Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The sun rises on a new year.

Wishing you a year of champagne and roses...

And as I promised, here is our very own Oracle, Benjy, gazing towards the horizon to figure out what 2009 will bring. Ask him questions on the year to come, and he'll answer - if cryptically, as is all oracles' wont.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Low Tide

Flying Benjy, our Oracle guest blogger will be here on January 1st to wish you all the best for 2009.

If you have questions about the year to come, Benjy is the one to ask.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vanity Fair Show At The LACMA

When I was in London last year, I was sorry not to have time to go to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Vanity Fair exhibition, with its striking poster - Gloria Swanson, snapped by the great Edward Steichen . What do you know? Now the show, like me, is in Los Angeles...

It was a magical afternoon at the LA County Museum of Art, as I took delight in seeing divine shots by some of my favorite photographers, amongst which Man Ray or Mapplethorpe. I especially loved the group portraits of actors, such as the one with a radiant, beautifully aged Vanessa Redgrave at the center, and the Shakespeare one, featuring Sir Ian McKellan in a suit and pair of Converse, as well as dear Dame Judi Dench.
I was thrilled each time I spotted one of my heroes: supreme French author Colette, dancers Anna Pavlova and Bronislava Nijinksa, James Joyce, Thomas Hardy, Igor Stravinsky, Louise Brooks... Sadly, as decades went by in the different rooms of the show, I spotted fewer and fewer people I worship; it seemed the photographs went on to focus on bland celebrities (the Miller sisters - why oh why?), models (Gisele may have a spectacular body but is she in any way inspirational?) and the like rather than on great minds.
Who are your heroes and icons?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Memories

Here are pictures of the Christmas I spent, as a little girl, in Tehran, Iran, in December 1978 - granted, a country on the verge of an Islamic and anti-American revolution was an odd place to spend Christmas... Since, I celebrated Christmas in many other more or less unlikely places, where I was visiting relatives (Uruguay, Chicago, the French Alps, Florida, Singapore, Los Cabos), visiting friends (Perth, Hong-Kong, Cairo, Seoul, New Delhi) or living (Paris, Beijing, Baghdad, Nairobi, and this year, Los Angeles). No matter where my family was, my sister and I were always showered with presents and love.

I don't know where I'll be in a year, but my dearest wish is to spend next Christmas with my parents and my sister. In the meantime, my mum sent me some typical French Christmas treats, including those supremely delicious marrons glacés, or candied chestnuts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mr & Mrs Smith's Favorite Boutique Hotels

I just received in the mail Mr & Mrs Smith's Global Shortlist, a beautiful guide to the most exotic and beautiful boutique hotels around the world... It turns out the Brits, never short on cool expressions, call a romantic/sexy weekend getaway a "Mr and Mrs Smith weekend", hence the name of the book and its parent website, which proposes booking services, special offers, and all kinds of hedonistic perks for members. Personally, I also love their stylish blog.

Lavishly illustrated, the book features a very carefully edited selection of unique hotels, reviewed by the likes of Dita von Teese, and is also packed with information about the cities it may take you to. But what I like most about it is its tongue-in-cheek tone. Really, what other guide teaches you how to mix a minibar cocktail? My own personal favorite feature, as a fervent linguist, is of course the useful phrases translated into many languages - perfect if you need to say "Take me to your leader", "I swear I didn't take the bathrobe!" or "Shaken, not stirred" in Thai or Portuguese...
I collect pictures of amazing, quirky bookshelves so the one above, from the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica, went straight to my iPhoto library. Any local bloggers who'd care to joint me there some time for a drink?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Let's Stay Home Today...

Southern California was drenched by violent rains these past few days, so why don't we stay in for this post?
As you know, I just moved to the Los Angeles area, so I had to buy some home basics such as kitchenware. When I found these (affordable) plates designed by Sweden's Sagaform (ah, give me Scandinavian design any time!), I couldn't resist. They come from A+R Store, a wonderful design trove in Venice, where I also picked a number of Christmas present - shhhhhh. Would you like us to visit the store together in another post some time?

