Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

7/14/14, Paris Fashion

Posted on July 14, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Unlike (ready to wear) fashion week, which is a wild 10 day relay race, as store buyers, press, movie stars, celebrities, and anyone associated with fashion professionally, dash from one venue to the next to see as many as 7 or 8 major fashion shows a day, in 4 cities (New York, Paris, London, Milan), repeating the wild week again and again, until everyone is exhausted and has seen the wares of every ready to wear designer. Unlike ready to wear, Haute Couture fashion shows happen only in Paris, and whereas once upon a time, a dozen or so years ago, and for many years before that, the Haute Couture shows were the Big event, now Ready to Wear is where everyone wants to go and be seen. I guess I’m dating myself when I say that the Haute Couture shows used to be absolutely knock out, and attracted the most elegant women in the world. The front row at the fashion show was every socialite you’d ever heard of, important dignitaries and movie stars, and presidents’ wives, along with well known royals, and the women who attended the shows actually wore haute couture in their daily lives. The shows were beautiful, dignified, the clothes were spectacular and it was a rarefied scene and atmosphere that took your breath away if you loved beautiful clothes. But like it or not, the world has changed. My daughters and I were reminiscing about those shows a few days ago, since I started taking my 5 daughters to them when they were very young, like 7 or 8 years old. And the shows were dazzling then, for them, and for me. I’ve always loved fashion, and the haute couture shows were every woman and young girl’s dream.  All of Paris buzzed with the excitement, and the women who attended them (by invitation only) were stunningly elegant. But that world no longer exists.

For those who haven’t read about my talking about Haute Couture, what defines haute couture from ready to wear, is that every single stitch is hand made. There is not one machine made stitch on an haute couture garment. The seamstresses who worked on them had to be apprentices in the workrooms for twelve years before they were allowed to touch the clothes. The way it works is that there are two haute couture shows a year by the designer, in January (to show summer clothes) and in July (to show winter wear). The designer would put together about 70 designs, complete outfits, a sample of each one is made by hand, and usually famous models wear the samples down the runway in a beautiful show, so everyone can admire the clothes. Appointments are made afterwards for clients to try on the samples, and if they like them, the client will order a dress or outfit, and it will be handmade to her precise measurements. She will then have three fittings, sometimes more (the first one in a sample of the garment made in muslin, not the actual fabric), and about three months after the process began, the haute couture outfit or dress she ordered is delivered to the client. That process is still true today, and hasn’t changed. Haute Couture clothes were always expensive, but not the way they are now. A dress or outfit cost around $10,000 not that long ago, a spectacular evening gown $20,000. A wedding gown 50 or $100,000.  Today those same clothes can easily be 75 or $100,000 for a wool dress, $150,000 for a suit, up to $300,000 for an evening gown, and $700,000 for an elaborate wedding dress. At those prices, there are only a handful of women in the world who can afford them. And not only have the Haute Couture clients changed, but so has the world. I went to two of those shows in the last two days, as I do twice a year, and have for most of my life, as an admirer of fashion (I went to Parsons School of Design and studied fashion design, and three of my daughters work in fashion, so it’s a family passion), and there were no Presidents’ wives at the shows I attended, only one major movie star, no royals, and the famously well dressed women are only a memory now. I occasionally see well known movie stars at those shows (Jennifer Lawrence at Dior yesterday), and have seen Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, and Kirsten Dunst, and Rihanna in recent years, but on the whole people go now for the spectacle, and many to be seen, and very, very, very few are going to buy haute couture. The haute couture client of today is a very different breed. And the world we live in a very different place. Money is tight, jobs are scarce and the economy strained in many countries, the entire world wears jeans and sneakers, some even to work, exercise clothes are considered okay in every public place. Luxury is often frowned on (though secretly envied), men rarely wear ties now, it’s considered fashionable not to shave, and most people have nowhere to wear the fabulous creations of Haute Couture. And all but 3 of the once numerous haute couture designers still produce haute couture collections, which are labor intensive to make and out in the stratosphere in price. Many of the clothes one sees on the runway are then put in the designer’s museum, and never made for any clients. Sadly, haute couture has become an exquisite beautiful, absolutely spectacular dinosaur from another age. A few people still buy it, but most people’s everyday lives, even those with money, just don’t lend themselves to those fabulous creations anymore. And there are sometimes simpler clothes in the collections too, but always at an astronomical price, due to the fabric, or embroidery, or the remarkable labor and expertise that goes into them. I go to look, and am in awe of the workmanship and the creativity every time. » read more »

