French Collection

Jul 12, 2023

It all began in 2002 when I turned 40. Some of you know the rest. Some of you don’t. But I have had a love affair with Paris and French arts and culture from as far back as I can remember. My mom knew that. And so, for my 40th birthday she took me there. Here is the rest of the story.

Becoming the French Collection

Working title: Someday, Always  Paris – Un jour, toujours Paris

– (the first draft)

Dedication: This is a love letter of sorts to the divine city of Paris and my eternal obsession with it. But no love letter would be complete without sharing it with the one or ones you love. So, Margie and Karen – this love letter is also for you and my dear mom, Faye who also loves Paris. 

(Also – please excuse any and all French words or references that are “Pas tout à fait correct” – not quite correct. My high school French class and minimal study since is abysmal, however, my love of the French arts and culture is genuine.)


That first trip to Paris in 2002 for my fortieth birthday, only a scant few months after 911 was one of the best gifts I have ever received. At a time when the world was reeling with a loss of innocence and confusion about the future, my mom and I found ourselves in quiet celebration of our shared dream to visit the historic city. 

It is here, as I write about that experience, reliving it once again, twenty years later, that I look forward to sharing it with my dear friends, (deux bons amis) who haven’t been to Paris. I intend to revisit my favorite places with these friends and bring back memories of a former trip well loved and remembered. One I share here as well in my writing of it all. 

Oui, oui, oui! Paris, nous voilà! 

Paris – the City of Love and Light. A place to go for your honeymoon, to check off the fabulously famous city from your bucket list, and to be soaked in the light and love of the most romantic place on earth. The hopes and dreams of what the experience might bring are vast and the rewards are endless. I have had the pleasure already once in my lifetime. Now I would like to share that experience with others. 

I was forever changed by Paris on that birthday trip twenty years ago. We enter Paris as one person and exit it quite another. The same was true for me and I believe for my mom as well. A trip so delightful and so inspiring that I am sure I didn’t take a full breath or sleep more than a wink for the first three days. I just gasped and gushed and sighed with big eyes and a throbbing heart. 

This experience isn’t unusual, it is unavoidable. That is the point – to have a life changing experience and return to your normal life with love in your heart and a sparkle in your eye. As an artist, it was like being reborn; a decadent romantic encounter with a place and a feeling. I was in love. 

My mother and I went to celebrate my fortieth birthday. I had always dreamed of going to Paris so she gifted it to me for this milestone. I took French in  high school, but never mastered the accent. Even so, I never stopped loving this beautiful, romantic language. The lilting sounds still swimming in my head, I began to refresh what I could by studying tapes of French language lessons before the trip.  For over a month, I studied, hoping to at least be able to read signage, menus and muddle through a translation book. I knew from my high school experience that my interest in taking French was always about Paris, not learning the language. So I had a lot of work to do. 

La première fois 

The first time, Paris did not disappoint. She never does. It was the most memorable trip of my life; one I will never forget and one I have drawn inspiration from every day since.

Staying in an historical hotel not far from the Jardin des Tuileries, Le Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower, we devoured the city on the first day. The next few days, we went shopping on the Champs-Elysées, found the Moulin Rouge, shopped the flea markets de Clignancourt walked the streets of the villages of the Sacré Coeur and Montmartre, and took an evening boat tour on the Seine river. My mom and I absorbed art at every fabulous museum we could access, including the Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, The Louvre, the Musée Rodin, Monet’s work at the Orangerie Museum and again at his country home. We traveled to Versailles by train and were mesmerized by the opulence and beauty. The list goes on and on. We ate. We drank. We walked. We rode the Métro. We lived the dream of Paris for 10 days. Then we traveled home exhausted and transformed. 

Paris Moderne

All of the magical experiences and places we enjoyed 20 years ago are still a must and now on the Best Things to Do in Paris, list in addition to many new ones. At the time, before the internet, I couldn’t have so easily shared a list this way. Instead we gathered advice from friends and acquaintances about where to go and what to do. We asked a travel agent and a stewardess who were customers of mine at the interior design store my sister and I owned at the time. She too romanticized about all things French and European in general. We loved Shabby Chic and vintage finds, so we planned for me to bring back all sorts of antique lovelies to share with our customers. I couldn’t wait! 