Also, I recently read that computer keyboards are among the dirtiest, bacteria-laden places in the house. Ever since, I have been cleaning my darling MacBook's keyboard with a slightly damp cotton round and a few drops of tea tree oil. Do the same thing with your cell phone.
Oh dear, I never expected I would end up giving some cleaning tips on this blog! To make up for this, I promise my next post will be about super glamorous world travel - stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Revolutionary Road World Premiere

A couple of days ago, my friend Melinda invited me to attend the world premiere of Sam Mendes's new film starring Kate Winslet and Leo di Caprio, Revolutionary Road, based on the novel by Richard Yates. I wore my Nina Ricci beige jacket with black pants, a delicate, shimmering seashell bracelet and MAC's Russian Red lipstick... It was nice to look good when I literally bumped into di Caprio in the lobby, as we reached for the same bag of popcorn - oops.
No movie had reached such a very intimate, personal place inside me since The Hours. More than a story about the hysteria brewing under suburbia's spick-and-span inertia, it is also a love story that takes you to the edge of madness, as the two characters are torn between a desire to take risks and live life at its most intense (Winslet) or to make do with what opportunities and soothing routines the life of a 1950's fedora-clad employee may bring (di Caprio). The emotions are raw, the dialogue is haunting.

If you want to read more about glamorous events and film, check out my coverage of the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Or see pictures of Winslet and di Caprio at the premiere here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Season Cards

During the holiday season, I send masses of Best Wishes cards. For one thing, I think it's a great way to stay in touch with people you don't get to see or communicate with regularly - it's a way of saying you still think about them. I also love it that it allows me to share some beauty and art with people. Last year, my holiday cards, from Paris's Musée de la Mode, showed off a 1920's pattern. This year, I will be sending some of Fifi's lovely flowers, as well as illustrations by Japanese artist Yoshimoto Nara, who celebrates blissful dogs and eerie, sometimes naughty girls who live in his very unique, personal universe. The problem, of course, is that once I just don't want to part from all those beautiful cards now...

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Reel Inn

Literally across the street from the ocean, on Pacific Coast Highway, the Reel Inn is a relaxed fish taco joint that was warmly recommended to me by Heidi, who is a gourmet in addition to being a fab photographer. A few days ago, I had lunch there with my very dear friend Lucy, who flew in from Chicago to spend a couple of days in Los Angeles with me. We immediately took to this bright little place, with its oh so Californian surfboards hanging from the corrugated metal ceiling - as well as a cute bike. Not into tacos? You can order a slab of their super fresh fish, or other kinds of dishes listed on the blackboard.

Oh, and since we are on the topic of foodie LA, I need to mention Caffe Luxxe, on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, where I went with lovely Joanna, and froze with amazement and glee at the sight of what could only be alfajores - the typical dulce de leche filled baked treats that we have in my grandparents' Uruguay. They're home made and delicious.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Reading

I have been reading a lot lately: Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, Jonathan Lopez's The Man Who Made Vermeers, an engrossing true story of forgery in the Netherlands during World War 2, as well as Irene Pepperberg's extraordinary memoir Alex & Me, which chronicles her discoveries about a parrot's brain and cognitive abilities.
Composer John Adams's recently published Hallelujah Junction recounts his life and musical path. With humility, humor and a penetrating intelligence, Adams examines not only his own work but also 20th century music, putting enlightening words on many things I felt and couldn't (or wouldn't dare to) articulate. If you love music or any American adventure, this is a must-read - definitely one of the best books about music and the artist's creative struggle that I ever read.

More from my dear Nancy Mitford! Many of her books are out of print, but I finally managed to get my hands on copies of her first 2 novels, Highland Fling and Christmas Pudding. Her humor is supreme, and her portrayal of the 1920's Bright Young Things so much more insightful that Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies...

I love the former's retro cover.

