What I Wore: Nice Would Be Nice

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This summer has been a bit of a letdown…at least weather-wise. Augtober is nearly over, and we maybe had 10 hot sunny days this month. All of this Canadian weather yo-yoing is making me wish I was still in Nice, soaking up the sun, lounging around on the pebbled beach, and eating way too much delicious food. I didn’t expect to like Nice as much as I did…but truth is – it was lovely – a perfectly relaxing getaway after the craziness that was Paris. And now, I am itching to get back to the South of France. Does anyone want to buy a little villa near Nice with me? Anyone?

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What I Wore: From Odette to Colette

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While I usually tend to avoid the touristy Latin Quarter in Paris, this year, it was on my “to go” list. Why? Odette. After seeing countless photos of those photogenic French puffs on Instagram, I knew I had to try them. So after a leisurely stroll from our Airbnb apartment, we found ourselves in front of Odette. The place was tiny with limited seating, so we grabbed some petit-choux, and began to devour them right on the street. My verdict – they were ok. The coffee ones were my fave, but in general, I found them way too soggy and not as good as the ones from Nadege in Toronto. Nadege offers petit-choux that are light, fresh, decidedly not soggy, and so very flavourful. They may not be quite as pretty as Odette’s, but in my opinion, they are way superior in all other aspects.

After our petit disappointment, we walked back towards our Parisian apartment, exploring rue Saint Honoré. As some of you may know, rue Saint Honoré is home to one of the coolest shops in Paris – Colette, so of course, that’s exactly where we ended up. We nosed through the store’s trendy book selection, picked up some souvenir postcards, featuring Anna Wintour and other fashion notables playing soccer (it was World Cup season after all), and gawked at the gorgeous clothes displayed on the second floor – designs from Christopher Kane, Carven, Kenzo, Mary Katrantzou, Comme des Garcon, and so much more. There wasn’t a huge breadth of items available, but the curated pieces were enough to set my heart aflutter.

Sadly, I limited myself to postcards, and a fragrant melon that I picked up at a fruit stand nearby. The melon was sweet and the postcards were adorable, and even if I didn’t buy any fab clothes, my day was still quite perfect. As cliche as this may sound…I don’t need much when I’m in Paris…a walk through its charming streets is all it requires to make me realize just how freaking lucky I am.

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Inside Coco Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon Apartment

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Coco Chanel – designer, muse, visionary – was one of the world’s most complex and enigmatic fashion powerhouses. One whose life and life’s work still transfix and inspire hordes of fashion lovers (myself included) decades after her passing. So when I received an invitation to sneak a rare glimpse at Mademoiselle’s private apartment on rue Cambon in Paris, I may or may not have done a few cartwheels around my living room to celebrate.

On the morning of my appointment, I stopped to enjoy the anticipation of the big moment by grabbing a coffee and some viennoiserie at the nearby café, watching the rushing passerby, completely oblivious of my big day. The enormous grin on my face did nothing to conceal my joy.

Upon arriving at 31 rue Cambon, I was treated to a private walkthrough of the Parisian flagship boutique, where one could find an impressively extensive selection of Chanel pieces. Looking for that rare bag? Boutiques on rue Cambon and rue Montaigne are your two best bets. However, word to the wise – it’s ridiculously easy to get distracted from your original mission and end up overspending. It’s all just too tempting, and as I mentioned, the selection is amazing. Proceed at your own risk.

After having the boutique all to myself (crazy, I know), I was warmly welcomed and taken up the winding mirrored staircase on the chicest tour of my life.

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On the second floor above the Rue Cambon boutique, I was guided into the Haute Couture salon floor with its large sitting room, several salons, and piece-de-resistance – the haute couture closet. Hanging inside was the spring 2014 Haute Couture collection, worn by the likes of Keira Knightley, Diane Kruger, and Rihanna. And since those exquisite pieces are one-of-a-kind, I actually got to touch the exact outfits that those beautiful celebs got to wear. Don’t be fooled by Rihanna’s seemingly curvy bod, that purple dress she wore to the fall 2014 show was definitely an XS or smaller.

