Tour de France: Provence Bound

Provence Bound in a VINTAGE bleu, blanc, et rouge, PORTE DE VANVES FLEA (Photos by T. Brack)

"Wally" Simpson, Baltimore Sun,  (T. Brack's archives)

“Wally” Simpson, 1920, Associated Press 1936 (T. Brack’s archives)

By Theadora Brack

C’est l’été and the Pastis sipping is easy, so let’s celebrate with a summertime flashback, shall we? Grab the books, baubles, and bathing suits because this week we’re Provence bound. One of my all-time favorite hot spots in the world, especially when the country brocantes are jumping and the lavender is high!  I’ve added new tips and pics. Ready for lift-off?

But first scatter around, all history bugs. I’ve got another royal tale up my puffy sleeve!

Pop quiz: Where was fellow Baltimore belle Wallis Warfield Simpson on the day of King Edward’s abdication back in 1936?

Here’s the scoop: While Edward VIII bid farewell on the radio airwaves, “Wally” and her stylish BFF motored to Grasse, inland from Nice, and toured the Molinard and the Bruno Court perfume factories. According to the newspapers of the day: “Mrs. Simpson Calm; Takes An Auto Ride,” was the zippy headline.

Heck, I’ve had those days! Fully embracing flower power, lavender both soothes and re-energizes my spirits every time, transforming not only perception, but also attitude. I am a believer. In Provence, I once trailed a lavender truck flush with clippings as it slowly made its way to a distillerie les coulets (traditional lavender distillery), beaucoup miles out of my way because of its intense scent and the tranquil buzz it gave me.

EAU DE LAVANDE AND HABANITA BY MOLINARD

EAU DE LAVANDE AND HABANITA BY MOLINARD

La Maison Molinard

Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the Molinard factory in Grasse is still worth the journey. Located at 60 Boulevard Victor Hugo, the headquarters flaunts a swanky but cozy show room, outfitted with the Molinard family collection of antique Provençal furniture, perfect for cooling your heels after a long morning of sniffing it up on the town.

Even Queen Victoria paid a visit to stock up on her beloved Eaux de Cologne. Here at Molinard, you’ll not only get an eyeful of their eclectic collection of vintage bottles, labels, and advertisements, but you’ll also learn how perfume is made in Grasse. For a small fee, they’ll even help you create your very own signature scent. Talk about being a queen for a day!

My pick? It’s got to be Habanita. The powdery fragrance was created in 1921 as a product for flappers to scent cigarettes. Inspired by the sweet tobacco smoked by WWI Allied Troops, this leathery number with hints of lavender was re-launched as the real McCoy a few years later, coolly dressed to the nines with water nymphs by Réne Lalique. So wiggle on in your glad rags. Oh, la la.

La vie en rose

While touring in Grasse, I also recommend touring the Parfumerie Galimard and  the Parfumerie Fragonard, along with my personal favorite: the Musée International de la Parfumerie Grasse.

Duke and Duchess of Windsor, France, 1953 (Brack's archives)

Duke and Duchess of Windsor, France, 1953 (T. Brack’s archives)

 

Making a splash

Tip: Hold on to your turbans! Designer Paul Poiret is in the spotlight at the Musée International de la Parfumerie Grasse. “Paul Poiret: Couturier Parfumeur” shines through September 7, 2013.

Here’s the squeal: Paul Poiret (a.k.a. Le Magnifique) was the first couturier to create a perfume line. In 1911 he launched his “Parfums de Rosine” with a rousing Ballets Russes-inspired tented backyard shindig. Making leaps and bounds with the theatrical possibilities in garb, Poiret dressed his guests in his new “lampshade”-silhouetted tunics and silky “harem” pants. And thus was the birth of loungewear!

Wandering deep in Poiret’s personal garden of Eden, the party goers feasted and drank wine while cavorting on pillows and blankets embroidered in shades of green and red roses, too. Even Isadora Duncan made the scene and cut a rug like no other. The fête was a success. Word quickly spread about Poiret’s new-fangled scents and “trousers-dresses” for women. It might even say the news had “real legs.”

Ahead of the curve, yes, but it still took awhile for the jupe culottes to catch fire, not hell. “Unladylike,” the critics cried. When the rebelling fashionistas were first spotted sporting such duds in Paris, near riots broke out, according to a 1911 New York Times story.

The reporter wrote, “It is perhaps the American woman, with her love of freedom, who will adopt them for walking in preference to the tight hobbleskirts which would appear to be designed with the the express intention of impeding movement, a state of affairs which the modern energetic athletic woman was bound to ‘kick against’ soon or later. Now that  she can ‘kick’ literally as well as figuratively, what will she do? Will she take advantage of this new freedom offered to her?”