6/23/14, Feast or Famine

Posted on June 23, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Wow….busy times here, and I hope that all is well with you.

Oddly, I always find that my social life is very irregular. In New York and San Francisco, I very seldom see friends, and try to spend as much time as I can with my kids. They always have the priority when I’m in their cities. And given the nature of my work, I tend to hole up and disappear whenever I’m writing. Everyone has their own style, and I’m always impressed by writers who have a regular pace and schedule, write for a few hours in the morning, and then go out, see their friends, play golf, or whatever. That sure doesn’t work for me. When I’m writing, I can’t deal with any distraction, I don’t see anyone, talk to anyone (except my kids if they need me), I don’t even read phone messages or mail. Anything distracts me from the work, so I lock myself up in my office and don’t leave my house for weeks at a time. My writing style is to keep my foot on the gas, and keep it there until I finish whatever I’m working on. It can keep me locked up in my house for weeks or a month at a time, with no contact with the outside world. If I interrupt the writing to go to dinner with friends, it can take me days or even a week to get back into the book afterwards. So I don’t do that, and stick with the story, and usually write 20 or even 22 hours a day at a time when I’m working on a first draft, sleep for a few hours, and then go back to work. I’m very energized when I write, and hopefully excited about the story, and don’t want to think about anything else. (I used to have to be more civilized about my writing schedule when my kids were young and at home, but now that they’ve grown up, I can indulge my preference to stick with the story). And coming back from a long writing binge like that is like returning from a trip. I catch up with everything I’ve missed, return calls, open mail, and get back to real life. It makes for a somewhat erratic social life, since I don’t accept invitations to anything while I’m writing. And I find that one’s social life can be erratic anyway, even without writing, since people kind of hibernate in winter and don’t entertain much except for holidays, or everyone goes their separate ways in summer, and then catch up with friends in the fall. And I’ve found that there are times when I don’t go out socially for a long time, and then I get a bunch of invitations and go out every night. And for the last ten days, it has indeed been a feast of seeing friends, and fun invitations, and I’ve been out every night, which is very unlike me. But friends have come through town, childhood friends have surfaced after years of losing touch, and I’ve just had a bunch of fun activities and invitations, and even did a little work, though not serious writing, at least not this week. I’m always working on something!! But it’s only when I’m in the heat of the first draft of a book that I disappear. The rest of the time, I can edit or correct or work on an outline, and not go at it 22 hours a day, and manage to do other things. » read more »

4/21/14, Courage

Posted on April 21, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I hope you’ve had a good week, that you had a warm family Passover or Easter, or are just having a nice Spring if neither of those religious holidays are part of your life. Religiously, and just philosophically, I have always loved what Easter represents, not the crucifixion, but the resurrection. A renewal, a rebirth, a healing from the challenges we live through, rising from the ashes. It’s about hope that we will survive our difficulties and things will get better again. Whatever one’s religion, or none, it’s a comforting thought.

