My French Heaven


Category: Art de vivre & Design

My Japanese Heaven – Part 1 of 4 – Welcome to Tokyo!

I’m going to be completely off topic here, but I hope you won’t mind My French Heaven becoming Japanese for a few posts…


My birthday present this year was a two week vacation in Japan to visit my niece and her husband who live in Tokyo. What a trip that was. I chose to go at the end of November as I wanted to witness the leaves turning colors. What a good call that was! A photographer’s heaven…

There are so many things about that trip that I want to share with you, that I have decided to write 4 posts about it:

  1. Part 1: Tokyo and my impressions of Japan and the Japanese people
  2. Part 2: The countryside and a few travel tips
  3. Part 3: The gardens and temples of Kyoto
  4. Part 4: Sushi heaven and the Tsukiji fish market, style and craftsmanship


My Japanese Heaven – Part 1/4 – Tokyo and first impressions

Japan is such an iconic country and its culture so well known and admired around the world, that one cannot help landing there with tons of preconceived ideas about the place. I must say that did find everything I expected to find there from the temples to the old ladies in kimonos and great sushi. But I got so much more from this incredible journey. I knew the Japanese people to be very disciplined and serious for instance, but what I didn’t expect was for them to be so kind and friendly. So welcoming and delightful and every way. I also expected everyone to bow and smile and giggle. I was actually shocked to realize that all this actually came from the heart… Not one once of passive aggressive behavior here. What you see is truly what you get! What a noble people the Japanese are!


Here are a few things about the Japanese culture that I found most remarkable:

  • Traditions are very important. People show great respect at all times, especially for their elders. Young people and old people still wear kimonos. Especially on weekends.
  • Everyone is extremely polite and disciplined. Lines form everywhere, even to cross the street.
  • Most people seem very serious (like VERY serious) and quite formal, but they are just focused on the task at hand and will smile at you as soon as you address them. To me, one word says it all about Japanese people: KINDNESS
  • They always think of the other person first. For instance, a lot of people wear surgical masks. I thought at first that they wanted to protect themselves from pollution, but they wear them mostly when they have a cold because they don’t want to infect other people.
  • Bow + give a genuine smile + say hello. Then ask your question. Remember, politeness and genuine care first!
  • You eat the best sushi in restaurants that ONLY serve sushi. The chef, usually the owner, will only serve the very best. This means that any ingredient that isn’t up to par that day will not be used. This depends on what is or isn’t available at the market that day. You will eat 10 to 15 pieces and they will be served one by one. But more about my sushi experience in part 4.
  • Japan is extremely safe. No crime whatsoever it seems. I’m told that the mafia takes care of petty thieves. The police seems to focus mostly on traffic. Over the course of my 2 week stay, I drove more than 2000 Km and only saw 1 police car on the highway. Not one cop in sight in the city except for a few traffic attendants here and there.
  • If cleanliness is next to godliness, they’re all so close to God they can touch the guy’s beard!
  • Japanese people LOVE their dogs and truly consider them as their children. They are the best groomed pets I have ever seen!
  • A lot of people seem very shy. They never say no. They’ll find a way to make you understand that they don’t agree with something, but always through subtle body language. It’s your job to read between the lines.

OK, enough bla bla. Here is the first batch of photos:

Lessons learned: A year in My French Heaven

These days, you just need to press enter on your keyboard and Facebook will compile all of your pictures to create a little presentation of the past year in your life. While I think that’s quite a practical little trick, I will try to do it the old fashion way, praying that the result won’t bore you to death. Here is a year in My French Heaven and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

FEBRUARY: Melanie J. had hired me for 12 Foodie Days in June of 2013. She wanted to come back to Bordeaux that fall to spend more time with me but couldn’t make the trip. So she invited me to spend two weeks with her in Miami instead. I hadn’t been back in the States for almost a decade and had been dreaming of a proper rack of baby back ribs since January 2005. We had some fabulous dinner parties for Melanie’s friends and I cooked what I still believe was the finest coq au vin I had ever made… Lessons learned: my guests tend to become dear friends and then I feel bad about charging them when they come to Bordeaux. Not a good business strategy! From now on, I will treat my guests as poorly as possible. (just joking of course! Please come visit me!!) Another important thing I was reminded of: life without ribs isn’t worth living! Oh, and Art Deco rules!


APRIL: another one I couldn’t resist becoming friends with is Mimi (Chef Mimi’s Blog) who purchased several Foodie Days for herself and her lovely daughter Emma. We had the best of times. All we did was sight seeing and eat for 5 days. Emma doesn’t eat meat, so it was a great opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone and come up with new seafood recipes. Mimi is a great epicurean. Watching her eat cheese on warm baguette with her eyes closed was one of the highlights of my year! I’m being serious! Lessons learned: ladies who eat cheese and real bread with their eyes closed are special!


