Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nice, Day 2, September 6, 2010

No culture, just shopping.

Though sometimes I wish I was a different kind of person – as in the kind of person who prefers museums over designer boutiques – I am not and neither, thankfully, is my husband. Which is why a Monday in France will always, always be better than a Sunday in France if only for the simple reason that Louis Vuitton and Hermès are open.

Today we shopped. Yes, I know we are vacationing on the French Mediterranean and yes, even as I write this from our balcony at night, the temperature is over 80 degrees, but absolutely nothing will deter us from shopping in France. Even if I was far sweatier than I like to be when trying on clothing so beautiful that I actually became short of breath.

Now, to start a perfect day of shopping Nice, ignore the guidebooks (Rick Steeves especially!) that extol the virtues and the scenery of taking your morning café crème on the Promenade Anglais in the sunshine and head straight to Nice’s fabulous centre commercial, Nicetoile, . While there this morning we discovered the elegance and sophistication of mall coffee.

Though I admit we started to get nervous when we ordered our café crèmes and were gravely informed that there was a “crises” resulting in a terrible café crème faux pas. No. Warm. Milk.

We decided to risk it and were shown to a tiny seating area within the store to await our café crèmes. Correction. To await the presentation of our cafes crèmes. Naturally they arrived on silver trays, complete with chocolats, biscuits and more sincere apologies for the lack of warm milk. I swear I have had Starbucks baristas sneeze into my coffee and make less of a fuss.

Just another reason why France is fabulous.

Pumped full of caffeine, we attacked my favourite French department store, Galeries Lafayette (GL), which much to my delight has a location in Nice. Chris and I split up to individually attack the store’s respective homme and femme departments. Today marked my first foray into what I anticipate being the glorious experience of shopping-in-France-in-September. Cashmere, leather, fur! Luminous hosiery and chained handbags! Velvety lipsticks and sumptuous face creams! Even the scaled down GL in Nice made my heart flutter. I felt dizzy with shopping possibilities. It was too much and I, quite literally, had to escape the store for the un-stimulating atmosphere and safety of Place Masséna. I guess after fifteen months of having to buy the same pair of $69.99 black pants from the GAP, I am not quite ready for French fall fashion.

After a bit of sunshine and more café crèmes, we decided to shop the boutiques on Avenue Verdun and do a bit of a warm-up for Paris. As in shake off the not-too-distant memories of Coach outlets and H&M Boxing Day sales and slip back into the quiet elegance that are my French favourites, LV and Hermès.

After a quick browse through LV – I am honestly saving myself for the splendour of LV in Paris! - it was time for Hermès for which I am willing to make a “Paris exception” in order to try and purchase what I believe will be a much coveted carré from their automne-hiver 2010 collection. Quand Soudain. I have been lusting after it since its release last May and purchasing it is one of my specific shopping missions on this trip. Unfortunately, it is sold out in Nice.

Leaving Hermès with no brown-ribboned-orange-box, we passed by a store window where a wool cream blazer caught my eye. I tried to ignore it; my shopping plan is to save my funds for Paris. But Gerard Darel, 6 Avenue Verdun, would not be ignored! Chris pushed a repugnantly sweaty me through their door and made immediate friends with the saleswoman. A saleswoman who I will forever admire for ignoring my shiny face and my cheap, white t-shirt stuck to my back with perspiration.

“Beautiful! Superb Fit!”, she genuinely gushed in flawless English, when I slunk out of the fitting room to be inspected by her and Chris. “And,” she added in a conspiratorial whisper, “It’s an excellent imitation Chanel.”

I stood there in the mirror trying not to make eye contact with myself, squirming and looking for faults with the blazer. There were no faults to be found. From its rich cream colour, to its perfectly frayed edges, to its silk lining and its custom fitting epaulettes, the blazer was perfect. So perfect that its buttons were chocolate brown with raised, gold d-ring horse bits on them. So perfect that it is one of those items that I have always fantasized about having in my wardrobe. You know the kind of item that when you put it on, you feel as though your life could change just by wearing it.

I didn’t buy it.

To save you from the hours of torture I went through after leaving Gerard Darel sans perfect- cream-blazer-that-could-change-my-life, I report that I am now writing this from our balcony, from which I have the perfect peripheral view of a chic, ribboned black and white Gerard Darel bag with contains the tissue-wrapped blazer of my dreams. Chris, in his infinite generosity and superb taste, took me back to the store later and purchased it for me as a gift.

Just another reason why my husband is fabulous.

