Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Well, we all know that I came here in search of inspiration... and I also promised that I would post lots of pretty pictures for you all to see. So I decided that I would share some beautiful pieces of art, details in architecture and things of that nature that you may find inspiration in too. Hope you enjoy!!!

Copper art nouveau flower detail on a dresser.

Floral detail in the center of art nouveau gates.

AMAZING art nouveau chandelier... OOO!

Art nouveau balustrade... how lovely is that!!!

Whimsical bronze of a woman twirling... also in the style of art nouveau.

Just a wonderful little detail of flowers near a foot on a marble sculpture.

Marble and steel... how beautiful! An ornate wall carving of a former train station, now the Orsay museum.
Piece of an art nouveau balcony... OOOOO!

A ball of diamonds... how insane!!!!

Sunflowers... in gems... lots of them... again, INSANE!

There is so much more that I could share... but I'll save a little more for another time.

Monday, February 26, 2007

nothing left behind...

So, Sal and I had a typical day walking through the Tuileries to the Louvre, and we see the oddest thing. Nothing. There is a section where it is completely empty of people. Which is quite odd, seeing this is a very popular area to walk, lounge, sketch, read... your general lovely sluggish area.

....................................................................(photo by Sal Darji)

As we look around, we see this...

...................................................................(photo by Sal Darji)

Of course this piques our interest! So we start looking around to see anything. Can't figure it out. Can't really ask anybody, because I don't speak the language well enough. Well, we decided to wait... and wait... and wait a little longer. And just as we got bored with it and we're about to leave, we heard an explosion. But it was a little odd... it echoed, but it was very deep and bass like.

So, we started trying to figure out what it was... and after hearing a few words like 'bombe' and 'paquet' and 'sac' we realized that somebody must have left their bag behind... so they blew it up.

Yes, this is very common practice here. You forget your backpack... they blow it up. Sack of groceries left on the curb... blow it up. Your Kitty Karry-All doll left behind... BLOW IT UP!

And it happens very quickly. The rope off the area, get the little robot out there, have the robot put the 'package' in the special box... and blow it up! And before you know it... they let everybody through like it never even happened. Amazing!

....................................................(minimalist photo collage by ME!)

sick in a foreign country...

No worries... it's just a head/chest cold. But it does make one think... what would it be like to be sick in a foreign country?

Well, about 10 years ago I was living/studying in Italy and got caught in the middle of an outbreak of the Australian Flu. (I found this link to a 1998 college paper from Montana that speaks about it.) But before I left for Italy, I had to have proof of acceptable insurance from the States that would work in Italy in case of emergency (all translated to Italian, of course) and got a list of doctors I could call for the small things. So, when I got sick, I called the cute British Doctor that looked like Hugh Grant, who came and made a home visit for 50 Lira (about $35 US at the time) and proceeded to run to the pharmacy down the street for me and quarantined us all to the flat for 5 days. (Funny side note, I knew one girl that called him at least once a week to have him look at her for anything she could think of... till she found out he was married. Hehehe.) This scenario was not that horrible. I had friends that sent books and orange juice up the elevator for us. So, it all seemed to work out well.

But what if I got sick in France... really sick. Well, seeing I'm just laying in bed, why not do a little research!!!

France has a Socialized Medical System. Which basically means that between taxes (of purchases and taken out of paychecks, etc) pay the majority of the every persons healthcare system. I found these statistics/descriptions on the French Embassy in the US website,

"In France, health insurance is a branch of the Social Security system. It is funded by workers’ salaries (60 percent of the fund), by indirect taxes on alcohol and tobacco and by direct contribution paid by all revenue proportional to income, including retirement pensions and capital revenues. On the surface, it appears that health insurance reimburses medical care providers less in France than in other European countries. However, more than 80 percent of French people have supplemental insurance, often provided by their employers. The poorest have free universal healthcare, which is financed by taxes. Additionally, the treatment costs for those who suffer from long-term illnesses are completely reimbursed."

