Thursday, September 19, 2013

Living Room Redux

Living Room Redux

Pottery lamp

Capel Rugs rug

Wall art


Zebra ottoman

Authentic Models star furniture
$375 -

Living Room Redux

Living Room Redux

Pottery lamp

Capel Rugs rug

Wall art


Authentic Models star furniture
$375 -

Zebra ottoman

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Blues FOTD

Used the tarte Carried Away palette today. Their shadows are so subtle and beautifully matched. 

Iceland Air on lids
Hampton Waves on outer V and both lash lines
Seychelles Sand in crease

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Soul's Eye View

Another reason I love to travel by bike...

On any given trip to a new place, usually pretty far into the trip, maybe day four or so, maybe after you've been riding in too much heat, or the route was a bit too long, or went over terrain that was rougher than you liked, you'll come upon a view that just blows you away.

Now at that point you may be dehydrated, even bonking just a bit, and if you're like me, you didn't skip the wine at lunch, even though it does dehydrate you, but it's Europe—it's France or Italy or Germany or Austria, and you're in the countryside of those wonderful lands, where the grape vines grow in neat pretty lines, and the wine is just so good, so good it never makes it to America, and you'll have been looking at lovely countryside all day long while you struggle up hills, try not to get lost, make sure you know where your next meal and water is coming from, so basically you're bone tired. All of you is aching just a little, and some parts, quite a lot.

And then you see it—that place that seems to be brimming with God light.

I'm writing about this because it happened to us in the Loire Valley, this April 2013, and years before, in 2007, in the Veneto, the region near Venice in Northern Italy, it also happened. That golden moment, where two of us stopped, aghast, and wondered, wondered with a big huge sense of WONDER, as in Arthur C. Clarke-scale wonder, What is this place? Can we buy a house here? How would we live? Maybe we could afford just a small place here. And then we'd figure the rest out.

Since it happened on the last week-long bike trip, and then again on this one, I hazard that it might be a bike tour thing. I'm guessing it also happens on long hiking trips in the Old Country, on any kind of nice rural traveling vacation in which your transportation is, well, you.

That sense of beauty, of the sublime, is worth the whole trip. And the splendor you see from day one of getting those bikes and the gear, and the road manual, then swinging your leg over the saddle and pedaling toward some new destination, is cumulative. It soaks into you and changes you. It goes hand in hand with the hard exercise you are doing to get where you are going. It's all building toward that tremendous moment of revelation that seems to come, like any good climax in any good story, toward the end of the journey.

In the Veneto, it came after a long day of up and down past mountains and lakes, through a Belle Epoque town, and then over vine-clad hills like patchwork until we came to the village of Rolle. I've got some pictures below, which don't do it justice. It doesn't look like Shangri-La or Rivendell, but it felt that way when we came to it.


Vineyards around Rolle, Veneto, Italy
Part of the glory of Rolle was the view from it down into a sweeping valley, lined with more patchwork vineyards. The sun was low in the sky, painting everything golden. And then up in the village, there was a shrine, I think to the Virgin Mary, and there were a lot of school kids there to see it. And as we were riding out of the town right by a steep drop and a low stone wall, their tour bus almost killed us. The rest of the ride we were in survival mode all the way back to the hotel.
Rolle, Veneto, Italy
On this last trip, the God light place was called Candes St. Martin, right where the Vienne river meets the Loire. We crossed over a busy bridge with trucks whizzing by us, always a bit of a hair-raising proposition, and then turned right, gliding downhill down along a river front lined with stone houses, and down a narrow lane, and came upon this church.
Church in Candes St. Martin, Centre, France
There it is, the God light - my camera captured it. And there is that little column supporting a fan vault, an architectural detail I'd never seen before in a Gothic church. I think there is a lot of fan vaulting in England, but I'd never seen anything like this in France, or in my medieval architecture class way back during the Punic Wars.

Square in Candes St. Martin
 There was a charming restaurant right in front of the church, where we could have stopped for a snack, but we were worried about making it to our next destination. I would have loved to tour the church, too, but I could tell my husband was tired, and would feel better just pressing on.
Pricey lunch offering in Candes St. Martin
 These prix fix things are often way too much food for too much cash, but it does look good, doesn't it?
Pretty limestone houses

Detail of Church Porch

Stoney and Me, GoPro and allJ
Just a few blocks down the road, we turned left and saw this, and both stopped and said, "Whoa!" If we hadn't been on bikes we probably wouldn't have taken this route, and we would have missed this. Even if we had taken this route, we might have been going too fast to see that tower.
Tower near Place de la Douve, Candes St. Martin, Centre, France
I could imagine Snow White's Evil Queen opening the curtains and peering out through that window in the tower every few minutes as she does in Disneyland.

There were so many random little magical views like this one, but at that moment, the beauty and the serendipitous feeling of the Loire just basically smacked us across the face. Thank goodness France knows what it has in these picturesque castles and has restored them.

When I was at Ciclavia about six month ago, a regular Los Angeles event in which a nice long circuit of road is closed to motorized traffic so people can ride their bikes, skates and scooters, I ran into a guy who told me about touring all around France, and he said the Loire isn't the real France because it's too touristy. That's probably true, but let me tell you, I didn't care. It worked for me.

If you haven't been to the Loire and are heading to Paris, you can get a day trip bus tour to some of the major chateaus of the Loire, and you absolutely should do it. You just won't believe your eyes.

Cheers, and thanks for visiting my blog!