We ended our day by riding the carousel on Promenade Anglais. It was romantically empty and just the two of us rode the antique horses with their real horse-hair tails, revelling in our perfect day in Nice.

I Run to be... Paris (in San Francisco)

I ran my second marathon last weekend in San Francisco – the Nike Women’s Marathon to be exact. A marathon that brings together, by chance of a lottery draw, over 20,000 women to run through the streets of San Francisco for the reward of being presented at the finish line, by a tuxedo-clad fireman, a Tiffany necklace, complete with blue box and white ribbon. This year the finisher’s necklace was engraved with Nike’s new running slogan, I Run to Be…”

Earlier during the weekend I had shopped at the massive NikeTown, a store full of sweatshop produced athletic wear, teeming with women all searching for the perfect race weekend souvenirs. Caught up in the madness, I purchased far too many items made of sweat wicking Nike FitDry, to be filed away in my wardrobe under “clothing-I-would-not-be-caught-dead-wearing-in-Paris”. One of the hottest selling items, and one that I purchased myself, was a custom Nike FitDry t-shirt with the “I Run to Be…” phrase completed by the wearer.

Naturally I thought of Paris. Naturally I am always thinking of Paris. So naturally my Nike t-shirt reads, “I Run to Be… PARIS.”

Readers of my Blog may remember my February post last year, I. AM. PARIS.; a post I wrote after months of searching, with the help of my career counselor, to try and find a way to live my life fully and with gratitude. In February I wrote,

“Paris is romantic. Paris is organized chaos. Paris is attention to detail. Paris is a lifestyle that I aspire to. Paris is fashionable. Paris is edgy. Paris is kind but not too kind. Paris is challenging. Paris is delicious. Paris is smart. Paris is happiness. Paris is where I feel strong. Paris makes me want to get out of bed in the morning. Paris is history. Paris is wonderful memories and dreams about the future.”

This past year has been a year of learning. The marathon I ran on Sunday was the culmination of this year of learning.

I confess that I don’t love running the way real runners love running. For the past seven or so years I have been running out of necessity and convenience; running is an easy and inexpensive way to keep fit and doesn’t cut into my Paris (LV!) savings. In fact last year while working with my career counselor, she said, “Only run if you want to.” I didn’t want to. And for several months I didn’t run at all and spent my Saturday mornings happily watching Bachelor reruns. I did not miss running, not one bit. True I became a bit squidgier. So much so that when I glimpsed at my naked butt in the mirror on my 33rd birthday, I actually cried out in horror. But I still had no desire to run.

And then my husband told me about this “Tiffany marathon” and I entered the lottery on a whim thinking that no one ever wins a lottery on their first try. Wrong. I received my entry confirmation on April 21, 2010 and begrudgingly began my training.

Marathon training involves a lot of time to be alone with your thoughts.

Paris. Chris. How good Starbucks coffee tastes after a run. Legs hurt. Try not to throw up. Hate this song. Love this song. Is the horse too fat. Sleep. Panic about lack of direction. Mentally organize closet. LV bags front and centre.

Fortunate. As I began to build mileage spending my Saturday mornings on longer and longer runs, I started to think about how fortunate I am and how fortunate Chris and I are.

Gratitude. Over the past couple of years, I have watched some of my family and my closest friends go through extremely difficult times reminding me again and again that our lives can change in an instant, not necessarily for the better, and what we thought we had time to do, would get around to doing “one day”, suddenly disappears complicated by challenges far beyond our control.

It made me want to run more. It made me want to run harder. And I did. Despite an injury that kept me from training for five weeks, despite a pre-marathon trip to Paris that involved no running at all and excessive amounts of rich food and alcohol, despite fumbling to balance my training with my horse, and with being a somewhat not-so-horrible wife (sorry Chris!), I completed my marathon on Sunday, October 17, 2010, in 4 hours and 45 minutes.

Do something. I think I understand way more than most runners that running can be miserable. I have gone on more runs thinking, “I hate running”, rather than “I love running”. But running, broken down in its simplest form, at its core, is the act of going forward and no one can afford to take “going forward” as an inherent right.

I don’t care if its running, walking to work, dreaming of a trip to Africa, raising your family on organic foods, saving to own a Mercedes, opening your own restaurant, whatever. For me it’s Paris. But…

Do something because you can and because one day you won’t be able to. Do something because for every 1 second that you think it’s hard or scary or that you will get around to it later, there are probably at least 100 people who can tell you that is not the way life works

There are no excuses. I Run to Be… Grateful. I Run to Be… Paris.