in any purchase. Any advice on that? And is the inability to speak French a barrier to a successful negotiation?

If something is a great price I don’t negotiate, especially on small items. But if I’m purchasing two or more things I’ll ask for the best price for all of it together.  When you’re asking for a price, always ask for the ‘Pour Export’ price (that is, if you’re shipping it), because they know you’ll have to pay duties and taxes and always give you a break. If it’s a small item, ask ‘How much is this?’ (Combien, monsieur?) Or ‘How much for both?’ (combien pour le deux?).

So, say someone makes a big purchase—a piece of furniture, for instance. How would they get that purchase back to their home (if they don’t happen to live in Paris)?

There are a number of shippers on the premises at Cligancourt and I like Edet and Hedleys. Most of them are on the main road, rue de Rosiers where everyone goes when they get off the Metro and make their way through the market. All are English speaking and will walk you through the process, which is involved but not overly complicated.

So, the Paris flea markets are a good place to go to bring that Paris style home with you. Any last words of advice to those who decide to hit the markets while in Paris?

Be careful at all the markets. As wonderful as they are, there are pickpockets and dangerous characters about. Wear good walking shoes, bring cash, and if you’re going to charge something, use Visa or MC because they can’t stand AmEx, and most vendors won’t take it.

I always bring an extra duffle bag to fill with treasures, so when you’re there, look for small things to bring back like compacts, sketches, small paintings, fabrics, books, jewelry boxes, lampshades, candlesticks and photographs. Have fun!

Photo by One and Only Paris Photography.

June 6, 2015. Clignancourt Flea Market, Clignancourt Market Paris, flea markets, Fleamarkets, France, Friends, Giveaway, Marché aux Puces, Marche d'Aligre Paris, Paris, Paris Flea Markets, Vanves Flea Market, Vernaison Market. 4 comments.

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