Seeing the actual haute couture pieces inside the closet was pretty surreal. I got to see just how intricate every detail is on each and every single piece, and how dazzling haute couture is in real life. Oh, to one day be able to wear one of those dresses…what a dream!

Before I could embarrass myself by asking to try on one of the dreamy haute couture gowns, I decided that it was time for the main event – The Apartment. One more flight of stairs later, I found myself sitting on the exact step Coco used to favour while her collections were presented below, silently observing reactions of the attendees – the mirrors weren’t there for aesthetics alone. After several photos on said step, we proceeded to the entrance door, ready to walk into the heart and soul of Chanel.

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Right away, I was transfixed by the abundance of patterns, textures, and colours –  ornate lacquered Chinese screens attached to walls like super fancy (and expensive) wallpaper, golden baroque mirror in the shape of both Place Vendome and the infamous Chanel no. 5 bottle stopper, a pair of Venetian Blackamoors (Coco’s “friends”) welcoming all guests, mixed with decidedly modern sand-coloured carpet. I take refuge in beige because it is natural, and red because it is the colour of blood”, Chanel said once, and that’s precisely what I remembered, standing in that entrance hall.

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Highly superstitious, fond of crystals, camellias, stars, lions (she was a Leo after all), and other animals (always in pairs), Chanel filled her apartment with a myriad of knick-knacks – symbolic treasures that she collected over the years, and that inspired her. She designed the crystal chandelier in her living room, also full of important Chanel symbols – interlocking Cs, W for Westminster, number 5, camellia flowers (makes for a fun game of I Spy!). And that suede beige sofa that could easily belong in a modern living room – also Chanel’s custom design – one that inspired the iconic quilted bags.

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As the tour went on, I learned many fascinating tidbits from Chanel’s life, about her childhood, her lovers, her friends, her work…nearly every piece in that apartment had a story to tell. Virtually untouched, the east-meets-west apartment still serves as a place of inspiration for Chanel’s designers and staff, and no wonder – even though she’s been gone for over three decades now, Mademoiselle’s presence is still felt inside the ornately decorated rooms. And every bit and bob from the apartment could pop up unexpectedly in a bag, a clasp, a garment print, or even influence an entire collection, as some have in the past.

At the end of the tour, standing in the now familiar entrance hall, I was invited to sit down in the infamous Horst chair. I tried to look pensive as Chanel had in the iconic photo, but all my face could do was smile…awed and happy.

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And while the apartment may not be open to the public, I recently learned that Sam Taylor-Johnson’s photographic exhibition of the private apartment of Mademoiselle Chanel, “Second Floor”, will open at Saatchi Gallery in London this September. The series of 45 photographs captures the private rooms of Mademoiselle Chanel at 31 rue Cambon in Paris, giving visitors a glimpse at Coco’s fascinating life. “Shooting at Coco Chanel’s apartment was an unexpectedly absorbing experience,” says Taylor-Johnson. “The essence of Chanel is firmly rooted there in all of her possessions and I truly believe that her spirit and soul still inhabit the second floor.” I couldn’t agree more.

“Second Floor” Exhibit
Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ King’s Road
Friday September 12th, 2014 until Monday September 22nd, 2014
London, SW3 4RY
Free admission

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What I Wore: Let Them Eat Cake

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The Palace of Versailles has always been a place I wanted to visit eventually…what with all the drama, intrigue, excess, and history surrounding this royal château, I knew it would be worth the trek. The only reason that I have avoided visiting Versailles for so long is the fear of endless line-ups and tourists. Usually, with the exception of the Eiffel Tower, we try to stay away from crowded and touristy places, but this time around, we decided to just go for it.

As expected, the place was teeming with people…SO.MANY.PEOPLE! But not to worry, after about 30 minutes of waiting for our tickets, and then lining up to get in, we were finally inside Marie Antoinette’s stomping grounds! The palace was definitely very impressive, with rooms full of beautiful art, ornate doors (and ceilings, and floors), and of course, plenty of historic tidbits to glimpse and learn – totally worth it the wait.

