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The Grandes Écuries – Château de Versailles

November 5, 2014 in Your Paris Experience Blog

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I am always pleasantly surprised when someone takes the time to reach out to me and see if there be some way that we can work together in the City of Light. However there are moments when I about fall off my chair by who it is reaching out to me – much like I did when I received a terrific email from the Academy of Equestrian Arts housed in the Grandes Écuries of the Château de Versailles.

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The Academy of Equestrian Arts was founded in 2003 by Bartabas, a tour de force of equestrian arts first coming to global attention with his production of Zingaro and the film Mazeppa, respectively. Bartabas established the academy at the Chateau de Versailles based on his interpretation of what King Louis XIV believed created a a true equestrian artist: engaging in other disciplines such as fencing, singing, dancing and music. Whilst he is a man of few words should you cross his path on a visit, he is a man of incredible vision and talent for choreography that transcends the rider/horse experience as an observer.

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The current show at the Château de Versailles is La Voie de l’Ecuyer and it is an avant-garde performance of the entire repertoire studied in the academy including the beautiful horses, as well as their riders who have honed their skills in the art of fencing, voice and archery as well. The performance is incredible to watch and there were moments of it that I honestly found to be so beautiful it was very moving to watch. This academy and its performances are not so much about riding the horses as it is the true art of performing with them, horse and rider seamless as one.

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The academy is housed in the Grandes Écuries of the Chateau de Versailles originally built in 1679 (and finished in 1683) to house the Sun King’s 600 horses (there are Petites Écuries as well). Now there are around 35 horses from Lusitania, Portugal and Argentina housed here and to say they receive the royal treatment is a bit of an understatement. The academy performs on the weekend in a beautiful 17th century hall that was refinished by French architect Patrick Bouchain. The space seats up to 500 spectators and is lit with serene chandeliers hanging above giving the show a haunting beauty.

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To be invited to attend the performance and then be given a private tour of the stables and tack room, learn about the performance hall, enjoy champagne in the Salon Nuño Oliveira – just having the opportunity to learn the incredible history of this special place only 30 minutes from Paris was such a privilege. The behind the scenes team of the Academy of Equestrian Arts is brilliant and ambitious and I am thrilled to be working with them. It is these rare moments of access in Paris that I always try to take a quiet moment to stop and reflect that I am so incredibly blessed to be able to do what I do for a living.

Personal Shopper in Paris

September 25, 2014 in Your Paris Experience Blog

_SAM2896 (1)What could be more glamorous than booking an afternoon with a personal shopper in the City of Light? I admit I have often wondered how it all works – what is the process of reserving and working with a personal shopper? And I would be lying if I said it didn’t intimidate me a bit as well.

I have always been hesitant to work with a personal shopper because I do not necessarily consider myself a ‘qualified buyer’. Whilst I work in a luxury field, I tend to have a bit lesser budget than my clients. So when I called Galeries Lafayette to see about booking in with one of their personal shoppers I was ready with pen in hand to note all of the possible different fees – until they told me there really wasn’t any for personal shopping assistance.

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However, if I did want to book in with one of their private stylist professionals on staff I certainly could do so at a rate of 250.00 Euro for a session. But in regards to booking in with a personal shopper there was actually no fee, and no minimum buy – which I admit utterly shocked me.

The entire process of personal shopping at Galeries Lafayette is much more relaxed than I was expecting, having no expectations at all. I went back and forth with Sophie, the woman who would meet me and work with me when I arrived in the store, before I arrived the day of my appointment. We connected via email, as well as on the telephone… which was one very nice touch! Of course there are the obvious questions as to dress and shoe size, but there was also a nice exchange about my life and career, my style influences, how I view my current wardrobe and what kind of look I am trying to create through the shopping experience.

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When I arrived the day of my rendezvous I checked in at the VIP kiosk and was warmly greeted before being ushered to one of the very private shopping suites to meet Sophie and get started. There were five ‘looks’ in the suite – complete with shoes and accessories all waiting for me. When I walked in and saw all of the beautiful clothes I felt just left of being a princess.
There really is something to this concept!

I listened as Sophie explained the concept of each look: who the designer was and why this made the outfit special, the kind of fabric used, as well as explaining the cut of the fabric. Did I mention the shoes? The accessories? Listening intently I was transported to a petit wonderland of shopping!