Fast Forward: Now throw on your hot pants and let’s take a spin around Provence. Time marches on!

Grasse Cite des Parfums, Le Jardin Public (T. Brack’s archives)

Grasse, France, c. 1885, albumen print, collection of Theadora Brack

BRACK Summertime 62

BRACK Summertime 3

BRACK Summertime 2000

BRACK Summertime 10

BRACK Summertime 11

BRACK Summertime 83

BRACK Summertime 61BRACK Fads 3

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84 thoughts on “Tour de France: Provence Bound

    • Thanks for the giggle, Roger! Here’s another interesting tidbit about Wally. Guess what she wore to her 34th wedding anniversary? Yes, hot pants! “The Duchess of Windsor Wears Hot Pants,” was the splashy headline. Oh, la la.

      According to a July 1971 story in Women’s Wear Daily, “The Duchess looked marvelous in Givenchy’s brown floral crepe pants covered with a floor length slit. To play up those royal gams, she wore pale hosiery, and Givenchy’s matching fabric shoes. To play up her eyes, the duchess wore a topaz and gold necklace that she found 10 years ago at the Paris flea markets.”

      I’m green with jealousy. I bet the flea market necklace was a stunner.
      Enjoy the week!
      T.

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  1. Here is one more for you on Wallis Simpson … Where did she honeymoon on her first wedding? That is correct – The Hotel San Carlos in Pensacola Florida. She was married to a Naval Officer who had just received his wings at Pensacola Naval Air Station. They also had their wedding reception at the San Carlos, also. Great post!!

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    • Frank, thanks for the interesting tidbit! The Hotel San Carlos (a.k.a. “Grey Lady”) was a beauty! When it was demolished? Boo. Hoo.

      I found your father’s 1940s photograph of the hotel on your site. By the way, I love your photographs!

      http://frankhardymademyphotographstwo.com/2011/07/24/san-carlos-hotel-in-the-1940s/

      And here’s one with the Christmas decorations. I think it was taken during the 1950s.

      http://frankhardymademyphotographstwo.com/category/san-carlos-hotel/

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      • Thanks for the comment. It was sad for them to tear the “Grey Lady” down, but at the time she was very run down and made downtown Pensacola look terrible. I really enjoy your blog and posts … I hope that my wife and I will be able to take a trip to Paris in a few years. My step-daughter has been several times and even lived there for several months with an exchange program from Southwestern Louisiana University ( I believe that this was the sponsoring school ). She minored in French at the University of West Florida. Thanks again … Frank

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  2. I was lucky that my host-mother took me to Provence to spend a weekend with her daughter – it’s really a place like no other and I’ll definitely go back if ever I’m in France again. The lavender is quite magical – to the eyes as well as the nose! I have a bit of a fascination with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I read a biography and saw W.E. (which was pretty good, actually) – and still have no real idea what kind of people they were and what exactly brought them together. Lots of strange stories and myths.

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    • YES. I am hooked on lavender! Where did you stay in Provence? And what did you think of the Madonna’s W.E. film. I really wanted to LOVE it. Perhaps I should watch it again. Thanks for the push! T.

      The top photograph of Wallis Simpson was taken in 1920, while she was living at the Hotel des Coronado (where Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot” was shot.)

      Published in 1936, here’s the photograph’s gossipy caption:

      “LONG BEFORE ROMANCE BLOOMED: This picture of Mrs. Wallis Simpson was made in 1920 when she was the wife of Earl Winfield Spencer and lived at Hotel de Coronado, which the then Prince of Wales, now Edward VIII, visited that same year during his tour of the United States.” (Associated Press, 1936)

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      • Don’t know how I missed this. July 2 was my bday, I guess I was preoccupied. haha. Anyhoo, to answer your question – I believe I was in St. Remy? We drove past all the ruins and toured some old castles on the way, and were there smack in the middle of an art fair where they had the most beautiful painted blown glass objects – I hardly knew what to do with myself. I’ve got photos somewhere I need to dig up. I am trying to open your “Just say cheese!” post and for some reason I get an error message. 😦

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  3. Ahh, lavender, one of my favorite things about Provence…along with food and wine. I think of Provence every time I look at my two lavender plants. 🙂 Thanks for the little trip, although I wish I were really going there, as I’m out of honey. 😦

    P.S. Tomorrow’s post–pictures of Coquette Patisserie’s offerings at Saturday’s market!! You asked for it, you’ve got it.

    janet

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  4. Wonderful post – just makes me want to find out more about the perfumes! Also love the archival photos and the history lesson. Tempted to be catty and say that Wallis and Edward got their outfits mixed up….