But as cool as it was to see the Hall of Mirrors and the grand apartment de la reine in person, the gardens were a highlight for me. After hours of frolicking around, lying in the grass, sipping iced chocolate on Angelina’s terrace, and taking way too many photographs, I don’t think we covered even half of the massive grounds. I guess another trip to Versailles is in order…maybe next year!

Have you ever visited Versailles? What was your favourite spot? Share in the comments.

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What I Wore: Eye See Paris, Eye See France

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As you can see I am stretching my vacay posts out…mostly because I want to relive those fun moments over and over again, and that’s what these blog posts help me do. So, I hope you don’t mind too terribly.

This dress is one of my absolute faves. It was love at first sight, and after a quick alteration (it used to have a mock turtleneck), it was perfect - eye-catching and fun. I wore it in Paris to celebrate my friend Al’s birthday (Gemini sistahs), and after yet another visit to the Eye-ffel Tower, we spent the rest of the day in a leisurely state of bliss – enjoying a delicious lunch with a perfect view at Frame, grabbing a dessert at Laduree, hiding from the rain at CHANEL on Rue Montaigne, enjoying the scenery at Les Invalides, after hours of wandering around the city. It’s so easy to just do nothing in Paris. Every street oozes with charm, and every streetside cafe beckons you to seat down and take in everything and everyone around you. The city makes you both speed up and slow down, and I couldn’t love it more.

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What I Wore: Disneyland Paris

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Last year was the first time I’ve ever gone to a Disney park, and it was everything I dreamed it would be and more. Both le bf and I had such an amazing time that we were itching to go back. So when the opportunity to visit Disneyland Paris presented itself, we couldn’t be more excited.

To kick off my birthday celebrations, we stayed at Disneyland Paris’ Sequoia Lodge for 3 nights while visiting Paris, and it was lovely. Surrounded by lush greenery, the lodge was tucked away in a quiet spot a brisk walk away from Disney Village and both parks. Staying this close really allowed us to take advantage of our time at Disneyland, and visit as many attractions as we could, while still being able to visit Paris every day (city center is only a 40 minute train ride away).

On our first day, armed with VIP Fast Passes (free if you stay at a Disney hotel), we made a dash for the Tower of Terror, before jumping on the Rock’n’Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, Space Mountain: Mission 2, Big Thunder Mountain, and Indiana Jones™ and the Temple of Peril. After getting our thrills, we ran around the Alice in Wonderland labyrinth (so fun!), explored Agrabah, and just wandered around Main Street, USA, devouring ice-cream and feeling like kids again.

At night, we watched Disney Dreams! show, complete with fireworks, water fountains, fire, lasers, lights, and some of my fave Disney characters and songs, alongside hundreds of other visitors from all over the world. It was magical.

I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend a few days in Paris – we had a wonderful stay at Disneyland Paris, and I am now determined to visit every single Disney property in the world. I still haven’t been to the ones in Orlando, Tokyo, Hawaii, Hong Kong…2 down, 4 more to go!

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What I Wore: This is 30

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First of all, I apologize for the million photos in this post. Most of them feature my love affair with the Eiffel Tower from various angles and I just couldn’t narrow them down. Sorry (not sorry). With that said, this is what I wore on my first day of being thirty.

While in my early twenties, thirty-somethings seemed practically ancient to my silly young self, but I am happy to report that I don’t feel different, even though I am no longer the youngest person in the room. I also didn’t suffer too much anxiety over the big 3-0…after all, I consider myself extremely lucky to have a wonderful husband, supportive family, great friends, and of course, this little blog. Growing up, I used to make those “before 30″ lists, which included “swim with the dolphins” (done!), “skydive” (nope), “graduate” (yup), “get MBA” (not yet), “open an RRSP account” (check!), “visit the Amalfi Coast” (3 times), among many other cool/cliche/silly/important/unimportant tasks. And while I definitely haven’t checked off every item off those lists, I don’t feel like I let myself down because I didn’t complete them by the time I left my twenties. That just means I’ll have fun accomplishing them in my thirties.

