Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Catching Up And A Few Good Reads

November 6, 2012

Pre-surgery ETs preparing for the tough times ahead

The Experienced Travelers have been on a medical hiatus throughout the summer and fall.  Nurse is battling a serious infection in her knee, but we are on the road to recovery.  Just one more surgery for another knee replacement and she’ll be dancing a gigue.

This is what Nurse was hoping might emerge from the kitchen but my cooking skills run more toward grilled cheese than galettes from the Marais.

In my dual-role of primary caregiver and temporary cook, I prescribed regular infusions of Chateauneuf du Pape for the patient and the chef.  It certainly improved her disposition – and heightened the quality of my cuisine.  So, Dear Readership, you went on the back burner – so to speak.  Mea culpa.

Here are a few Parisian “good reads” I bookmarked for just such an occasion.  It’s the season for fireside reading and these books go nicely with a glass of wine and ripe Norman camembert:

The French art of seduction extends to shopping. Barb and Chris demonstrate the effects in a Marais scarf shop. I think two of those scarves came home with them.

Elaine Sciolino, Paris correspondent and former Paris bureau chief for The New York Times is author of  La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life.  Oh Dear Readership, how we long to understand the game, and Ms. Sciolino guides us through the labyrinth of French social interactions and teaches us how to flirt with the butcher.

Seduction governs all aspects of French life – romance, cuisine, business and politics.  The ETs have been under the spell for years. Just as we were relieved to know the diagnosis with Nurse’s knee, we are thrilled to understand the frisson and shortness of breath we get when we start planning a trip to  Paris.  I downloaded a sample and so far, it’s terrific.

To the Dear Readership who reside in France — what is your take on the art of seduction?  We rely on you to give us the straight story.

Melinda just caught an edge of Philippe-Auguste’s legendary wall

I’ve always meant to tell you about Alistair Horne.   His “Seven Ages of Paris” is one of the best comprehensive histories of the city I’ve read – twice.  From the island of Lutetia to the postwar period, it’s entertaining, well-written and relevant.  It might make you want to find the extant remains of Philippe-Augustus’ 12th century fortified wall.  If you do, I can tell you that it’s against local law and ordinance to pry off a piece of the wall for personal home use.

A splendid view of Montmartre from the windows of the Musee D’Orsay.(Photo by Barb and Christine)

Another good read is David Downie, a food and travel author who resides in Paris. (someone else who is living the life I was meant for, but I shan’t be mean about it…) “Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light” is a series of  essays on different aspects of the city, its inhabitants and its history.  You *will* reserve flights after reading “Paris, Paris”.  Mr. Downie also writes an excellent blog.

My current bedside reading includes Mary McAuliffe’s “Dawn of the Belle Époque” about the Paris of Monet, Zola, Bernhardt, Eiffel, Debussy, Clemenceau et. al.  It’s a bit formulaic but provides an excellent introduction to this fascinating period in French history.

A symbol of the Belle-Époque “can do” attitude. (Photo by Barb and Chris)

And speaking of the Belle Époque – have I mentioned Proust lately?  Set aside Danielle Steel and read the Mother of All Modern Social Set Pieces – Mme. Verdurin and her Wednesday “at homes” with the little clan or the Princesse de Guermantes’ “see and be seen” party.  Just *try* “Combray” – the first section of “Swann’s Way”.  If you get that far, you’ll have friends for life in six volumes.

Choose the new Penguin editions, which are  easier to grasp than older translations. Don’t suffer like I did because I wanted to read the same translation that Virginia Woolf  read.  Historical verisimilitude is nice but it will make you want to walk into a pond with stones in your pockets – oh, wait a minute…

Paris seduction begins on the Seine, in view of the Pont-Neuf, and most likely in a light drizzling rain. Get reading and fall in love with Paris!

In fact, I think that “La Seduction..” makes a perfect pairing with “In Search of Lost Time”- the theory explained in Sciolino and the practice artfully demonstrated in Proust.

There.  Now your holiday wish list is done and you can spend the winter weekends “in Paris” – without dispensing with jammies and a cuddly comforter.  It’s good to be chatting with you again!

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Time-Lapse Through Paris!