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    • Thank you! By the way, there’s also a Fragonard Musée in Paris, just a hop, skip and pirouette away from Opéra Garnier. It’s free. The gift shop is also fantastic. Here they display more of the museum gems. They have one of Elsa Schiparelli (Wallis Simpson’s favorite designer!) candle-snuffer-shaped number called “Sleeping,” created in 1938.

      And speaking of Wallis, I dig their smashing outfits! I think the polka dots work well with lines. Striking, I think. Comfortable, too. Did you spot the parasol?
      T.

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      • Love the parasol, and have to admit that I was so smitten with the outfits, I went out and bought 2 pairs of white/ecru linen shorts! Thanks for the inspiration! Hope to check out the Fragonard Musée someday. Great tip!

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  5. Hi Theadora! I always so enjoy your writing style. You are very good at what you do. It was quite effective with you took us back in history and had has jump back to the present day in this beautiful area. I also love lavender but alas, it cannot grow where I live because of the dry climate. Hope you are having a fabulous summer! ~Thea

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    • Ah, thanks, Thea! I loved your thoughtful words. I’m sorry to hear about the lavender void. I guess it’s possible to order the essential oil? I know! I know! It’s the same. However, it’s perfect for the pillowcases and beauty sleep. Each night, I sprinkle a drop or three for easy, breezy sleeping. Works like a charm. Thanks to the Tin Man, I’m now interested in violet water. I’m now on the hunt for a recipe.

      Enjoy your summer! I’m really looking forward to hearing about your new adventures!
      T.

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  6. Bonjour T! LM is glued to the TV each night now that the Tour is back on. He can follow the bikes, and I will meander through Provence with you. I have many happy memories of holidaying in Entrecasteaux…

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    • YES. The Tour de France! In celebration, I added a banner shot of Mont Ventoux, taken at the top. No, I didn’t bike there. But let me tell you, it’s one (two! round trip) scary car trip. Especially the downhill coasting! My knees trembled.

      Entrecasteaux! Did you ever create a post with your photographs? Let me know. Did you make it to Grasse? I think you did. Maybe I’ll follow in Edith Piaf little sparrow footsteps and retire there one day.

      Lovely!
      T.

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  7. Ah, lavender! So fragrant and medicinal! I also swear by the herb in its hydrosol form. Super-repairative for sun-damaged, scarred & acne-ridden skin. Soothes the soul and the complexion. Lavender probably also explains my love of herbs de Provençe…

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    • I’m also a big believer in lavender! Do you have a favorite brand? Favorite recipes? I’m now obsessed with French Green Clay. It’s great for the feet, hands and face. I’ve been adding olive oil, rose oil and lavender oil. Stay tuned for the post. And YES. I always add herbs de Provence (savory, fennel, basil and thyme) to my roasted chicken. Heck, practically every dish in cuisine repertoire gets the HDP treatment! Truth be bold. T.

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      • You don’t put olive oil on your face, do you?! If so, this acne-prone girl is so jealous! I had dry skin once & it was more than a novelty, it was an event! (Sadly, I’m not even exaggerating.)

        Green clay is my absolute fave for smearing all over my face. I’ve tried French rose clay & it doesn’t have that same effect…though you’ve given me a great idea to use it on my “beach feet”.

        Evan Healy has a wonderful (organic) skin line with a lavender cleanser, lavender hydrosol for a toner & (yup!) a green clay mask. I used the hydrosol so liberally that I started making my own. There’s a handy youtube video on the subject. The only thing, you need a brick & a lot of ice.

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  8. I have no lavender water ………..however, I do have violet and have run to splash over the entire house and skip about in delight. I shall ring up Wally and go for a quick motor in the country throwing lavender flowers from out convertible………….sipping on champagne and waving to the townspeople as they point and stare!! Delightful, dearest Theadora, just DELIGHTFUL!!

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    • I’m late! I’m late! It took some time to find you, Wally, and Virginia. Pleased as punch the three of you decided to stop a café for a roadside moveable. There you are! And YES. Everyone is staring and requesting your autographs. You look divine. ‘Smarveous! Wonderful, too. In my bucket bag, I have another bottle of champagne and a pound of cherries. Let’s hit the road and the countryside brocantes like there’s no tomorrow! T.

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    • My name is Elsa Schiaparelli and I approve this message! In 1931 “Schiap” designed a darling and darling silk tennis outfit with a divided skirt for the Spanish tennis player Lili de Alvarez. The English press hated it! However, it didn’t stop Lili from wearing the garb. She even donned it at Wimbledon! T.