Having said all that, entering a new decade wasn’t a daunting prospect for me. Back home, each new decade is welcomed with lots of fanfare and celebration, and so in that tradition, I also made quite a big deal about my birthday this year (according to le bf) and decided to jet off to Paris and the South of France to celebrate. And while I’ll have more travel posts coming, this is what I wore on my actual birthday.

That day, le bf and I wandered aimlessly around Paris (mostly around the Eiffel Tower, as you can see), enjoying the views, stopping in at random cafes for a drink, savouring a delightful lunch at Laduree, and a delicious dinner at Shangri-La Paris, wrapping up our night with an impressive Disney Dreams! show at Disneyland Paris. It was a sticky hot day, we walked so much, our feet were buzzing, my hair and makeup were a huge mess by the time dinner time rolled around, but we didn’t care – nothing could spoil this imperfectly perfect day. That night, I went to bed with a huge grin on my face…yes, I may be getting older, but the adventures along the way make it totally worth a wrinkle or ten. Bring it on, thirties!

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Lupita Nyong’o Covers American VOGUE

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Finally an American VOGUE cover I can get excited about! After the disaster that was Kimye cover, I was so pleased to see the gorgeous Lupita Nyong’o on the cover of the July 2014 issue. And while the styling of the cover itself is pretty blah, her beauty radiates and improves it tenfold. Luckily, the rest of the photos are much better. Set in Marrakech, this shoot really inspired me to look into packing my bags and jetting off to Morocco for a week – to explore the bazaars, chill at the hammam, and just lounge around looking drop-dead-gorgeous and Lupita-like. I mean…that photo of her on the couch…she looks incredible!

So there you have it…first VOGUE puts a reality TV famewhore on the cover, and then follows up with an uber-talented loveliest and smartest actress around…Colour me confused. But since an American VOGUE cover is till a huge deal (sorry, Victoria Beckham), this is yet another win for Lupita, who’s already had a pretty kick-ass year so far. You go, girl!

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Travel: Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto Staycation

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The month of May was more than a little crazy. Apart from helping organize the Blogger Bazaar event, last month I also finished a quarter-end at work, filmed not one, but two Styled By Nelia videos, hosted an ALDO A-List party, participated in an Aveda photoshoot and photo exhibit, all the while preparing for yet another month-end. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun doing these things, but doing them on top of my 9-5 job made me feel more than a little stressed. Knowing that yet another month-end was staring me square in the face, I knew that a staycation was in order. So last Sunday, le bf and I packed our bags, and took the 15-minute Car2Go ride to Toronto’s Shangri-La hotel, where we had a room booked for one night of fun and relaxation.

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ROOM

Shangri-La is one of the most prestigious hotel brands in the world. Synonymous with paradise, Shangri-La is all about providing sophisticated luxury, transporting you to a place of deepest calm and relaxation. The moment we walked into our suite, we were wowed by the size and design of our room. With a spacious living room, two stunning bathrooms, welcoming bedroom, plush robes, marble and velvet finishes, two closets, and a Nespresso machine, our suite felt more like a sleek condo in the city than a hotel room. There were labelled buttons everywhere, to make turning on the lights, as well as opening and closing the sheers and drapes a breeze, a built-in TV in the master bathroom vanity, and an in-room iPad for our room-service ordering ease. In one word – impressive!

After checking out our room, we dropped off our things, and took the elevator down to the lobby for the first stop on our staycation itinerary! Shangri-La’s afternoon high tea!

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HIGH TEA

Having heard great things about high tea at Shangri-La, our expectations were pretty high. When we arrived, our VAWK-clad hostess handed us a tea menu and asked us to choose our favourites from the 68 varieties on hand at the hotel. After taking our time to peruse the tea library (68 teas is no joke!),  we settled on Sunrise Serenade flowering tea. While we waited for our tea service, we had a chance to fully take in our surroundings. While the high tea service is held in Shangri-La’s Lobby Lounge, nothing about it felt “lobby-like”. We were seated on a comfortable sofa overlooking a large fireplace, and while the lounge was full of people, our high-tea experience felt very intimate.

