Rhinestone Cowgirls

The last few days of our Parisian holiday were open-ended and left to leisure, mood and whim. My friend had an interest in checking out the high-end boutiques that line the Champs-Elysées—especially Chanel where she hoped to pick up whatever was the cheapest item available—but gave up on this pursuit when she realized the sales staff could see us for the hokey Canadians we were, swiftly ignoring us while catering to the young, very wealthy, Asian clientele who actually had money to drop. H&M was welcoming though.

In the evening I took a slow stroll through the quiet backstreets of the 7th arrondissement, passing antique shops, used bookstores and other peddlers of Parisian history. I wondered about the original owners of the items (as well as their authenticity) when my eye caught several prints of Gustave Doré’s work that appeared to have been taken from a book. At a cost of 25 Euros each, the price wasn’t the issue so much as narrowing down which piece I wanted to decorate my home. But then my eye caught something else not as prominently displayed — the source itself, ‘La Bible’ illustrated by Gustave Doré. I quickly nabbed it. Regardless of price, THIS was to be my most prized souvenir from the trip. Books are a treasure. Weighing in at roughly 5lb, the 472-page hardcover book contains 241 of Doré’s wood-engraved illustrations. What a find! As this occurred after visiting his grave at Pere Lachaise, I couldn’t help but feel it was kismet.


Parisian drivers are insane. Another of the most memorable moments of my trip was when my friend and I, along with an older man, almost got hit by a car going through a red light. As it occurred, the older man jumped in front of the navy blue older model BMW and banged on the hood all while screaming obscenities at the driver. As they, in turn, made apologetic hand gestures towards us, the older man walked around to his window and started banging on it with even more fury. It was quite the show and not very common in friendly Canada.

As someone who walks the majority of the time, and am almost hit by a distracted driver at least once a week with no exaggeration, I didn’t blame him. His vocal defence of his life in this age of distraction is what I aspire to.


Exiting Pigalle metro station during daylight hours is a strange thing. Emerging onto a central boulevard, the first observation one might make are of the families strolling about with their children. The tree-lined green space of the boulevard provides a small, welcome respite for social gathering amongst the dense construction of the surrounding neighbourhood. As a woman, you might also notice the disproportionate number of men loitering and staring from each and every public bench. It can be a bit uncomfortable as you try and gather your bearings. But as the storefronts come into focus, you see that the contrast is far from wholesome. Businesses with names like “Sexodrome”, “Pussy’s” and the highly creative “Porno Shop” line the streets, with the Moulin Rouge and its iconic windmill being the primary attraction. For this is Pigalle, Paris’ famed sex district. My friend I decided to pay a visit while en-route to Sacre-Coeur Church.

We decided that “Sexodrome” seemed to be the most female-friendly (i.e. “not creepy”) establishment on the street. With five levels of merchandise, the store contained anything and everything one could possible desire for sexual intimacy (including a granny blow-up doll that advertised “no teeth” and a cock-and-balls kitchen apron that made me laugh so hard some of the more serious shoppers glared in my direction). My friend became interested in a rhinestone covered g-string that she referred to as a “tiara for my [redacted to keep this blog semi-classy]” but left empty-handed when we were told the only one available was displayed on a mannequin. There’s always floss and a bedazzler, I suppose. Traveling with a friend can give great inspiration for their future birthday gift.


The last day of our trip we visited the Palais Garnier, the very opulent Opera House in Paris that was inspiration for the musical ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Upon entering, one is greeted by a dark, violet-lit room with a subterranean feel mimicking the storied waterways that are said to exist beneath its structure. The higher levels you reach after climbing the Grand Staircase, such as the Grand Foyer, are as elaborate as Versailles; no matter how much gold I see, it always makes my jaw drop at how excessive it is. Literal floor to ceiling. It’s blinding. On this visit, there were even gold tires adorning the top of the Grand Staircase in celebration of the Paris E-Prix race that was days away.

It’s on my bucket list to attend a show here, in this baroque masterpiece. Unfortunately I was not able to see anything on this trip, although entering the balcony overlooking Place de l’Opera and watching Paris play out before me made me feel part of a greater performance of life.

The cobblestone streets of Montmarte, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The cobblestone streets of Montmarte, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Montmarte, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Montmarte, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Karl forever. Montmarte, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Karl forever. Montmarte, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

View from atop Sacre-Coeur, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

View from atop Sacre-Coeur, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Paris’ sex district (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Paris’ sex district (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Paris’ sex district (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Paris’ sex district (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Paris’ sex district (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Paris’ sex district (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pont de l’Alma, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pont de l’Alma, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Le Village Royal, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Le Village Royal, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

I would guesstimate that 90% of the vehicles in Paris are black (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

I would guesstimate that 90% of the vehicles in Paris are black (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Entrance to Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Entrance to Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The gold tire adds a classy touch; the Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The gold tire adds a classy touch; the Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Staircase, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Salon du Glacier, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Salon du Glacier, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Foyer, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Foyer, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Foyer, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The Grand Foyer, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Ceiling detail, the Grand Foyer, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Ceiling detail, the Grand Foyer, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

As a designer, one of my key takeaways of inspiration during this trip was the unbelievable ceiling work. This is the Salon du Soleil, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

As a designer, one of my key takeaways of inspiration during this trip was the unbelievable ceiling work. This is the Salon du Soleil, Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

