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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Chanel Walking Tour

Recently I've been on a walking tour binge on my own, with other people or with a group. It seems I'm either sitting at home reading  or out walking for miles and it's all part of my effort to see as much of Paris as possible. This Chanel Walk was part two of my own personal fashion week and I had a great time.
I've been a little down on Paris Walks recently because of the large number of people on their excursions, but thankfully this was a smaller group tour that you had to reserve in advance. It was 20 euro instead of the usual 12 but it was well worth it as it was so  much more reasonably sized. 
The tour guide was great, friendly and knowledgeable she took us through the major events in Chanel's life and career as we walked through the fashionable neighborhood around the Place du Vendome where Chanel lived at the Ritz. Currently the hotel is under renovation as you can see below  right.
There are a large number of Chanel boutiques in this neighborhood but the most significant is the flagship boutique at 31, Rue Cambon where Chanel kept an apartment and where the couture workshop and fittings still go on. You can't take photos inside so I'll have rely on old fashioned words to paint a picture for you... 
Inside it's the epitome of elegance in black and white. Elegant and oozing money with immaculately turned out staff in black and  security guards in most of the rooms. There are rooms for bags, shoes, clothes, perfume and jewelry. Clearly they know their customers (when we were there I saw Asian, Middle Eastern and Russian buyers) and they know how to sell. There are seats for bored partners and even ipads available to keep them amused. The prices were of course insane but it's all about the brand and letting everyone else know you can afford it. The clothes are displayed beautifully with only two or three pieces to each rack as the assistant will find your size in the back.
So what did I learn? I wouldn't have gone into the shop without the excuse of the tour and I couldn't afford anything in there. Well to be honest I knew all that before. What I learnt was that Chanel was a marketing genius, a woman who reinvented herself and fashion several times over; first trousers, the little black dress and perfume  followed by sportswear and the Chanel suit in the 1950's. She was an opportunist and a self promoter with a highly questionable record during the war. 

Interestingly this area has been a center for high living and luxury goods dating back to the days of the monarchy. Indeed the mark and symbols of the Sun King himself (Louis XIV) can be seen in the Place du Vendome, see the interlocking Ls and the sun in the ironwork below.

Although known predominantly for costume jewelry Chanel now operates a fine jewelry shop on the Place du Vendome next to Boucheron and Van Cleef and Arples. However distinction may be moot as a faux pearl collar I admired was priced at over 4,000 euro! 

The real thing above and the faux pears below! But astonishingly what seems more important than the "real" or "fake" distinction here is whether they are Chanel or not! This seems to make the collar below "worth" 4,000 plus euro!

I wasn't greatly impressed with the window displays which seemed rather bland, nothing like the artful creations over at Hermes. The floor below reminded me of painters tape which you'll recognize instantly if you've painted recently! 

To me the shoes are reminiscent of frat boy sports sandals by Adidas, not a high fashion look I'd like to emulate, though it does make me feel better to resist things I can't afford anyway!
I wasn't too keen on these red, white and blue ballet shoes either though I love the silver clutch at the top of the post. However, whatever I thought of the 2013 collection, the tour was interesting and varied and very enjoyable, recommended for those with an interest in fashion.