MAY, JUNE, JULY, AUGUST and SEPTEMBER: I had so many guests over the Summer that I even “had to” stop blogging. Yes, I know, I’m making excuses… Anyhow, from fellow bloggers like Conor and his lovely wife to Jennifer to hard core Foodies like Carl J. and Gregg M. to my dear friends Diane, Caroline, Elizabeth, Patty and their respective Michaels and of course Dany (who had to drive all the way from Barcelona just to show off his new Porsche) it has been a never ending farandole of the most fantastic people you could ever meet. Lessons learned: in business, people say you should find your niche. In life, I say you should find your tribe! I have finally found mine and they all love to eat and drink and be merry :-)


OCTOBER, NOVEMBER: I took some time to travel and reconnect with loved ones. First I went to Brittany to visit my nephew François. I had never been to that part of France before. What a mistake! I first visited Mont Saint-Michel in the lower part of Normandy then drove down to the Quimper area where François lives. I ate crêpes and galettes for breakfast, lunch and dinner and came home with an extra 5 pounds… The second trip was to Japan to visit François’ sister Alice, her husband and my two adorable grand-nieces. The trip to Japan was my birthday present this year. It was a life changing experience for me. First time in Asia. Tokyo, Fuji, Nagano, Kyoto… Absolutely breathtaking in every way. I will soon post about these two trips in more detail! You see, I was living in the states for the whole decade when François and Alice were teenagers. When I moved back to France, it was their turn to move away to college, so we never had a chance to really get to know each other. Now it’s done and these “new” relationships are what I am most thankful for this year! Lessons learned: don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them. It is never too late to get to know someone you love and show that you really really care about them. Note: I will let you guess which of the following pictures below are of Brittany and which are of Japan :-)


DECEMBER: a new website for my Foodie Days that I hope you’ll enjoy (will be up and linked on Monday) and of course Christmas. I have spent quite a bit of money this year. Mostly on Charlotte who begged me for a new clutch, but also on a computer and the camera of my dreams. Travel isn’t cheap either and my philosophy is that cheap travel is OK, but great travel isn’t cheap… So, come Christmas, I must say that I didn’t have much money left for presents. The “problem” is that I am a Christmas freak and I HAVE TO give a present to each and every family member. So I decided to frame some of the family pictures I had taken this year and use that. It was a big success. Lessons learned: never run out of empty wooden frames :-)

That’s it for now. I wish you all (all y’all, as they say in the South) the very best for 2015 and I thank you so much for your continued support and friendship. I love you guys very much. Very much indeed!

To Papy Choux with love!

World War 1

On November 11th we celebrate the lives of the 18.5 million brave souls who fought for our freedom in the tranches of WW1.

For our family, it is also a special opportunity to remember our dear “Papy Choux” (grandpa cabbage). He was my great-grandfather. We gave him his nickname because he was an avid gardener and planted more cabbage than anyone else in town.

World War 1

Papy Choux was one of the Lucky” ones, as he lost his leg quite early in the war and was sent home in the Summer of 1915. He was a farmer in the Dordogne before the conflict started. He obviously couldn’t keep on working on the farm with his injury. That’s when he decided to move his family to the Bordeaux area and started the wine trading business we still run today.

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Papy Choux lived a long and happy life and died of old age at 98 in 1981. I feel so lucky to have known him. He told me so many amazing stories…

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Here are a few pictures of the old farm (and the lady who rented it from us after the war), Papy Choux himself and the 15th Dragon Company on the eve of their departure posing in front of one of my grandfather’s mercantiles. The hospital pictures are of him between the time he was injured and the time he actually came home. I also took a few shots this morning at the remembrance ceremony of some local men who participated in full uniform. They looked very smart indeed. Some of them were smiling which was quite fitting as people thought the war would only last a few weeks and left with high spirits…

World War 1

Thank you Papy Choux for your courage and all your love. We think of you often and we miss you…

When a grand castle becomes a home

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

My friend Corinne and her husband André are what we call in French “des amoureux des belles pierres”, which kind of translate like “lovers of beautiful stones”. But “belle pierres” means more than just pretty stones, it means an old home that has soul and a history. It is about “cachet” and class and history and authenticity. That’s it! Authenticity!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

And so Corinne and André bought a château near mine a few years back. It is called Château Latour Ségur. It is almost a thousand years old and is nested in a large park with magnificent old trees. Oaks, Lebanese cedars, linden trees… It has a large pond in the back, a rose garden up front and an amazing vegetable garden and orchard at the end of the grand alley. Then there are grand stables and barns and so on and so forth.

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

As all great people, Corinne and André are animal lovers. There are many dogs running around the château. And chickens and geese and…

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A place like this, so large, lost in the trees at the end of a vineyard could look quite bleak and feel oppressive. It takes a lot of love and talent to make it all look as colorful and bright and full of life as it is. These people are madly in love with their home and they have renovated it with so much care and taste.

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Many wealthy people from all over the world buy their dream home in France. They invest in a grand castle and strip it bare. What they’ll typically do is a complete overhaul rather than careful renovation. They end up stripping the soul away. They don’t understand that these stones have memories. They don’t get that old sometimes is SEXY. They do a complete face lift when all the place really needs it a good glass of wine a pretty scarf and a night out with the girls… You see, I, for one, like a woman with wrinkles. It tells me she’s laughed a lot and i’ll probably have a blast with her around…

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

At Latour Ségur you will find beautiful accommodations and a state of the art spa. This place is truly magical and the couple who brought it back to life are very special indeed!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Oh! And André, although he’s pent most of his adult life in the States, is from Belgium! Needless to say he always has the best beer in the fridge and makes “French” fries like noone else!!!

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heavenLatour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

Latour Ségur - A heaven in heaven

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