View from the top of the Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

View from the top of the Palais Garnier, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This is my “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” moment atop the Palais Garnier (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This is my “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” moment atop the Palais Garnier (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A sample of French packaging which always elevates the consumer experience. This is how my desserts from Laduree were presented (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A sample of French packaging which always elevates the consumer experience. This is how my desserts from Laduree were presented (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yet another indulgence from my trip, a pistachio Saint-Honoré from Laduree (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Yet another indulgence from my trip, a pistachio Saint-Honoré from Laduree (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

And drumroll … of all the fancy French desserts I ate over the course of my holiday, this simple vanilla bean eclair from Ladurre was absolutely my favourite. The rich vanilla flavour of both filling and icing was unbelievable (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

And drumroll … of all the fancy French desserts I ate over the course of my holiday, this simple vanilla bean eclair from Ladurre was absolutely my favourite. The rich vanilla flavour of both filling and icing was unbelievable (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A Cemetery is a Great Place to Meet Someone

My favourite day in Paris was marked by an unexpected encounter while exploring a site for the dead.

But prior to that, I took the metro to an art exhibit that proved to be absolutely magical.

I saw pictures online of La Nuit Étoilée while researching my holiday and thought it might be hype to increase upfront sales when numerous publications warned to get tickets in advance. I did book MONTHS in advance, just in case (also because I’m “type-a”), and was relieved that I did because the exhibit was indeed sold out on the day I attended. I understood why when I entered; the animated exhibit is a completely immersive, multi-sensory show where the viewer becomes part of the artwork. Set in three parts—showcasing contemporary art, Japonaiserie and the iconic work of Vincent Van Gogh—this is something that must be seen to be believed.

Afterwards, my friend and I took a short walk to an unlikely tourist destination in Paris: Pere Lachaise cemetery, final resting place of artists, philosophers and rock stars of the ages. It’s such a landmark that people sell maps at the entrance. Being my frugal self, I pre-printed a map from the internet … that proved worthless. My friend and I quickly got lost while searching for the grave I wanted to pay respect to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré. As we walked amongst row after row of eerily creepy—often open—nineteenth-century crypts, I took a moment to rest against a tree and try to figure out exactly where we were amongst its 110 acres.

“Maybe a spirit guide will appear,” my friend commented.

And no word of a lie, within two minutes of her stating that a Frenchman approached us asking if we needed help finding anything.

He introduced himself as Glen and informed us he was a lawyer that lived and worked in Versailles. He debated traveling to Normandy that day for a dip in the English Channel but decided against it because of a questionable weather forecast, instead opting to visit one of his favourite places in Paris - this very cemetery. He then inquired about what grave we were looking for. When I told him “Gustave Doré” he was impressed; it was apparently a rarity that anyone requested to visit that site. As we made our way over, I noted that someone had once placed a small rock over a now weathered paper note left for the artist. Glen and my friend chatted while I also gave silent thanks to a man that has provided immense inspiration and wonder to my life.

After Gustave, my friend wanted to visit Pere Lachaise’s most famous (or infamous) gravesite - that of sixties icon and lead singer of The Doors, Jim Morrison. This grave is quite controversial within the cemetery and there have been numerous calls to remove it over the decades since he passed in 1971. Today, one can’t even walk up to it. A steel fence surrounds it and several of the perimeter headstones in order to protect against further vandalism. Even in death, rock stars require crowd control.

Glen seemed keen to continue the tour and ended up showing us around for over an hour. As someone who appreciates the macabre, I specifically asked to be taken to the creepiest parts of the cemetery. He happily obliged. These included some truly beautiful and haunting headstones and crypts depicting ghosts, spirits and the afterlife. There was even a crypt with a stained-glass window detailing the folklore behind the will-o’-the-wisp, once believed to be a phantom light but since explained via science.

At the end of our day, Glen asked if we wanted to go for a drink but my friend was feeling a bit tired and we declined. Prior to parting, I exchanged my business card with him in the hopes of keeping a well-informed contact in the city but I’ve never heard back.

Was Glen a spirit? Was he an actual lawyer seeking reflection in the calm of the necropolis? Or was he just a dude trying to hit on two foreign chicks? All I know is that a cemetery is a great place to meet someone. Dead or alive.

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The absolutely AMAZING La Nuit Étoilée exhibit at Atelier des Lumières in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The grave I most wanted to pay respects to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

The grave I most wanted to pay respects to, that of my favourite artist Gustave Doré at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Jim Morrison’s infamous gravesite at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Jim Morrison’s infamous gravesite at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This grave in Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France is stunningly beautiful and haunting. It’s been  featured as artwork on album covers  (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

This grave in Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France is stunningly beautiful and haunting. It’s been featured as artwork on album covers (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Grave of Belgian poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Grave of Belgian poet and novelist Georges Rodenbach at Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Pére Lachaise Cemetary in Paris, France (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A Prince tribute show that I wish I got to see in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

A Prince tribute show that I wish I got to see in Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the City of Love, condom machines are readily available on the street, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

In the City of Love, condom machines are readily available on the street, Paris (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

My next indulgence: the signature desert of Angelina Paris, the Mont-Blanc, along with their famously rich hot chocolate. It was a bit too indulgent for me (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

My next indulgence: the signature desert of Angelina Paris, the Mont-Blanc, along with their famously rich hot chocolate. It was a bit too indulgent for me (©Deborah Clague, 2019).

Paris

In anticipation of an upcoming trip to the City of Light, I have immortalized my favourite place in the world - Paris - as part of my series of vintage travel poster designs. New merchandise also available in my shop:

Paris (Night) ©Deborah Clague

Paris (Night) ©Deborah Clague

Paris (Day) ©Deborah Clague

Paris (Day) ©Deborah Clague