Love, BeautyJones

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Video with Authentic Bike Footage from the Loire Valley!

I was able to pull together the best bits to make a new video of my Loire trip, People!

This one doesn't have lots of detail on Chenonceau, but you can see that here at my Chenonceau video.

Did I mention that did an amazing job? Altogether, this deluxe trip was a very good deal. We only got lost a couple of times, but the Garmin they lent us fixed that, although in certain lights, it was almost impossible to see the screen.

The food at each hotel was some of the best I've ever eaten, and I've eaten me some pretty fancy damn food, folks! More on the food later.

But the route was really amazing. It took us through lovely countryside and often brought us into town along places just lost in time. I had no idea so much medieval stuff was still left in France. But if you don't bike this area, you will miss out on much of its charm. The first time I visited here was on a bus tour, and it was great to see these places at all, don't get me wrong, but you have no idea just how much beautiful old stuff they have everywhere here. Little mills and towns along the winding rivers. It's so quiet and pretty, and you never know when you're going to come upon some thing amazing. You could probably keep going here year after year and not run out of new castles and villages and churches to see.

Bourgueil and Chinon, local Loire reds - very good - at Le Prieure, Chenehutte

Veal at Le Prieure

Souffle with sorbet at Le Prieure

Town of Langeais viewed from Langeais castle turret

A glass of Sancerre at Langeais castle
The local wines are unusual, and delicious. The local fresh vegetables and cheeses are so much fun to try. I am a firm convert to the wonders of the Loire, and to France as a destination! I'll be coming back and exploring much more!

Please enjoy the video!

And don't forget to comment below and let me know what you think, or ask questions!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Loire Valley: Amboise and Le Choiseul

One of the reasons I love to travel is that new places offer a sense of wonder, a moment of openness, a sense of exhilaration. Exquisite landscapes, spots that seem to transport one back centuries, delicious food—this latest trip to France included many.

So now, how to share them with you? How to give you just a taste of what Paris and the Loire were like for us? After our trip to France I have over 1600 images and hundreds of GoPro video clips to sort through, so I've started breaking things up by day, and I thought the first day of the Discover France ( Deluxe Loire tour would be a nice place to start.
Amboise Chateau
Amboise is a town along the Loire topped by a chateau with Gothic and Renaissance elements. What you see today is actually only about a quarter of the size of the chateau at its height. Due to the bloody aftermath of a Huguenot conspiracy that left the chateau festooned with corpses, the place fell into disrepair during the age of the Louis XIV, the Sun King. But in its heyday, the Renaissance king Francois I, a contemporary of the English king Henry VIII, grew up here. In the early years of his reign he made many improvements, turning it into a showplace.
Portrait of King Francois I, who made the Loire very fashionable for chateau building

Amboise, with the ramp up to the Chateau at left
Francois brought Leonardo daVinci to his court and set him up with an atelier in Clos Lucé, a charming brick and half-timber house that was connected to the Chateau by an underground tunnel. At that time Leonardo was designing cutting edge weaponry and machines, as well as architecture and art. When he moved to Francois's royal court, he brought the Mona Lisa with him, which is how it came to be in the Louvre.
Leonardo's Last Home, Clos Lucé

Turrets and towers of Amboise Chateau
Amboise afforded us many many wow moments. The power of the castle looming over the sweet little village on the river - pictures barely do it justice. To arrive in Amboise we got off the train and walked down to the river, crossing the bridge - all recommendations of Rick Steves, by the way.

View of Amboise from the bridge across the Loire
And if you don't know who he is, go to his website,, and then when you get the chance, watch his travel show on PBS. The man is a genius, because he has made the charms of traveling to Europe much more accessible to us chiefly monolingual Americans. His guidebooks are an invaluable resource. His tips save you frustration, needless waiting on line, and open up unforgettable experiences.
Pennants flying at Amboise Chateau
Because history passed it by in the 1600s, the town of Amboise retains a medieval charm. On a major corner is the well-known chocolatier and patisserie, Bigot. As you can see here, they play the Leonardo theme to the hilt.
DaVinci-Inspired Chocolates in Amboise at Patisserie Bigot
Frozen Desserts at Patisserie Bigot

Pastries at Bigot
More to eat at Bigot

Beautiful little houses, Amboise
If you are an architecture fan, you won't run out of eye candy in Amboise. So many little adorable houses.
Room at Le Choiseul, Amboise
Le Choiseul, our hotel, managed to be humble and four-star all at once, homey and comfortable with lots of little buildings, a pool, and a pretty garden. Our room was in the Hermitage, and it had its own little patio. And even though it was up against a fairly busy road running along the Loire, it managed to be quiet.
Brasserie in Amboise - order the petillant, the local fizzy wine. It is delicious, has a flavor profile more like prosecco than Champagne, and it's reasonable.

Sunset over Chapel St.-Hubert, where DaVinci may be buried, at Amboise

Leonardo on an Apocryphal Bicycle -
the bicycle sketch in his notebooks is believed to be a fake.

Amuse bouche at Le 36, Le Choiseul
The food at Le 36, the restaurant at Le Choiseul, was exquisite, bordering on molecular gastronomy. Of all the very swanky food we had in the Loire included - yes, included - in our bike tour, this was my favorite. The view from the restaurant was lovely and peaceful, over the river and its island.

I could say much more about just this one place, but I will stop here, as I dream of returning to the Loire.

Cheers, Beauty Fans!