I just had a wonderful weekend before that, in LA with one of my daughters, to celebrate her birthday. We had a great time, and I always have fun with her in LA. I loved it!!! And as I left LA, she gave me some magazines to flip through on my trip home. And I had a great time browsing through Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Time Magazine, W, Town and Country. I love looking at the fashions, and reading articles that interest me. I wasn’t expecting to find one in Vogue that struck a real chord with me, I was having too much fun looking at the clothes. And then I found one about a fascinating woman. It was an article about an apparently famous political journalist in the l950’s, named Dorothy Thompson. I probably should know about her, or have heard about her, but I don’t know of her. She was greatly respected and apparently in 1939 was named by Time Magazine one of the two most influential women in America, along with Eleanor Roosevelt. She ran a foreign news bureau in Berlin, and apparently stood up to Adolf Hitler, and wrote a book about him, which got her expelled from Germany. From everything the article in Vogue’s Nostalgia section said, she sounded like an amazing, admirable woman. A trail blazer in a major way, at a time when few women worked, most were in the home, and she was apparently a devoted mother and grandmother as well. They mentioned her in Vogue because apparently in the 50’s, she complained that she had nothing decent to wear, and was a size 20. (They commented that in those days a size 12 was considered slim). And apparently Vogue did a whole article at the time, based on putting a wardrobe together for her with half a dozen looks, in her size. But the woman who wrote the article I read went on to say how she had always admired her, and what a gutsy woman Thompson was. It made me think of actresses we admire from those days, who were gutsy too, or appeared to be, Barbara Stanwyck, Rosalind Russell, Katherine Hepburn, women who spoke their minds and had big personalities. Clearly, Dorothy Thompson was not just acting a part, but was the real deal, and just reading about her, I admired her too. The writer said that reading about her had given her courage in her own life, which made me think too. » read more »

3/3/14, Wow!!

Posted on March 3, 2014

Hi Everyone,

When I woke up on New Year’s Day, I had an email from a friend in Paris, congratulating me for something, and telling me that it was ‘greatly deserved’. I had no idea what they were talking about, and assumed that they had celebrated New Year’s eve a little too exuberantly, and had sent me a message that made no sense. Within hours though, I got other emails like it from other friends. I had totally forgotten that the list of people to be honored with the illustrious Legion of Honor awards is published in the newspapers in France on New Year’s Day. (And also on Independence Day, on the 14th of July, Bastille Day). The announcements are only made twice a year. And several hours later, a press release had gone out all over the world. And by nightfall I was getting emails of congratulation from countries as far away as India and Pakistan. My other big surprise over the announcement—-aside from being on the list of honorees—–is that I always thought that the Legion of Honor was only known in France, and I was quite amazed to realize that people in every country seemed to know what it was, even in the States. And in France, it is a huge deal. Since I grew up there for part of my youth, and went to French schools, and have now spent a good part of my adulthood there, I not only knew about it, but was stunned to hear that I was about to be knighted with the Legion of Honor in France. Who? Me? Wow!!!

Twelve years ago, I was knighted in France in the “Order of Arts and letters”, at a high rank, for my literary achievements. I was touched and flattered, and given how many books I’ve written (132 to date), and have been published, in other countries (69) as well as the States, the award for “Arts and Letters” made sense. But the Legion of Honor is the most important distinction in France. It dates back to the time of Napoleon, and was originally created to honor great warriors, usually for acts of extraordinary heroism in battle. In its early days, it was never given to women, and surely not to foreigners. In the 200 years since it began, it is in fact given to women, though less frequently than to men, and sometimes though not often to foreigners. And it is given for major lifetime achievements, not just courage in battle. (Walt Disney was decorated with the Legion of Honor for instance) I’m not sure what it is equal to in the States, maybe the Congressional Medal of Honor, or the Purple Heart, though I’m not sure. There are three grades of it, and you begin as a Knight, graduate to Officer eventually, and after many years and more impressive achievements, you become a Commander. Those who have been decorated with the Legion of Honor as a knight wear a little red thread sewn to their lapel (of a jacket), ‘Officers’ wear a small round red ‘rosette’, very small also on the lapel of a jacket, and a Commander wears the same rosette sewn onto a small white ribbon. And it is a HUGE deal in France. And nowadays, it is given for more general lifetime achievement of an important nature. You have to do something pretty big over a long period of time to be knighted by the Order of the Legion of Honor. And when I heard that I was going to receive the prestigious decoration my initial reaction was “Who? Me?”. As it turns out, I was on this year’s list not just for my literary career, and the number of books I’ve written, and their success in France as well, but for my deep commitment to and work with the mentally ill and homeless, for suicide and child abuse prevention, for my life, and longtime ties to France. But still, when I heard that I was going to receive it, my reaction was still, “Who? Me?” But in spite of that, I was totally thrilled. I was stunned to be included in the ranks of impressive people who have been knighted with that award. » read more »

