Archive for October 20, 2013

Fridays in France: Six Decadent Places in Bordeaux

The Decadence Project: Bordeaux France

#1:  The Burdigala Hotel

Burdigala Hotel3First, let’s check into the ultra-chic Burdigala Hotel and let the refined elegance of the five-star oasis cover us like a soft cashmere blanket. Feel that? Ahhhh, that’s relaxation at its finest.

hotelEvery inch of the Burdigala is classy and chic, yet comfortable. No pretenses here, just lovely luxury.

Burdigala Hotel2At La Bacchus Bar inside the hotel, the region’s delicious wines are samples and nibbles served.

Burdigala Hotel4Every room, from the “regular” to the opulent suites, are designed to make you feel like you’ve died and gone to Style Heaven. (yes, I said that. Style heaven.)

#2: The Café Opéra

Cafe OperaDo you like your fries with a side of opulence? Then Café Opéra is calling (singing?) your name! Located inside Bordeaux’s famous Grand Opera House, the lovely cafe is perfect to stop in for a quick lunch on the terrace or inside the chandelier-dripping main dining room.

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#3: L’Autre Petit Bois

L'Autre Petit Bois4

L'Autre Petit Bois2…………….wine bars in Bordeaux are like churches in the Bible Belt: plentiful. But L’Autre Petit Bois is a stand-out that will leave you smitten. Not only do they serve a variety of local tastings, but the decor is unmatched. Chandeliers hang among the tree branches, furniture whispers of Baroque-style France and whimsical elements keep things fun and casual. Sip, sip!

#4:  Bordeaux Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux)

bordeaux cathedralII

BordeauxCathedral3Bordeaux features several stunning basilicas and cathedrals, all with their own charm and history, but the Bordeaux Cathedral (also called Saint Andres or St. Andrews) is a must-see. The Romanesque house of worship was originally built back in 1096 and has been continually renovated over the last thousand years. Dramatic interior architecture, including soaring rib-vaulted ceilings and pointed arches, will take your wine-infused breath away.

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#5: Walk the rue Sainte-Catherine

Rue-Sainte-CatherineI don’t know about you, but I love strolling through French streets. No purpose. No agenda. Just seeing what I might see. That means I’d love the rue Sainte-Catherine. Considered the longest street in Europe (1.2 kms!) it is lined with lovely shops, a fountain, a bell tower, and even a cemetery. Explore quickly, explore slowly, but take time to really indulge in all the little secrets that rue Sainte-Catherine wants to share.

#6: Place de la Bourse / Place Royale

Place de la Bourse

place_de_la_bourseAlthough gorgeous during the day, with it’s symmetry and jaw-dropping architecture, Place de la Bourse (Place Royale) is best seen at dusk. That’s when the square, built in the 18th Century in honor of King Louis XV, begins to glisten. As darkness falls, the surrounding buildings (and famous fountain!) are illuminated, suddenly adding a touch of magic to the monument.

The siren song of Santorini

  • A view of the town of Fira. Photo: Priyadarshini Paitandy
    A view of the town of Fira. Photo: Priyadarshini Paitandy
  • Boats docked at Nea Kameni. Photo: Priyadarshini Paitandy
    Boats docked at Nea Kameni. Photo: Priyadarshini Paitandy
  • The zig zag route to Thirassia. Photo: Priyadarshini Paitandy
    The zig zag route to Thirassia. Photo: Priyadarshini Paitandy

Sweeps the culinary vote

Blend of Local Food on a Plate. Photo: Sonia Nazareth

  • Blend of Local Food on a Plate. Photo: Sonia Nazareth
  • Serving Qahwa Outside the Grand Mosque. Photo: Sonia Nazareth
      Serving Qahwa Outside the Grand Mosque. Photo: Sonia Nazareth

There’s much more to Omani cuisine than just sun-dried dates and fresh coffee, finds Sonia Nazareth.

Oman’s reputation as a land of striking contrasts — of desert sands and azure seas — is as well-established as its reputation as a culture of boundless hospitality. Dates and qahwa (strong aromatic coffee that combines a rich blend of freshly roasted coffee beans and pungent cardamom powder) are central to any ritual of welcome.

I remember people shaking their heads at me in despair, at a gesture so uncivilised, as my offering to pay for the aromatic coffee and sun-dried dates in the Bedouin homes I visited.

The capital city of Muscat does the big city thing and offers a variety of international cuisines. But Khargeen Cafe is perfect if you want to try local fare rooted in tradition. The waiter in this low-lit atmospheric restaurant — with its trees glimmering with fairy lights and the music of sizzling kebabs — takes brisk charge to keep pace with the stream of customers flowing in, “You’ll be wanting shuwa, everyone loves our shuwa,” he declares with pride. This traditionally Omani and Eid-celebratory dish of roasted goat or lamb, elaborately cooked in a large fire pit dug in stony earth, lives up to its succulent juicy and exceedingly tender reputation. It needs to be eaten with khubz rukhal, a wishbone-thin bread as light as a feather. Despite the fact that we’re partaking in a meal of shuwa without the accompanying camel races, and dances by men with shields and swords that usually go with this festive food, it sweeps the culinary vote.

