IN COLLABORATION WITH AVÈNE
I’ve thought long and hard about where in the whole wide world my love of all French actually originated. I’ve been digging and digging – there must be an explanation somewhere.
My parents and my sister speak German fluently (especially since we spent nearly three years in Austria when I was very little). When I had to choose between French and German in year 3, I went for the former, perhaps a bit defiantly. ‘German is probably right under the surface; it will come easy to you,’ my mum said, now that I’d briefly attended an Austrian kindergarten. French it was! Haha. Impossible to get any sort of help with my homework, but that’s how I wanted it. Always contrary (speaking of, the genes have been passed on!).
Eventually, it would turn into a downright French obsession. I studied French from year 3 and through to my senior year in high school, where we were a teeny-tiny French A-level class (just three students across the year!). Before I graduated, I’d already been to Paris a handful of times. My French film collection kept growing over the years, always up to date with what they carried down at the local mall. Classics such as Amélie. Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (one of my favourites). Cléo de 5 à 7 (everything French new wave, generally, especially reinforced by my Film and Media studies at university). The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (SOB!). La Vie en Rose (and all of Édith Piaf’s music along with it!). And so on, and so on. My French teacher would always come to me when she needed to borrow a film for her other classes (back in those days, you’d roll a massive CRT tv into the classroom for film screenings, cleverly incased in a clearly woodwork teacher-built contraption on wheels).
photos by JULIE BJARNHOFF
Perhaps my love of all things French was born in defiance, but it has definitely detached itself from that and grown immensely on its own, well-fed by countless trips to the City of Light over the years – and Adam is almost as Paris-obsessed as I am by now.
But what is it about the French? What exactly makes me return to Paris again and again? Eat croissants weekly to fill out the gap, when I’m not there, à Paris? Why do we feel perpetually drawn towards the city and why can’t we ever get enough? It’s definitely the city we’ve been to the most. Could it be that I lived in the City of Light in a previous life, and therefore feel particularly at home when setting foot on the cobbled streets of Paris? Even in Copenhagen, I’ve moved as close to ‘Little Paris,’ aka Værnedamsvej, as possible. I’m not the only one who’d happily relocate to get closer to the magic (even if faux). Audrey Hepburn’s ‘Sabrina,’ Carrie Bradshaw, Blair Waldorf. That city is magical – in films, in tv shows, IRL.
In my eyes, there’s just something special about the French.
Their blood has this particular thing to it, which in some ways is so far from the Danish. It’s extra warm. Whereas Danes tend to be shy, mind their own business, appear modest (‘you wouldn’t want people to think…’), retain their emotions, the French are typically feisty, unafraid of arguing in the street, dramatic, full of grand gestures (I sometimes miss Jean-Claude, our old neighbour and head of the co-op we lived in – so good-hearted, and in the general meetings, he was definitely capable of showing off some wild arm gestures, ‘merde!‘).
The French know how to live. Think of all of their inventions. How much of what we know as luxury was created in France. Champagne, chardonnay, Chanel. Moules frites, Monet, Marant, macarons. Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Le Corbusier. L’amour! La vie en rose!
They go out – but in that casual everyday way, where you just meet up for an hour after work, order a carafe of white wine, smoke a cigarette, hang with the best of friends, and then head home. They eat well. They drink well. They dress well! Uh la la! Leur style! The cigarette pants, the little short jacket, the casual hair, the light day makeup, the ballerina flats. They are so effortless, très chic!
But appearing effortlessly chic, with a maximum of a hint of black eyeliner and lightly red lips, takes beautiful skin. And if there’s anything the French are known for it’s their pharmacies, which carry the wildest ranges of skincare products. It’s a fixed part of any holiday in France. I need to hit a pharmacy. Pull some Klorane dry shampoo off the shelf, a few containers of Avène thermal spring water, preferably in CityPharma (find location in my guide here) – chaotic experience, but incredible in the sense that it holds ALL of your favourites and in bulk. It does take some effort, but it’s worth it.
French pharmacies are special (and there are many of them, around 25,000 across the country, I think). It’s common for the French to seek medical advice at the pharmacy before consulting their doctors, as the chemists are extremely knowledgeable and carry everything. All sorts of OTC products – but also great shampoos, makeup, etc. It’s almost an institution; the pharmacy.
A French pharmacy classic is Avène. Other than the thermal spring water (which I use as an alternative to a toner after cleansing my face, as a way to make bug bites stop itching (true! At home, we call it magic water; Adam is totally in on it!), to soothe sunburned skin, as a substitute for an iron to smooth out creased clothes on holidays and a million other things), I also always stock up on Cicalfate, which is an ointment (I’ve discussed its power before) that I use for a million things as well; small scratches, irritated skin, bug bites.
Effortless chic is about having your basics sorted. Beautiful skin first and foremost so you don’t feel that you have to overload it with makeup to make it stand out. Keeping it happy, well-maintained and moisturised. Maybe even the body first and foremost, the sheath that has to carry us through the Parisian streets and adventures? If you want to feel effortlessly chic, you have to feel comfortable in your skin. The body needs to feel well and moisturised! Put on your body butter. And some nice underwear. French women ooze confidence, I think, and a lot of that comes from treating the warm, soft body to nice underwear.
And then there’s the face, of course! It might as well start out with a mild cleanse, perhaps with Gentle Milk Cleanser, which isn’t too hard on the skin. Finish off with Gentle toner for minimising pores, or do like me and keep a thermal spring water in the fridge and give your skin a light spray after cleansing it. My own FAVOURITE moment in my cleansing routine, morning and night. If you’re after cooperative skin in the morning, Hydrance Skin Tone Perfector is pretty good at creating a flawless effect. A lightly tinted day cream with SPF 30 – works well on a moist residue from the thermal spring water, which makes the cream align very well with the skin…
Before heading out, lèvres embrassables. Kissable lips. It takes moisture; Cold cream lip butter. I juggle a few different lip balms in order for my skin not to get used to a particular kind of moisture, but I always return to this lip butter – particularly good, by the way, now that the weather is getting cooler and the air drier.
The feeling of clean skin, brushed teeth, on with a layer of hand cream and then some lip balm – that’s the icing on the cake. A pair of slim jeans, a lovely lace bra, a silk shirt. And then a café au lait and a croissant with a close girlfriend. Comme les Français!