Monday, December 08, 2008

SLS Hotel with Adrienne

My dear friend Adrienne, who works for Culture & Commerce, was in town for the opening of the SLS Hotel (465 La Cienaga blvd.), designed by Monsieur Philippe Starck, so I was treated to a private tour of some of the place's highlights. Starck went for a rich and dark baroque decor, with an emphasis on black and all kinds of silver hues, from glassy glitter to huge mirrors. The beauty of the details is just dazzling. The top picture was snapped in, er, the restrooms...
A stunning boutique displays crazy eye-candy items by fabulous designers, such as this tongue-in-cheek plate and this humongous faux-macaron candle.
Philippe, on t'aime! (We love you)

Friday, December 05, 2008

California Skies, Blue & Gray

I found that since I moved to Los Angeles, my photographs and posts focus much more on the outdoors, with an emphasis on seascapes of course; when I was living in Paris, my the huge majority of my pictures were taken in my apartment... Thanks to all of you who made the transition with me from Paris to California, and keep on visiting AUREA.
For my next post, maybe we'll stay indoors and read some books.

I was delighted to receive a Kreative Blog award from a fellow Californian, the wonderfully sensitive Laura - all the more so as she gave me this award for my writing!
She directed me to list 6 random things about me, something I already did here...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Foggy Day On The Beach

Benjy and I went for a walk on a cold foggy beach a couple of days ago. It was a bit eerie, yet beautiful. Especially striking in the haze was an old pagoda-style house perched on the escarpment. And surfers of course were on the waves and on the sand, spider-like in their wetsuits.
The colors of the 2 top pictures weren't photoshoped at all; the fog really made the beach appear straight out of a black and white film. As for the last one, I slightly enhanced the pink hue, but as the surfers were heading West at sunset, that's pretty much the color reality was when I snapped the photograph. Beautiful, eerie California.

Can you spot teeny Benjy, here pictured with colleagues he met on the beach?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I had to buy clothes - really

My laundry was "taken" from the laundry room of the place where I live, two weeks ago. It included both my hoodies, ancient t-shirts that brought back many memories (oh, my 10-year-old Middlebury tee!), as well as a few truly wonderful pieces, like a Helmut Lang top and more. Sigh.
So I really had to buy some clothes. At Urban Outfitters, I got a very light painter's tee I just love - I also fell for their Joy Division t-shirts, but $38?! Of course I headed for American Apparel where I got two XL hoodies, one cranberry and one black, a few plain black tees (I like getting guys' v-necks in Small), as well as a this cute gray little romper I wear to ballet class over my leotard.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Flowers - Thinking Of Mumbai

When I posted about the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, Octavine requested I share pictures of the market's fresh cut flowers. So here are some beauties I spotted this past Wednesday.
These colorful, fragrant flowers seemed like a perfect prelude to Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle's fabulous new flick set in Mumbai, which I was about to go and see when I happened upon the market. When I came out of the theater, moved and thrilled by that high energy and almost gaudy movie, I turned on NPR and hear about the horrendous attacks in Mumbai. My heart sank.

Years ago, while traveling in Ladakh (Indian part of the Himalayas), I had sweet, spicy tea in the garden of the small hotel where I was staying. The tea was delicious, and the company was even better. I sat with the hotel's owner, a round-faced Buddhist who served only vegetarian fare in his lovely establishment, as well as Hasan, a Muslim visitor, and my travel party, one of which is a Catholic.
Our conversation spurred in me a deep respect for India. This is the largest democracy in the world, the hotel owner reminded us; Muslims, Hindus, people of all religions live and vote here in peace and freedom. Look, here we are, people of various confessions, enjoying a cup of tea together and chatting peacefully. Granted, there were occasional spurts of violence, but things were being worked out, in this very young democracy.
I was filled with admiration for this country of tolerance, even while I realized that vision was a bit idyllic. Then on Wednesday I was filled with despair. It wasn't just about the bloodiness of the attacks; it was also because it shattered my loving, hopeful belief in India.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Meet Red Chief

I named it Red Chief. This two-seater, a 1989 Chrysler by Maserati (!), is my very first car. Shown here with its hardtop, it's actually a convertible - Benjy loves a drive with his ears flapping in the wind... It's kind of a car for show-offs, which is not very "me", but I guess California's love of bright colors and hedonistic style has gotten to me after all.
I find the design of contemporary cars generally uninspiring and always wanted an older number, tough I was reluctantly talked out of my dreams of 1970's models by reasonable minds.
Do you remember your first car? Any cars you're in love with?