The constant in traditional Omani cuisine, whether at home or at a restaurant, is all fresh ingredients and generous quantities. The one meal I ever partook of in an Omani household saw the table shifting uneasily under the weight of the feast upon it. Msanif (small patties of shredded meat, flavoured with a pungent coat of seasonings, covered in light batter and fried), Mishkak (bite-sized pieces of meat, basted in honey or date syrup, marinated in the juice of limes and skewered on date palm sticks); Samak bil narjeel (fish in coconut sauce). Besides being delicious in itself, the fish is a rich reminder of Oman’s sea-faring trade.

………….If scented candles could be made out of the air here, the candles would smell of an enticing mix of cloves, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and black peppercorns. These spices when ground together are called bizaar. The man selling them, with pride written all over his youthful face, recalls a time when Omani sailors set sail with cargos of frankincense, horses, dates and copper to trade for spices, silk and porcelain……………………….Fresh dates may be boiled to a pulp and strained through muslin to make a honey-like syrup. This is then used as a dip or spread for bread. The pulp is added to rice and other traditional dishes.

To eat or drink ethnic food as close as possible to its cultural context and in the vessels that were crafted for it can transform an everyday encounter into an extraordinary experience. But the feeling of cultural satiation stems from more than good food and drink. It stems from the generosity and kindness, which clearly makes any experience here more than the sum of its parts.

Veraiconica's Blog


Yesterday we obeyed kings
and bent our necks before emperors.
But today we kneel only to truth,
follow only beauty, and obey only love.

Khalil Gibran

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A Provençal mas constructed of local stone overlooks lavender fields below a village in the Lubéron. Photo courtesy of Vanity Fair.

Summertime in Provence is a feast for the senses – fields of sleep-inducing lavender contrasting the positively sunny disposition of row upon row of sunflowers; the colorful and tempting displays of fruit, vegetables and flowers at village marchés arranged in eye-catching compositions reminiscent of a Cezanne or Van Gogh; aromatic herbs carrying their heady notes through the warmed summer air; the building crescendo of cigales (cicadas), the official symbol of Provence; the golden and red ocher and metallic redolence of earth; the green-gray calico of the plane tree’s bark; the secrets of the mistrals; the sun-baked Provençal clay that protects and cools dwellings with rustic simplicity; the Provençal table set with fresh and simply prepared local ingredients; the distinctive herbal flavor of the traditional apéritif; the sound of crushing gravel over a game of pétanque. Provence beholds a romantic, seductive beauty and ease of living nonpareil. Slow living has always been a way of life here.

Luberone Sunflowers 470

A colorful field of sunflowers in the Lubéron.

A marché in Aix-en-Provence. Photo by Cristopher Worthland.

The deep russet ocher earth unique to Roussillon. Photo by Cristopher Worthland

The mottled beauty of plane trees on a gravel terrace at Le Mas de Baraquet, home of Bruno (architect) and Dominique (garden designer) Lafourcade (British House & Garden magazine).

The mottled beauty of plane trees on a gravel terrace at Le Mas de Baraquet, home of Bruno (architect) and Dominique (landscape designer) Lafourcade. Photo by Clive Nichols; British House & Garden magazine.


Roussillon’s distinctive village washed in shades of red ocher. Photo by Cristopher Worthland.


Endless discoveries abound within the region’s rich heritage: ruins of the Marquis de Sade’s castle in Lacoste, the Lubéron. Photo by Cristopher Worthland.

Atmosphere is the single most essential quality, in my opinion, of an engaging environment – be it interior or exterior, natural or man-made. For my love of houses I was instantly drawn to the regional vernacular with its taste for rustic yet refined simplicity and the hand-made versus the machine-made. There is a quiet, unpretentious elegance to how things are done here. There is an inherent grace and ease with which they live out their daily lives: no rush to “catch-up” with the latest this or that. Time stands still in these ancient hills of the Celts, Greeks, and Romans.

Les Ramades, Betty and François Catroux’s Provençal mas. Photo by François Halard.

My favorite Provençal dwellings are the simplest of them, void of “pretty” contrivances  –  bundles of lavender hanging from beams and posts; a panoply of pretty coordinating patterned textiles; rusty, wobbly iron furniture (please, not another iron daybed-cum-sofa!); or, a surfeit of quaint French country furniture. I much prefer rooms with a personal point of view that relate to their surroundings naturally and elegantly.

elegance |ˈeləgəns|:

1 the quality of being graceful and stylish in appearance or manner; style
2 the quality of being pleasingly ingenious and simple; neatness

Van Day Truex's cottage, Chaumet, in Gargas, Provence. Photo by Michael Boys. The New York Book of Interior Design and Decoration, 1976.