Now, there has been many attempts to start a National Health Care System in America, but have always been shot down (i.e., the National Healthcare Reform suggested by former President Bill Clinton... that was rejected.) I've been reading that many Americans are hesitant about Socialized Medicine because it holds negative connotations of ideas like Communism. Actually, one article I pulled up from Washington Monthly, while editorializing an article from The Economist on the French Health Care System, says...

"So why not adopt it? Well, that would be socialized medicine. Can't have that, can we? After all, everyone knows that when you socialize something it automatically declines slowly into anarchy and uselessness. Right?"

I have a feeling that is what many Americans feel about the idea of Socialized Medicine. But knowing an American here in France that had a recent experience with the French Medical System, said it was nothing but helpful. They said the emergency room was clean, the wait was short, and the doctors were attentive. And when you are done, you are discharged... and it is all free. Very interesting... huh?

Okay, enough of me researching/ discussing random topics... I'll leave that to Sal. After I finish my warm baguette with jam and Nutella and take a nap, I'll update again with pretty pictures. And we know that's what keeps you all coming back!!!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Our final stop in Belgium was Bruges. It is a small town that they call 'the Venice of the North.' I'm not too sure if I'd call it that, other than the canals... but it's beautiful none the less.

I was thrilled at the time of year we saw this area because you can tell that it is a HUGE tourist town! After speaking to some of the local shop owners, I found out that most of the town is closed after Christmas, through January. Some shops and the tour boats open again at the beginning of February, and the rest open right after Easter (when the high tourist season begins.) I could not imagine being there during high tourist time... because it was crowded enough at this point!!!

But we avoided lots of the tourist like stuff and just walked. I just love the architecture. And that's what I want to share.

OH! And there are windmills! How could you not love a place with windmills!!!!!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Our next stop in Belgium was Antwerp. We arrived late afternoon and hopped a trolly to our B&B in the eastern part of the city. From there we decided that we knew how the trolly system worked, so Sal and I hopped the 10 line and thought we would stay on till the last stop (near the water.) So, we got on near our B&B... passed the central train station... passed a few other stops... passed the central train station again, but now on the opposite side of the train... OOPS! We thought because we were traveling to the end of the line, it would stop... nope... we still have no clue where the end of the line was!!!

Anyway, we jumped off the trolly at some point, and by this time it was evening. And this is what we came across...It was LOVELY! It had been raining on and off all even, so it created this wonderful shimmering glow about the city in the night lights. We found a fun little medieval restaurant for dinner, De Grootte Ganz. It was in an old brick and stone storage cellar, that is now a restaurant. There was no heat (only roaring fireplace), no lights (just candles everywhere), and the poor waiters wore knickers and vests... hehehe. But the food was great! Here is Sal by candle light...Our second day there it rained... and it rained... and rained some more. So, we spent little time walking and more time in cafes and museums and ended our day sitting in Sal's Cafe (really, that was the name!) drinking warm wine. Actually, as Sal took his first sip of the warm wine, which was perfect for such a cold day, and felt guilty for not drinking beer (which I think is the law when you're in Belgium, hehehe.) So he sucked it down, ordered a beer, and seemed much happier for the rest of the night.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Sal and I just got back from our whirlwind tour of Belgium... 3 cities in 5 days... first Brussels, next Antwerp and finishing our adventure in Bruges. We just walked everywhere and saw so much... and so much I want to share... but it would cut into my time for other adventures to tell you about, so I'll keep these updates a bit shorter! Also, for more detailed posts... take a peek at Sal's Blog.

We only got just over 24 hours in Brussels, but we made the most of it. Walking across the city (and getting a little lost along the way), we not only saw the tourist areas but also the back streets and general neighborhoods. We came across a flea market where all of the locals, and refugees, buy, sell and trade their wares. I bought a sterling silver soup ladle (it's heavy) for 5 Euro... that's more my kind of souvenir than the little plastic snow globes.