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Now, I have to be honest here – one of the first looks I tried on did not jump off the hanger at me. I sort of looked at it, looked at Sophie and she looked straight back at me and simply stated the dress will look amazing on me. So, off I went to the dressing room to try on the dress and… wait a sec – a really stylish overcoat by Alice et Olivia… and a stylish little belt she pulled out of nowhere and all of the sudden – Shabang! I looked in the mirror and the outfit was stunning. Ok – point for Sophie.

We worked through the next couple of looks and the entire experience just kept getting better. When I felt like the look wasn’t quite right off we went into the store in search of the perfect accessory or handbag (which I loved!). Of course it is excellent to get to try on amazing clothes – who wouldn’t love it? However, when you start to learn a bit about the designers and the incredible detail given to each garment you are trying on – the process of the personal shopper takes on a whole new level. The beauty is in the details and I could tell it was a pleasure for Sophie to share her knowledge with me – and her knowledge was greatly appreciated, I assure you.

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I eventually settled on my one truly favorite and fabulous look – the one I had hoped I would find on this day. I ended up with an incredible dress by Alaia with an absolutely stunning little black leather coat to wear over it by. Sophie suggested a necklace by Dice Kayek to really make the outfit ‘pop’. And the shoes – let me tell you about the shoes! They make me smile from my toes – absolutely dainty stilettos by Sergio Rossi.

The afternoon I spent at Galeries Lafayette was revealing of how this store operates at its core concept: customer experience. Not once did I feel pressured that I had to buy, nor did I feel I couldn’t express myself if I wasn’t quite ‘feeling’ the outfit. I certainly have a new respect for the art of what makes a terrific personal shopper: tremendous knowledge of the brand, understanding cut and how it will wear on all body types, patience with the client…and also reassurance because let me tell you – I do not enjoy going up in French sizes!

Et voila, I finally understand this whole personal shopping enigma in Paris – and have the fabulous outfit to prove it!

Château Bouffémont

August 1, 2014 in Your Paris Experience Blog

CB1 (1)Every once in a while I have the opportunity to discover amazing new places in or close to Paris. The Château Bouffémont recently came on my radar when the family who rented it for their month-long stay hired me to help them with their trip.

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Château Bouffémont is a place so luxurious and secluded it is a netherworld of escape. The fact that it is only 45 minutes from Paris makes it the perfect place for families who want to have the best of both worlds on holiday in France – a bit of the French countryside tinged with the glamour of Paris.

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Built in the 1800s, the château once belonged to the Baron Empain & the Marquise of Preignes. The château now belongs to a private family with a love for French architecture and interior; who are determined to preserve its typically French style boasting crystal chandeliers, ornate cornicing, Louis XVI furniture and antique mirrors.

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While the château can be considered a private 10-bedroom family home, it opened to the public last year after a full renovation in 2012. Needless to say there have been countless legendary high society and celebrity parties in its extensive and perfectly landscaped grounds since it opened. Much of this success is due to Sarp Gogebakan, the very sharp and dynamic General Manager of Château Bouffémont.

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Sarp Gogebakan is a man well versed in the world of luxury receiving his MBA in Luxury Brand Marketing and International Management from the Intitut Supérieure de Marketing du Luxe, a school founded by the Cartier Chair. So, needless to say when I had the chance to stroll the grounds of Château Bouffémont with him on my visits it was terrific conversation and also amazing insight to just how complex it is to manage not only a château of this magnitude, but to manage and exceed the expectations of the guests who rent it as well.

CB3 (2)Located in the heart of Montmorency Forest, Château Bouffémont offers a panoramic view of the prestigious Paris International Golf Club, an 18-hole course designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. If golf isn’t your thing you also have 15 hectares of beautiful – and private – forest to ride bicycles through. There is horseback riding and there is even a quaint goat farm nearby where you can experience the art of making chèvre from start to finish. There is so much to enjoy on the grounds of this château that you may find it challenging to decide between a day in the City of Light or a day in the French countryside.

The silhouette and grandeur of the château and grounds is enough to leave you breathless…truly. Time passed here is similar to Alice going down the rabbit hole – you are completely transported into a whole new world of luxury and leisure.
And it was most certainly a privilege to wander this world for a bit.