The living room in Van Day Truex’s Provençal cottage, Chaumet, in Gargas, Provence. Photo by Michael Boys. The New York Book of Interior Design and Decoration, 1976.

English architect Thomas Wilson's 300-year-old home in the south of France. AD Jan/Feb 74. Photography by Tim Street-Porter

English architect Thomas Wilson’s 300-year-old home in the south of France.
AD Jan/Feb 1974. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

Elegance need not be, as many assume, formal. Of course, there are many refined and formal residences that capture this region’s unpretentious qualities with grace and elegance. The best of them embrace the characteristics of their locale and traditions without resorting to kitsch notions of the romantic. Nor need rustic simplicity infer the bolt-hole of a country bumpkin – le péquenaud. Au contraire! A certain level of appropriate sophistication is always welcome in my book, and expressions of an artful life is high among them. After all Cezanne lived and worked here, as did Van Gogh and Picasso. What better place to express one’s creativity than in the calming embrace of the countryside? It’s cliché, I know, to say, but nature is my muse.

Château de Vauvenargues

Château de Vauvenargues, the 17th-century house where Pablo Picasso and his wife Jacqueline lived between 1959 and 1965.

Château de Vauvenargues

Picasso’s wife, Jacqueline, being illuminated by photographer Daniel Barrau in Picasso’s studio at Château de Vauvenargues.

Creative gestures through references to one’s personal history and caprices, within the parameters of good design, is what makes one’s abode compelling. Two designers whose work I greatly admire, Jacques Grange and François Catroux, inject their rooms with insouciant style, personality and panache, often referencing myriad stylistic periods and cultures. Their respective private residences in Provence honor local building traditions without resorting to local decorative artifice, creating highly personal, elegant and gracious rooms that transcend time and place.

Jacque Grange's farmhouse, Mas Mireio, in Provence. Photo by François Halard, HG; July, 1989.

Jacque Grange’s farmhouse, Mas Mireio, in Provence. Photo by François Halard, HG; July, 1989.

The living room of Jacques Grange’s Provençal mas was once a shed for farm animals. A mix of styles and periods is unified through shape, proportion, material and textural simplicity: the facing woven rush lounge chair in the foreground was designed by the French modernist Charlotte Perriand while the fauteuil near the fireplace is 17th-century; a 1950′s oak table by Jean Royère is watched over by a metal sculpture of a bull that incorporates a removable head mask once worn at fêtes in the Camargue – from where denim and the cowboy originate;  Berber rugs are laid over local terra-cotta tiles.

Mas Mireio

The library-dining room in Jacque Grange’s farmhouse, Mas Mireio, in Provence. Photo by François Halard, HG; July, 1989.

Jacques Grange combined seemingly disparate furnishings and decorative objects in the library-dining room: English Arts and Crafts oak chairs surround a table covered with a Tarascon quilt beneath a Venetian lantern; 19th-century French ceramic columns flank a window lined with Moroccan pottery. The mix is decidedly eclectic, a tad exotic, yet harmonious, bearing the quality of the hand-made.

The living room in François Catroux’s Provençal farmhouse featured in French Elle Decor. Photo by Marianne Haas.

François Catroux opted for treated cement floors imbedded with stones from the river Durance in a diamond pattern in favor of the ubiquitous local stone or tile. Natural materials and textures harmonize in a sober environment of cool, almost monastic, calm.

François Catroux Provençal farmhouse featured in Architectural Digest. Photo by Marina Faust.

The dining room in François Catroux’s Provençal farmhouse featured in Architectural Digest. Photo by Marina Faust.

Raw, bleached and pale painted wood furniture, rusticated and painted beams, a pale cement floor, and natural linen curtains punctuated by contrasting black iron table bases, the dark diamond pattern of the river stone-set floor, and the dark trim on the curtains is done to great harmonious effect.

These quietly confident rooms speak to me on a soul level. They aren’t designed to impress but to embrace, elevate and provide comfort. They represent a life well-lived free of artifice. These are rooms which  cultivate creativity in their absence of clutter, naturally. Nature is their muse.

In coming posts we will visit in more depth the Provençal homes of Van Day Truex, Jacques Grange and François Catroux. We will also visit another Provençal retreat designed by Grange for Terry and Jean Gunzburg, along with the famous and oft documented retreat of the late Rory Cameron, as well as a few refined and elegant estates that represent the best in gracious living and timeless beauty.