While walking, and getting hungry, we decided the best way to find a restuarant was to go where the locals eat... not the tourists. We ate lunch at Friteland, where all the teenagers and blue collar workers seemed to gather, and got some random sandwich that they all got. It was a small loaf of french bread, some type of meat (not too sure what kind, but it was good!), with lettuce and tomatoes, completely covered in fries and fry sauce (kind of like Russian Dressing.) It was damn good.

But all of our wanderings lead us to one amazing thing... The Grand Place. It is compared to a wedding cake for its ornamental qualities. Standing in the middle of the plaza, you are just surrounded by this amazing architecture! I attempted to combine all the photos to give the idea of what I saw.

Monday, February 12, 2007

jardin des serres d'auteuil

Walking over to see the Stade Roland Garros (where the French Open is played) we discovered the Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil. It is one of the largest Botanical Gardens / Green houses in Ile de France.

As we entered, we thought it would be lovely to just walk the grounds. But much to our surprise, we found that the public was allowd to enter the green houses! One, the main one, was 2 stories tall... and had palm trees touching the glass ceiling! There were Koi ponds, and tropical birds flying around! It was amazing!!!

What a wonderful mistake finding this place!!!

I most likely will not be able to update for a few days, because my friend Sal has arrived and we will be traveling up to Belgium for the week (unless we find an internet cafe)... but there is still many more posts to come!!!!! Be back soon...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

the hall toilet...

so, we were told by the woman that we sublet the apartment from, if there are any problems with the bathroom, to use the hall toilet. we have been here for nearly 3 weeks, and never seen the hall toilet, so it was time to open it.

it is what you call a turkish toilet. basically, it's a hole in the floor with two foot prints. now, everybody that spends time here (unless you're really really wealthy, and don't use the common mans toilet) has used a turkish toilet at one time or another. but this one is special... because it has to be the worst one i've ever come across!

all i can tell you is it is made from unglazed cement... and has a shared scrub brush next to it.

this makes our little tiny bathroom seem like paradise!!!!!

Monday, February 05, 2007


This is Montmartre... the highest point in Paris. It is also a former artist area. And it holds a beautiful cathedral. Not too shabby, huh?

Well... one thing everybody should do in Montmartre is see the cemetery. It is amazing... a little creepy, but amazing none the less! The monuments people used to build to celebrate a life was insane! I believe many people thought the more money they spent and the bigger it was, the closer they came to God (just like the cathedrals!)

Well... we went to visit Degas... very simple... much moreso than some of the others we found...... like this one... for some random actor... the scary jester creeps me out...
... or this one with the sad girl scattering flowers on a pacque showing the face of the man in the crypt...
... or my favorite one... the bright blue crypt. I'm not too sure who's in it... but we know two things from looking at it... (1) time flies and (2) the Angel of Death took him on a ship (as shown in the last photo I took) because it was right on the crypt!

ah... those crazy french kings!

Now... the day we went to Versailles, it was the first Sunday of the month, which means it's FREE! Yay! And to make it even better, there were sections that were open... that usually are closed! Yay!

So, down this grand hall... full of HUGE battle paintings... and at the end there was a room dedicated to the winning of the battles. And on the ceiling was this painting. Now, I'm going to try to guess what it shows... IT SHOWS VICTORY! I love the fact that it shows, whom I think is, the Angel Gabriel blowing his horn and carrying the French flag! Those crazy French Kings and their BOLD way of showing their pride in winning!!!

And those silly French Kings with placing naked women EVERYWHERE! Oh, you silly silly Kings!

it's all in the details...

We spent a day at Chateau de Versailles... my third time there. But I love going there for the detail work! I am amazed at the sculptures! So, take this for example... some fancy pants royality in white marble... looks nice, huh? But look at the detail work!!!!!
...the under cuts in the crown, the buttons on his clothing...... the natural wave to the hair, the pattern on the clothing, the ruffles to the collar and clothing......the clothing details on the sleve! The puffy shirt! Look at the details in the puffy shirt!
I still cannot figure out how the hell they did it! Honestly! There were no flex shafts or dremmel tools... there was no super glue to hide mistakes... there was no optivisor to give you a closer look at what you were cutting! There was just hammers and chisels and lots of time. Insanity, I tell you!!!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

for all you jewelers out there...