2/24/14, Flying Around

Posted on February 24, 2014

Hi Everyone,

Well, it’s that time again, where I’ve flown through three cities and two countries in 3 days, and have made it from one place I call home to the other. Whew!! I fly with two of my dogs who travel with me, and when we got home, they looked exhausted, and collapsed into their beds with relief, while I unpacked, read my mail, and tried to get organized to shift gears tomorrow. And I have to admit the change of scene feels great. I left one group of my children at one home, visited one of my daughters on the way, and met up with another daughter at the end of the trip. And I’m looking forward to spending 4 days with 5 of my children. I cruised through cold sunny weather, into ice and left over snow on the ground in New York, and wound up in almost springlike weather. It’s enough to confuse anyone, but it’s a nice confusion. » read more »

Filed Under Family, Paris, Travel | 4 Comments

Happy Days

Posted on July 8, 2013

Hi Everyone,

What a treat I had this week, a throwback to another time in my life and total joy.

Although my kids had been to Euro Disney several times when they were younger, during our summers in France, I was always busy when we were in Paris, and used the treat of a trip to Euro Disney as a plan to keep them occupied for a fun day when I had grown up things to do. And when they were kids, we went to Disneyland in California every year and of course I went with them and we all loved it. But I had never been to Euro Disney here, and have not been to any of the Disney parks in about 15 years since my kids grew up. And I was thrilled when recently my Goddaughter’s father invited me to join her and her brother and sister for a day at Euro Disney, which they had never been to before either. It sounded like a huge amount of fun to me, with children who were going to discover it for the first time at ages 3, 6 and 9, the perfect age for all that joyful magic, Minnie, Mickey, Goofy, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Aladdin, you can’t beat that. So with delight, I accepted the invitation, put it on my calendar in big letters, and waited for the day to come. And it came this week.

We set off at 9:30am, happily in a van big enough for the kids and adults, were at Euro Disney, less than an hour outside Paris, shortly after 10, and the fun began. I will admit that, much to my delight, 2 VIP guides had been arranged, and they made everything that happened that day easier for all of us. It may be an elitist way to enjoy Disneyland, but let’s face it with 3 little kids, summer crowds, and long lines at every ride, some help was greatly appreciated to shorten the lines, get in through back entrances at times, and take us on some short cuts across the park, two parks in fact, since Disney now has a second park there dedicated to movies and the old movie studios (with some scary rides thrown in that one of the kids and several of the adults loved—-I not being one of them. I am happiest on rides best suited for 6 year olds, and you’ll never find me on a roller coaster or some scary ride that plummets you from a great height toward the ground. I even skipped the Dumbo ride in Fantasyland because I don’t like heights. The three and six year olds and I loved all the same rides!! And the nine year old outclassed me by a mile.) » read more »

Running Around

Posted on February 27, 2013

 

Hi Everyone,

Busy days for me, I’ve been in 2 countries and 3 cities in the past 5 days, flying between the cities where I live or visit, seeing my kids, and working. I am working on books in various phases, editing, re-writing, some fresh writing, and working on outlines. It’s still winter time, and this is when I do a LOT of writing. But I take time out to travel to see my children too!!

And speaking of wintertime—-no sign of Spring anywhere that I live. It has been bitter cold in Northern California, freezing cold in Paris, and snowing, and snowing and also freezing in New York. With some sleet thrown in for good measure. It has been bitter cold everywhere I’ve been. I am definitely ready for Spring and some warm weather. I’m tired of wearing layers of clothes and being cold wherever I go. Come on, Spring!!!