An aside: below find some of the web’s suggestions. I concur! Santé à Paris !

Best Things to do in Paris – Conde Nast

Best Things to do in Paris – Time Out

Best Things to do in Paris – Trip Advisor

The Paris Guides

The Tour Guy – Top Things to do in Paris

The Best of this Unforgettable City

Naissance d’une seconde 

The thing about traveling is it gives you the bug to do MORE traveling. The birth of the second trip was no different. Up until my trip to Paris I hadn’t done much traveling – at least not abroad. Although I had flown to Hawaii for a vacation and across the US a few times, I had never been to Europe. The thing about “first” visits someplace – especially a place so iconic as Paris, is that you usually want more – to go back! I have said “yes” to many other opportunities to travel to Europe since, mostly with art students. Including Italy, Spain, and a quick trip down into Morocco. But I haven’t been back to France. I would love to visit Paris again. I would happily go with my husband – “oui, mon amour”, or with another school group – of course. But with girlfriends? “Hell, yes!” Oui, Tout à fait! Yes, absolutely! 

So…in honor of a unique travel opportunity, one dreamed up by three friends of going to Paris, I am writing about our plans, our experiences as we plan, and our eventual trip to Paris right here. And whether it happens in person or not, I will never give up the idea of experiencing this city again together one way or another. 

Un voyage virtuel

Off to Paris via every web space possible is our initial intention. Paris 2.0. Paris of old and of 2023. Museum tours in person, live online. But also visiting Paris via our favorite books, movies, food, wine and music. The ways we are going to experience Paris are expansive. Maybe a few of our suggestions here will inspire others in ways to prepare for their own trip or to experience the city through our friendship right here on the written page. Either way, you are in for a treat. Trois copines à Paris. 

Acte #1 – le début  

Our intention is to plan our trip for almost two years. It will be our “coming out” as the “three musketeers”. I don’t honestly know why it feels that way. We have been friends for years since moving to the same area in a beautiful resort town on Flathead Lake in the mountains of western Montana. But the idea of this trip feels like a culmination, a celebration of a very special friendship. Part of the fun is to be the process: preparation and planning. I couldn’t wait! I have volunteered to write about our experience since I am the one who has been to Paris before. I love to write, to research and to share. Easy. À Paris sur papier. 

Notre histoire d’amitié

Yoga brought us together a few years ago. Our friendship story is serendipitous. Maybe to some, an unlikely crew otherwise, different in every way, but we are perfect as friends – three musketeers of a sort, who eventually became the Three Muses. Our unique qualities are our superpowers. We bring  out the best and the fun in each other. It is a match made in love, respect and friendship. 

In the years leading up to this grandiose idea of going to Paris, we have lived a quite usual friendship. Coffee together every couple of weeks at our favorite coffee shop, yoga class three times a week, short trips to a neighboring city, lunches and an occasional dinner with our spouses. We have gathered for art and creative projects, shopping, and shared experiences.  We love spending time now and then with each others families for special occasions as well. But what we really wanted was a vacation of our own. A shared life experience of ten days in Paris, France! A trip of a lifetime. One we could be inspired by. 

Les Trois Muses

One friend, Karen, a beautiful red head with freckles for miles, a cutting, delightful sense of humor, came to the group last, dragged into yoga by the other one Margie. Margie is a striking brunette with a Texas drawl that can probably convince a mad-man to do the kindest thing, legs forever in her cutoffs and a creative spark that is not to be stopped. And last, the youngest and most different – me a liberal former Art teacher and practicing artist who loves anything involving arts, culture and travel. An unlikely trio to others maybe. But to us, we are perfect! We compliment each other like French wine, cheese, baguettes and grapes eaten in a terrace. 

Let’s go to Paris we said. And here we are! 

“Le moment est éphémère par l’opportunité est infini.”