August 4, 2012

Pont-Neuf in the rain. Paris romanticism as it’s best. Photo by Barb and Chris

The Experienced Travelers lovethis time-lapse video of Paris by Mayeul Akpovi.  It’s almost as good as being there, without the food, of course.

Click here to watch the video

Back to our regular posting schedule when Nurse is out of rehab. She is adjusting to her faux knee and working hard to get back on her feet again.

Paris QuickPics: When it rains…

April 25, 2012

Even the cafe terraces are deserted from the wind and rain. We'll call upon St. Genvieve to vanquish the storms.

The Experienced Travelers like to think we can cope.  But today, the driving wind and rain in Paris made us long for a cozy table in a warm corner with an attentive waiter.  We’ve never had such inclement weather.  It’s a wet, bone-chilling cold that sent us puddle-jumping from café crème to chocolat chaud to stay dry in between errands.

A touch of domesticity. Nurse gives her knee a rest between outings

Our studio apartment bears no resemblance to the palatial embassies nearby, but it’s comfortable and the ground floor location is ideal for Nurse’s bad knee.  While her “hotwheels” do double-duty as a bedside table,  they got me into a bit of trouble with a stern Train Man on the TGV to Paris from Rennes, but that’s another story.

Julie, Barbara, Christine and Nurse expand their appreciation of fine wine and French culture.

Our friends Barbara and Christine arrived this morning and it didn’t take them long to get their priorities in order – errands, food shopping then some well-deserved refreshment to build fortitude for more shopping.

Barbara and Chris working their way up to more well-earned refreshment and a better understanding of French vintages.

To ease our jetlagged Associate ETs into Paris time, we composed an early dinner from the bounteous fare in the market – white asparagus, fingerling potatoes, shallots and three outstanding deserts.  For  the main course, the delightful man behind the counter directed the full, unequivocal force of his French charm at Barbara and promptly sold us a most excellent roast chicken.  It just goes to show that flirtation pays!

 

Bonne Résolutions de Nouvel!

January 2, 2012

A French toast from Nurse for the New Year

The Experienced Travelers welcome the New Year, which means it’s time to take another trip to France!  Oh joyful tidings!  We trust that our dear Readership celebrated in style, unless you follow the French Revolutionary calendar that begins the year with the autumn equinox.  In that case, you retired early with your “Collected Speeches of Robespierre” and woke refreshed.

The French celebrate News Years Eve with the festivities of the Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre.  Naturally we followed suit with an eclectic menu and plenty to drink in the company of fine friends.  But fortunately for them, we drew the line at another French tradition, the soirée dansante (ball).   Well, our taffeta gowns were at the laundry so what were we to do.

If it's not mistletoe season, don't let that stop you

In France, the practice of kissing under the mistletoe is a New Year’s custom.  We think that’s because it’s easier for an ambitious Frenchmen to skillfully negotiate a young maiden to the mistletoe after she’s had several glasses of New Year champagne.

Once we’ve shaken off the vintage blessings of Saint-Sylvestre, we’ll be ready to put the ET bonne résolutions de nouvel into practice.  Nurse is in marathon training after her 2011 knee surgery so she can walk from the Ecole Militaire to the upper Marais, with necessary cafe stops along the route.    Et moi, I will re-read Proust now that I have some notion of what the story is about.  And we’re knee deep in maps and websites, planning our pilgrimage to Paris in the spring.

So ring in the new, dear Readership and happy 2012!

Here's hoping 2012 holds more Parisian dining for the ETs - and for you!

ParisPics: Les Gens de Paris

October 27, 2011

The Experienced Travelers salute Les Gens de Paris, the people of Paris who embody la gloire de France in their manner, their customs and their style.  Most Parisians are delighted to separate us from our Found Money so they’re very gracious and kind.  It won’t surprise the Readership to learn that these exchanges often involve food, but that’s the sacrifice we make on your behalf.

Fruit and veg in the rue de Lévis

Day-to-day life in Paris reminds us that the city is a real home, not a Disney production.  In the bloom of my youth,  I rented a bedroom chez Madame A. and it was right above this produce store.