The Chic Catroux

It’s interesting how you see some designers all over the place and some nowhere at all.  I wish we could see more work of the interior designer François Catroux.  Maybe staying under the radar and a lack of self promotion is a French thing or a European thing.  It’s certainly, as we all know, not an American thing.  I think it’s even more interesting since François Catroux’s wife Betty was a model and muse of Yves Saint Laurent who was has more than her fair share of publicity.  The scarcity of published projects makes it that much more exciting when you do come across one and especially when it’s their own home.  Enjoy!
Betty and Francois Catroux, 1970

Icons of Elegance: François and Betty Catroux

It happened in Paris, at a 1967 art exhibit. While the city’s glamorous elite mingled about the room, sipping champagne and sharing laughs, two people were introduced who would eventually become one of France’s most glamorous power couples. On that night, 45 years ago, interior designer François Catroux set eyes on Chanel model Betty Saint, resulting in a lasting love, and creative influence, like the art world had never seen.

In the four decades since their spectacular wedding, the couple has been a fixture in fashionable social circles, including Betty’s close friendship with late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.  But in the midst of the glitz, the Catroux’s maintained an air of elegant comfort, content to remain understated while other designers enjoyed the spotlight. Their names might not be as widely recognized as fellow designer David Hicks, but their spaces whisper of pure genius.

 With a client list that includes Rothschilds, Santo Domingos, the Shah of Iran and King Hussein of Jordan, there is no doubt of François Catroux’s decorative brilliance. So when he and Betty redecorated their Paris apartment last year, the couple put that brilliance to work, creating an atmosphere of pure luxury that perfectly reflects them.

A photo from Betty and Francois Catroux’s February 1968 wedding at Cap Ferrat, celebrated as one of the most stylish weddings of the 60s. The bride wore a Pierre Cardin fur coat and boots, while the groom opted for a chocolate colored velvet suit paired with a white turtleneck.

A a 1995 portrait of Betty Catroux by Philippe de Lustrac hangs above a Vladimir Kagan sofa.

Lovely items collected over the years are arranged throughout the apartment, giving the space a personal touch

YSL and Betty CatrouxBetty Catroux and Yves Saint Laurent, who called her “his twin sister”

Having redecorated their apartment in Paris, the couple next turned their focus on their country home in Provence.

The dining room is comfortable while maintaining a feeling of simple elegance.

Francois and Betty, 1970′s

 I adore how a socialite couple known to party until dawn with Brigitte Bardot and Loulou de la Falaise can still create – and enjoy – such a simple country kitchen, complete with unassuming cabinets and whimsical touches.

A cozy bedroom still gets the Catroux touch with stacks of stones that serve as bedside tables!

“My husband is an interior designer and a genius. It’s hard work living with men like Yves or my husband, who think about the aesthetic and about beauty all the time. You can never relax and you have to make an effort every second of the day. It’s a way of working really.” 

via Harper’s Bazaar

Matisse line drawings hand on the library wall, a place where many interesting conversations have surely taken place.

Dining al freco is done in style

Lanterns from Vietnam give a distinct feeling to the outdoor space.

Although four decades have passed since their meeting, the couple has maintained a young, fresh perspective on life, love and luxury. What rich, outrageous lives they’ve lived!




by Regina Brett, The Plain Dealer

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift..

Zen Flash

All these trips that we lay on ourselves
and the addictions of all kinds
never touch our basic wealth.
They are like clouds that
temporarily block the sun,
but all the time our warmth
and brilliance are right here.
This is who we really are,
we are one blink of an eye away
from being fully awake.
Pema Chodron

— with Curtis Brisbon in Osaka, Japan.

Poetry Gardens

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Zen Flash

”I want to make sure you know you are not who you think you are…Who you are, in truth, who everyone is, is whole and perfect and beautiful. And if that can be recognized, then it is possible that self-torture can stop!”

~ Gangaji

with Prashant Patel, Paolinha Rincon, Manojit Pathak, Jorge Torres, Premkumar Jitta, Olga Blanco, Paul Spauwen, Rock Thinder, Vishu Thakur, Fanny Lu Sadhu, Johanna Roca and Alexander Cochrane.

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Zen Flash

“Meditation is nothing but withdrawing all the barriers; thoughts, emotions, sentiments, everything that builds a wall between you and existence. The moment they drop, you suddenly find yourself in tune with the whole; not only in tune, you really find you are the whole.”

~ Osho

with Yordanose Gossaye, Behailu Gesela, Isaiah Williams and 47 others.

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Jump now

Awareness It Self

Stand without any support. Forget about everything, anything. This is my highest tool. Reject everything, throw everything away. Be willing to do it, throw it ! You are That. Stop trying, don’t make any effort, don’t try to understand. Let understanding come and kiss you. ~ Mooji

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