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      • Ha! Of course Fashionista T would know the history of the tennis skirt! I actually wrote that on the treadmill, whilst wearing the “newest” style: the running skirt. Not too much different than a tennis skirt, truth be told, hope that doesn’t infringe on Schiaparelli’s original. (BTW, her name sounds very familiar…did she do anything else?)

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    • Thanks, Patti! YES. Wally loved clothes. Have you seen Cecil Beaton’s official “bride-to-be” photographs? They were taken in 1937 in the lush gardens at the Chateau de Cande. The lighting is perfect! She’s wearing the infamous “Lobster Dress,” created by Schiaparelli and Dali. They’re lovely shots! T. (For the love of surrealism, Dali wanted to spread real mayonnaise on the gown. Lucky for all, “Schiap” refused to give the artist the green light!) I’ll try to dig up a link.
      Enjoy the week!
      T.

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    • Merci! And speaking of perfection, I added a banner shot of Mont Ventoux. Making the climb in the automobile, I passed a few bikers. Talk about rough and tough pedal pushing! T.

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  9. Sshh. I’m lifting a glass of Whispering Angel Rose (Chateau d’Esclans) in the direction of Province. I’m intoxicated with the perfume of these exquisite purple flowers – for I’ve harvested my field of lavender. I’ve filled the enormous basket on my white bicycle and I’m peddling frantically after the Tin Man and his lavender filled convertible. This is a parade I MUST participate in. We’re airborne – off to join Theadora. The deliciously happy triumvirate – T, Tin Man and me in Provence.

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    • I finally made it, Virginia and Tinny! I’m right behind you in the art car and bike caravan parade. I’m in the shocking pink pedal pushers and ruby red bike! It took me awhile to find my sunscreen and black cat glasses and of course, more champagne, along with a basket of cherries. I did the picking. Perfection. Perfection. Whispering Angel Rose (Chateau d’Esclans) is an excellent choice! I’ve also packed lemon water. Maybe we’ll look for penny-sized ammonites as the sunsets?! T.

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    • Ah, Lanier. I really wanted to never, ever leave the Molinard Factory. It felt like home, inside and out. I got chills. I fell hard for the place. The gift shop also has an impressive library. Say, do you have a favorite Molinard scent? Big hugs, T.

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      • My favorite Molinard is Molinard Homme II …to quote me, “Wear this and you are transported to the Hall of Mirrors in Chateau Versailles flirting with some impossibly seductive courtesan, to the Opera house in the center of Paris on opening night of Les Troyens. Splash a little on your wrist and you will find yourself at Maxim’s with your cigar being lit by Collette. A little behind the ears and you will be drinking champagne from the slipper of Jane Avril at Moulin Rouge. Or you may find yourself climbing the stairs up to Sacré-Cœur at dawn with a sparkling flapper. A little spritz on the collarbone and you are toasting the glorious fireworks at the Exposition Universelle from atop the newly opened la Tour Eiffel, or just embarking from a 747 at Charles de Gaulle Airport for your first visit to France. It is all here in this wonderful timeless magical mystery tour of Molinard Homme II.”

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      • Oh, Lanier. How did I miss your Molinard post?! What a razzle-dazzle of a review. Molinard Homme II sure packs a potent punch, I’d say. My favorite line: “A little behind the ears and you will be drinking champagne from the slipper of Jane Avril at Moulin Rouge.” Sweet and sensuous to boot. T.

        Here’s a link to the entire post: http://sentsmemory.wordpress.com/tag/molinard/

        (Prior to visiting Lanier, pack your smelling salts. If you dig fragrance and delicious prose, you’ll swoon.)

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  10. It’s been too many years since I visited that area — one of my favorite places. Thanks for giving me a little armchair tour — I can breathe that lavender!

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    • Well, thank you for making the trip with us! We really lucked out with weather, yes? The blue skies, sunshine and lavender were on our side. What a day! Do you have a favorite village? T.

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      • Oh, so many. I stayed in Bonnieux for a week once and quite liked it. I didn’t get much time in Lourmarin but I’d love to go spend more time there. Love Gordes although I liked it even better when the Vasarely museum was still there. What’s your fave?

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      • YES. Bonnieux, Gargas, and Apt are on my list of favorites. It’s great to visit during the summertime. It’s so easy, breezy to hop from village to village by car. The outdoor country brocantes are everywhere, stocking with interesting and affordable treasures! T.

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    • Ménerbes! Lovely land. I’ve stayed in nearby Apt. I loved it there. Yes, there are beaucoup Roman sites in the area. The Pont Julien in Bonnieux took my breath away. Good. Golly! T.