Okay... this is going to be a long one!!!!!

Today I had the most amazing day! Completely insane! Don't really even know where to begin!

Okay... last week in Place Vendome, I walked into Boucheron... a very old school, up scale French jeweler, know for it's amazingly high quality... and insanely high prices! Well, to make a long story short, I thought I would be kicked out of the store for looking like a grubby gypsy child (compared to the hoity-toity types that usually shop there)... but instead I made a friend. Well, I think I more so became a project to him. This gentleman knows how hard it is to make contacts in the jewelry industry... so he just wanted to help me out. So, first he made some phone calls... he had somebody waiting at Chanel for me to show me their new line, etc.

But he called me on Tuesday... and informed me that he got me permission to visit the Boucheron shop!!! This is such an amazing thing he had done for me. They just don't let any schlub off the street into the shop... I think I just looked pathetic enough that they took pity on me!

So I headed over there today. And it was insanity! They have the last shop on the Place Vendome... my friend was very proud to tell me that Cartier doesn't even have that. (The showroom is on the bottom floor... the shop is on the top floor... underlined in red.) The shop manager doesn't speak English... and my French is appalling! So, my friend translated for us.

This is the shop where they make their one of a kind, multi million dollar pieces, so the security to get into there was insane! Steal doors (that resembled vault doors) with pass codes... I wouldn't be surprised if they have finger scanners, hehehe! They even have to enter a pass code to leave. When we walked in, the designers hurriedly put away all the designs they were working on for the fall/winter collection (it's confidential.) They showed me the sketches from the current season... everything is drawn and painted to scale (to help with the exact design of the setting and to figure out the man hours and pricing.) Then they build a model of the piece out of Plasticine and gouache, to figure out EXACTLY what this will take to build (work out any kinks, etc.)

All of their designs are inspired by the stones they acquire (function follows form) except for one... which was amazing, but no photos, sorry!

So, next they walked me through the shop. I NEVER KNEW A SHOP COULD BE THIS CLEAN!!! It is white! IT IS A WHITE SHOP! Most shops I have seen/worked in have been a dullish gray brown and filthy! This was insanity! It was like a lab.

They showed a piece that they were in the middle of fabricating. One person creates a wax (if that is how they are building it) and that same person cleans the casting and does any fabrication work from there. Then it goes to the polisher, then to the stone setter then to the polisher again. Sounds normal (for us jewelers), right? WELL, NO... NO IT'S NOT! When they carve a wax... and there will be lots of setting on it... they carve (BY HAND, NO CAD!) a honey comb on the back side! Perfect little 6 sided boxes! Then when they polish those boxes, they don't just cram a end bristle brush in there... oh no... they use a piece of cotton string with polishing compound on it. All by hand! And they don't hold it to some huge buff when they are using the motor... it's all about targeting the areas! Everything they do is that precise.

Now... they have people intern there for 2 years before they are allowed to work on actual gold or platinum. They told me I can send them my application to apprentice... hehehe. And the average employee is there for 15+ years... some for 30! Unheard of in the states... but they just kept saying 'when you work for the best, why would you work anywhere else?'

But my favorite part was that they believe in quality over quantity. For them, on average, they set approximately 6 stones an hour per setter... where as in the states, the would not fly for a professional stone setter. But they strive for perfection!

At the end of my stay there, after we said goodbye to the shop and their crew... we headed back to the show room. My friend showed me a few pieces that they had recently finished. I am wearing one of them in the above photo. It is over 100 carats of diamonds, columbian emeralds, and platinum... over 800 man hours to complete... the price 2,390,000 EUROS! And what does that translate to in US Dollars... 3,113,021! Insanity! I had a 3 Million Dollar Necklace on!!!

So, for you jewelers out there... I hope you can understand how amazing this experience was! And for everybody else... I HAD ON A THREE MILLION DOLLAR NECKLACE!!!! hehehehe
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