Mme Cindi


Being “stuck” a good part of the time in this valley of mountains and lakes sounds wonderful enough. Polson, MT is far too cold most of the time. Too far from most cities to even shop or visit a good museum unless you make it a day. Too small to experience much arts or culture. The restaurants are tired. The galleries are predictable and the overall shopping lacks inspiration. We are in need of the spark to light the flame only the city of Paris can ignite. 

We have all been places on vacation. Some exotic. Some cultural. Some educational. Some relaxing beach vacations on the ocean and some road trips across country or even to Europe. But what we really want is ten days in the most romantic, historical, artistic place on earth together. Traipsing along the streets of Paris, breathing in the arts and culture, the scents and smells, eating the food, drinking the wine, eyeing the sights. All the while talking and laughing and observing the sights together. Life and art collide to bring the magic of the most beautiful city on earth. And we want to experience it in all its glory as friends, just the three of us. 

Acte #2 – l’inspiration

The inspiration all started with Margie’s love of French ephemera. She creates journals and her go-to favorites are vintage French ephemera from books, prints, fashion and cards. Since I have always loved all things French as well, and Karen has just gotten back from a trip to Europe, we got to discussing a trip of our own. 

“Parisian Travel Workshop”

We met on Friday, the 13th of January over French Press with steamed milk, a delicious almond cake baked by Karen and berries to top it all off. Our plans read as follows:

À tout moment après 9h00 du matin. Apportez une pâtisserie française et je ferai du café French Press.”

We poured over books, photos, internet notes and memorabilia to inspire our virtual adventure. Ultimately, we decided on reading “Chocolat”, watching “Amelie” and buying tickets for a virtual tour through the Louvre to get us started. In general, we are beginning our year of virtual Paris with delightfully inspiring content paired with good food and wine. Sounds good to me! 

I gifted Margie and Karen with their blingy Eiffel Towers, mini journals and notebooks; part of their late Christmas presents. I think we are now full-on, dangerously ready to begin this fabulous Parisian journey albeit virtually for now. We took notes on our ideas and made promises to plan a get-together again soon. I am recommending a Paris afternoon next time so we can drink wine and a tasty charcuterie plate. I am sure the girls will agree. Êtes-vous d’accord? 

A schedule is definitely in order! So I am working on an 18 month digital calendar that can also be printed. I will share next time. Ideas are blossoming in this Parisian atmosphere much like a French perfume. Intoxicating! 

P.S. I also shared my progress with Margie on what I had added to the delightful French journal she gave me for Christmas. The thank-you card choked her up a bit as she disappeared into the small pages. I am so happy she liked it. We all three agreed (no – we are certain) that Margie’s passion for journals has been a lovely way of bringing us together. More on this as we power forward. I am definitely interested in how our love of art and French things can be married during our journey. 

As we continue on this virtual vacation, I find myself grateful for more than just the camaraderie of the “Three Muses”. I am grateful for the focus it brings to celebrating life and travel and experiences whether real or invented, imagined or dreamed, designed or surprised. What serendipitous moments await us on this journey?

You know how you work on something special for a really long time? How it grows and changes and blossoms into something you never imagined? That is Art. A tree growing over many months and years, sculpted by nature and the seasons. Becoming. 

The French Collection

Becoming – the collaboration

This becoming is what being an artist is – imagining the unimaginable. Creating the thing that up until now has only lived in your heart and mind. Then over the course of many months, many starts and stops, it is born. And if you are very, very lucky, you do this special thing with people you love and admire and treasure. And they know and love you and your work and you love theirs. You brainstorm and collaborate and become a team of sorts. You dream and play and create and dream some more. Then one day, you find yourself tying up all the loose ends. All that hard work that you kept carefully buttoned down is about ready to be unfolded to others. Honing it and nurturing it for months into something real. Real like the Velveteen Rabbit. At that moment, the magic unfolds into something akin to spring in Montana. L’arbre de vie – the tree of life is like that. And so is the current project I am working on. 

Now it is summer, summer in Paris! …and our special project – The French collection has launched! You must see this unique collaboration of three friends to appreciate the work, but also to take the journey. One does not need to leave their home to journey. One must only open their mind to the possibilities of love, romance, creativity and a little magic.

To be continued…but here is the First of our collaborations –  The French Collection

J’adore ma collection française



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