When the tower arrived, I didn’t hear a single thing our hostess told us about it (I asked her to repeat it for me later), because I was ready to dig in and everything looked amazing. We started at the bottom, and tucked into lobster and chive rolls, cucumber apple and cream cheese, roasted chicken with grain mustard, and egg and watercress sandwiches with crispy Serrano ham on top. De-li-cious! Next up, we spread some creamy Devonshire cream and jam on warm, flaky chamomile scones, and they were gone in a flash. I am not usually a fan of scones, but these were divine. We moved on to the much-anticipated dessert plate, which consisted of a chocolate ganache cake with raspberry compote, passion fruit ball, berries and citrus pastry, and a pineapple verrine. Once again, everything was delectable, bursting with flavours. Even half of each rich pastry was enough to satisfy me and my sweet tooth. Once the tower was polished off, we sat back, sipping our fragrant tea, more intense with each cup, looking at the fireplace, and enjoying the soft piano music playing in the background.

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SPA

After our delightful high tea experience, we went back to our room, put on our bathing suits, and headed to the Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris. Having visited the spa a few times before, I already knew what to expect – pure relaxation. We chose Hammam and Gommage for couples – 15 minutes in a high-intensity steam room to detox, followed by a full-body scrub. Hammam and Gommage is a great intimate treatment to share with a loved one, and I am really glad I finally brought le bf to experience it with me. The 15 minutes inside the steam room are very peaceful, and let you be alone together, breathing in and out, letting your pores open up, and rid your body of toxins. While the scrub treatment just feels incredibly nice, and can be as intense as you’d like.

Post-gommage, we marveled at our smooth, baby-soft skin, and relaxed some more in the little outdoor oasis on the patio of the spa, refreshed with some grapes, sweet Moroccan mint tea, and baklava. We probably could’ve stayed there all day, but we chose to pay a visit to the hotel pool instead. Private cabanas equipped with personal TVs, and stunning views of Toronto all around, made for a cool and refreshing post-spa visit – simply blissful.

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What I Wore: The Happiest Place on Earth

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After 5 magical days in California, our Disney Vacay was over and it was time to say good-bye. On our final night, we had one last superb gastronomic experience, this time at the swanky Carthay Circle Restaurant, where we devoured Fire Cracker Duck Wings and delicious Fried Biscuits, and shared our favourite Disney moments. It had been such a wonderful experience travelling with some of Toronto’s loveliest people, that le bf and I truly did not want to leave.

After dinner, we had 40 minutes before the famous World of Color show, so we decided to do one final run on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. While in line to get on the ride, I may or may not have made a joke about getting stuck on the ride, and what do you know?! WE GOT STUCK! Well, not actually stuck, but stopped for safety reasons before we could even go up. But no matter, after about 20 minutes, we were ushered into another lift, and we still had a blast, and made sure to pose at the top for a very memorable pic…and we even got strangers to pose along with us! Without a doubt, the Tower of Terror was my favourite ride in the park…some people in our group even rode it FIVE times!

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After our terrifying (not really) experience, we literally ran back as fast as we could (heels and all) to watch the World of Color, and to be honest with you, there was no better way to end our trip than with that beautiful show. There were animated characters illuminated on fountain streams, songs that we all knew and loved, and even FIRE! It felt like the Bellagio show on steroids, mixed with our favourite Disney films, and it was spectacular. Definitely a must-see!

Still in awe from the show, we went on a few more rides, before walking back to our hotel and calling it a night. Our last day in Disneyland, just like the rest of the trip was nothing short of amazing…from our gorgeous hotel suite, to the unexpectedly gourmet food, to having breakfast with Chip and Dale, to running around like sugar-high kids from one amazing ride to the next – it was all so much fun, that le bf and I promised each other that we’ll have to come back again…and again to The Happiest Place on Earth.

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