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  11. Great post! Informative and lovely photos. I need that straw bale tractor in my life!!…..and I know I would have been one of those fabulous rebellious women!

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    • Everyone needs a straw bale tractor! I love the little guy at the wheel! And YES. You would have been one of the AB-FAB rebels! Are you a fan of Paul Poiret? A few of his duds are part of the fantastical “Paris Haute Couture” at Hotel de Ville in Paris. It closes on the 6th of July 2013. They even have a cape by Schiaparelli in shocking pink. It’s a show-stopper! T. (Enjoy the week!)

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  12. Amazing pictures… I lived for a while in the Rhone valley and weekends en Provence, between the Alps and the sea were magic! Such a lovely evocation… 🙂

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  13. My wife and I spent one of the most magical months of our lives in Provence several years ago. It almost seems like a dream now–driving through the lavender fields to visit village brocantes, with the air perfumed and mountains in the distance. Eating meals at outdoor tables just like the one in your terrific photos. Riding bikes to little country shrines. Everything felt so clean and clear and simple. Thanks for bringing back those sweet memories. I’m sooo looking forward to going there with her again someday.

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    • Martino, thank you for such a lovely description of Provence! YES. YES. YES. The brocantes are wonderful. They’re everywhere in the Provence during the summertime months. Even during the weekdays! Did you fossil hunt? I’m sure you did! T.

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    • Merci, Paris Paul! It’s difficult not to take a pretty picture in the south of France. YES. YES. Make time to visit the south. Great brand-spanking-new inspiration for your “Where is it Wednesday” pop quizzes, I do believe! T.

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    • As always, thanks for your kind words. YES. I am hooked on lavender, along with hunting for vintage photographs, magazines and perfume bottles. I love the top shot Wallis. The Baltimore Belle looks so happy. Enjoy the week! T. (I just spotted your Tampa photograph. Gorgeous.)

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  14. Wow, T! What a great post – love the idea of creating a signature scent (with a little professional help). But can’t imagine what it would be. Love your photographs and the nostalgia clippings – really atmospheric. Has Provence survived the English invasion of the eighties?

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  15. Provence and the Tour de France? I couldn’t wish for more – am avidly watching Le Tour from here in little old NZ and loving it! Can’t wait for the Mont Ventoux and Vaison-la-Romaine stages to take me back there, and to remind me of what I can look forward to next year. Love your story about the lavender truck and will definitely take in Grasse if we can.

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  16. Excellent tour, Mlle B.!!! Love all the archive images, but your shots of Provence take me back to 1982, when I visited (very) briefly, beforee taking the TEE back to Genova. I was stopped at Ventimiglia, and told by the conductor/passport inspector, “Vous etes une etrangere, Madame.” I replied, “Non, Monsieur, je suis une Americane!”, and haughtily lifted my chin as he dug out his thick book to see if I was on the ‘wanted’ list! Merci beaucoup!

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  17. Thanks for appreciating my post. I am fond of lavender as well but I use it a different way:

    Lavender Lemonade for the Grownups

    1 1/2 cup prepared lemonade
    1 to 2 shots of lavender liqueur
    Sugar for rimming the glass
    In a shaker, combine the lemonade and liqueur. Pour into a sugar rimmed glass. Martini glasses work nicely. Enjoy!

    Lavender Liqueur

    1/4 cup food grade dried lavender flowers
    750 ml premium vodka
    1/2 cup local honey
    In a glass container, combine the lavender and the vodka. Allow to steep for three days. Strain off the lavender flowers then stir in the honey. Allow the sediment to settle. Let the liqueur to rest for two days. Strain the mixture through a paper strainer to remove any remaining bits of flowers and sediment. Store in glass containers.

    Old Southern Georgia recipe, much nicer than any mint julep at the Kentucky Derby..

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  18. What a lovely post! I’d sure like to see that Molinard factory. There are L’Occitane en Provence stores in Chicago. They carry lovely lavender scents. I favor their lemon verbena liquid soap and lotion.

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  19. You are such an incurable romantic, Thea! Those two romance I one will live forever in our hearts as a testament to the “against all odds” kind of relationship.

    We went to Grasse last summer. We got there by rail from Cannes. Don’t you find the public bus so colorful and ridiculously unique? And all those perfume museums! How fun is that! My hubby suffered through it though. His nose is a little sensitive to these scents. He had to sit out in the garden after a quick tour so his Jose would stop itching.

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  20. Great post! I always thought the story of Wallace and Edward was interesting but I love how you put it against the backdrop of France. BTW, just wanted to say thanks for the follow on my blog.

    Like

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