French Lessons: Sealed with a kiss
10 Friday Feb 2012
By Kristin Wood
Napoleon Bonaparte probably isn’t the first person that comes to mind when one thinks of love letters, but for those of us who live for French history, his missives to the Empress Josephine are some of the most interesting – and inspiring—artifacts of his existence. His words smolder on the page:
I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.
Sweet, incomparable Josephine, what a strange effect you have on my heart. Are you angry? Do I see you sad? Are you worried? My soul breaks with grief, and there is no rest for your lover; but how much the more when I yield to this passion that rules me and drink a burning flame from your lips and your heart? Oh! This night has shown me that your portrait is not you!
You leave at midday; in three hours I shall see you.
Meanwhile, my sweet love, a thousand kisses; but do not give me any, for they set my blood on fire.
Who knew this controversial leader had such a way with words?! In today’s age of instant e-mails and text messages, there’s something delightfully sensual and personal about sending (and receiving!) handwritten letters. Something tells me Napoleon would never have deigned to pen his desires using Helvetica in Microsoft Word – nor should you. Here are some suggestions of our favorite stationers to indulge your inner poet, just in time for Valentine’s Day:
One of the most storied stationers in Paris (its founder, Emile, originally set up shop in 1880), Benetton features personalized, engraved stationery with various accents such as seahorses, treble clefs, peonies, and practically anything else you can imagine.
78 Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris
Olivier de Sercey
Since 1987, Oliver de Sercey has specialized in engraved stationery, correspondence cards, birth announcements, and holiday cards. It’s also a favorite of the über-chic Sofia Coppola (according to an interview in the March 2012 issue of Vanity Fair)!
96 Rue de Bac, Paris
While Kate Spade is admittedly not French, her whimsical Kate Spade Paper line appeals to the quirky but fashionable Parisienne in all of us. Bright colors and cheery subjects are staples of any Kate Spade product, and this line is no exception. I especially adore the “snail mail” stationery (featured at the left).
Available at katespade.com
Yet another long-famous Parisian stationer, Cassegrain originally opened its doors in 1919 and has since expanded to three locations around Paris. You’ll find not only engraved and imprinted stationery, but also specialty writing utensils and handmade leather goods.
422 Rue Saint-Honoré, 18 Avenue Mozart, 109 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Le Baisemain, a kiss of the hand, about the French-style kiss, considered by some out of fashion. Gallantly, he bend down from the waist and reached for my right hand. He took my hand as though it were a fragile butterfly about to fly away. Poised, he raised it…
Scarves à la Françoise: The lingua Franca for stylish women, by Barbara Redmond who shares her experience trying on scarves and tying them at the home of her French friend in Lyon. Arriving at the famous silk manufacture in Lyon, André Claude Canova, Barbara and her friend gently tapped on the window even though the shop was closed. The shop girl let them and they all enjoyed hours of playfully draping, twisting and knotting scarves and shawls. An experience spurred by the ubiquitous nature of women and scarves: our common language.
Imperfect Perfection: The new French woman, by writer Kristin Wood who reminds us of the words attributed to Henry David Thoreau, the famous American author and philosopher who eschewed material excess and extravagance… “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Kristin writes about the predicted trends of the “undone” makeup look, and the “de-blinging” of luxury items. What better place to introduce these two trends on a grand scale than in Paris?
Fashion trends from the street and the Rule of Five, by Barbara Redmond who on extended stays in Paris has seen fashion trends take hold. Still, she notices, the Parisienne never tries to fit in. Daring, carrying herself confidently, with her own inbred style, she moves quickly through the city, hardly disturbing its surface. Barbara writes about her “Rule of Five” game for spotting fashion trends.
Text copyright ©2012 Kristin Wood. All rights reserved.
Illustration copyright ©2012 Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.