I’ve had some lovely time with my children, fun dinners with my youngest son, some good time with my youngest daughter (although she’s very busy), and some great time with my three next oldest daughters, some of it one-on-one, which is always very precious to me. Two of my girls and I are going to spend 10 days together. I can’t wait!!!! The greatest joy in my life is always my children, and then my work. And I am currently enjoying both!!!

Today I had a special thrill going to see a friend’s new baby. Without a tiny baby in your life, you forget how little they are, how sweet when they’re brand new, and how fascinating to watch. He was a week old when I saw him, as he looked around, listening to the sounds around him, looking peaceful in my arms. It’s a sweet feeling, and his parents were thrilled and in awe of him. It was nice to share a moment with them.

I have nothing new and exciting to report at the moment, but will have more to tell you next week. I just wanted to check in and say hi, and tell you that I’m thinking of you, as I fly from one city to another, and in between hunker down at my desk to work. Talk to you next week.

Love,  Danielle

Filed Under Kids, Travel, Writing | 3 Comments

Where Has The Summer Gone?

Posted on August 13, 2012

Hi Everyone,

It feels like the 4th of July, which kicked off the summer, was only 5 minutes ago, and the summer has raced by. And I’ve been busy. As always, I feel like my supposed to be lazy summer was action packed.

Let’s see, what have I done? I came back to France in June, saw lots of friends, and spent two weeks with my children in July, a week of it in the South of France. For the first time in many, many years, we did not spend time on a boat, but relaxed at a hotel we have gone to every year since their childhood. And we had fun together. We’re incredibly lazy when we go on vacation together. We lay in the sun, ate too much, went out for dinner once, and the rest of the time, ate at the hotel. No one went fishing, they all swam every day. The weather was hot, which makes us all lazy. And we had lunch and dinner together every day. And for 5 days of it, there was a Mistral wind, which is a gale force wind, in spite of sunny weather. We laughed a lot, most of us went to bed early, and I lay in the sun in the daytime for many hours (despite my children’s warnings that if I keep doing that, I will one day look like a prune. But I always feel better with a tan). » read more »

Filed Under Family, Paris, Travel | 2 Comments

Leaving Paris

Posted on August 8, 2011

Hi Everyone,

Well for me, in a way, the summer holiday is over. I started somewhat early, in June, when I came back to Paris for almost two months, and it has been wonderful, seeing friends, having my kids here, doing fun things, and travelling to Italy. And the lazy summer days end all too quickly. For the first time ever, many of my kids used Paris as a base this summer, and travelled from there to other places (Holland, Germany, etc.), and some stayed in Paris longer than others, and we all went on holiday in Italy together, at a hotel, and on a boat, on our  annual boat vacation with the 5 youngest  kids. Each one brings a friend or significant other on the boat trip, but their friends stay at the house too. And it’s lively and busy while they’re here. All together, they stayed with me in Paris longer than any other summer, and some were with me for the entire month, which was great, and now I’m sad that it’s over. » read more »

Filed Under Paris, Travel | 3 Comments

Roman Holiday

Posted on July 25, 2011

Every year, my 5 youngest children and I take a boat trip, we did it when I was married, and have done it in the ten years since, and although it’s a stretch and a splurge, it’s worth saving all year to do it!! I am addicted to boat vacations, because they give you so much freedom. It corrals everyone on the same dates (rather than people arriving late and leaving early at a rented house), and it gives you incredible freedom. If you don’t like where you are in the morning, you can go just a few miles away to a prettier place, or change locations and plans entirely. It’s like a movable house, and you can vacation in a bunch of places. And being on a boat is probably the only place that I really relax. It feels so removed from the pressures of real life, and is a wonderful way to spend time with my children every summer, and we all love it. » read more »

Filed Under Family, Travel | 5 Comments