Here, les gens de Paris taught me that The Produce Men will choose on my behalf after they ascertain when I will eat it and how it will be prepared.  To Parisians food is a serious endeavor, even if it’s done on the two-burner camp stove in Madame’s bizarre kitchen.  (Madame A was a truly unique dame de Paris, but thats another story…)

Cheese ladies in uniform

The ETs rely on food shop attendants who take well-earned pride in their vocation.  Even the youngest clerks are knowledgeable and make thoughtful recommendations.  I cross the threshold of cheese, lost and confused, but hopeful.  These smartly attired ladies take me in hand and send me along with a new delicacy that may change my life.

I'm still considering this leather laptop bag. Any advice?

Across the 20 arrondissements of Paris, shop clerks keep the wheels of commerce turning – turning right around the ET’s revolving credit.  Window displays are artful and goods are organized with panache.  How can the ETs resist?

While shopping in the Marais, Melinda and I met a very persuasive saleslady who was drawn into the ET’s retail magnetism. With exceptional vigor, she tried to send a $400 laptop bag home with me.  She demonstrated the strength of the clasps, opened every deep pocket, adjusted the durable strap and illustrated how dashing I would look carrying it around at the Real Job.  It was a performance worthy of the Palme d’or.

In fact, just yesterday Melinda remarked that I should have  bought it – we both remember it well thanks to this sales lady’s hard work.

These kiosks keep news-hungry Parisians prepared for any political debate

The first newspaper in France was published in 1631.  Wikipedia lists 55 French papers available today.  Thus the services of newsagents like this gentilhomme de Paris are part of the fabric of the city.  At a cafe table opposite this kiosk, Nurse and I spent a mesmerizing 20 minutes watching him pack up.   It was so intriguing that we returned again for an encore.  Really, settle in with a glass of wine and watch these Parisians at work –  it’s better than reality TV.

The ETs would be lost without the cafe waiters of Paris

So the ETs salute all the proud people of Paris, without whom we would be thirsty, hungry, confused, and a little bit wealthier.

sous le ciel de paris jusqu’au soir vont chanter
l’hymne d’un peuple épris de sa vieille cité.
(And then people beneath the Parisian sky will sing into the evening
the hymn of the people in love with their old city.)

Melinda invests Found Money at Premier Pression Provence in the Marché des Enfants Rouges

Bonne Année dear Readership!

January 2, 2011

Happy New Year from JuliesParis. Photo by Celeste Hutchins Wikimedia Commons

Happy New Year, dear Readership!  The Experienced Travelers hope yours will be blissful and bountiful.  We’re scheming to return to Paris in 2011! There’s so much more to see, do and eat…  And since these are ET Core Competencies, we’ll focus on what we do best.

We spent the Christmas break in “ET Kaizen Process Improvement” mode, developing an editorial calendar that we hope will be entertaining and useful.  Over glasses of crisp Vouvray, we wistfully recounted 12 years of Paris trips and photographs, and searched online for copyright-free assets.  This dizzying whirl of activity catapulted us to new heights of creative thinking and made us very hungry for foie gras.

Negotiating traffic in the Place de l'Opera

In 2011, we’ll explore different aspects of visiting Paris, torture you with Proust, visit Brugges, Strasbourg and Provence, theorize over incidents in French history and share resources to help make you Paris ETs too.     

Provencal Preview! We'll roadtrip on JuliesParis in 2011

First, we’ll start the new year with some suggestions to make your JuliesParis experience easier and more convenient:

The best reading experience  The ETs have tested, viewed and clicked like mad, only to discover that you get the best rendering of the site by bookmarking and reading it directly at  http://www.juliesparis.wordpress.com.  We are dismayed to find that clicking through from Facebook or reading a post in an e-mail may not give you access to earlier posts and other features.  We have convened Kaizen subgroups to solve this issue.

Register for Automatic Notification.  Following the fine example of French bureaucracy, the ETs are pushing automatic notification.   If you currently receive JuliesParis via a personal e-mail from me, why not sign up for automatic notification! And if you get JuliesParis via your work e-mail and prefer to use a personal account instead, automatic notification is a perfect way to make the change. Here’s how to do it:

Click here –  www.juliesparis.wordpress.com.  There’s a link on the right-side of the page where you can enter your email address.  

 
 

Don’t be shy – comment!  The ET credo is to promote a lively exchange of ideas — and people tell us they enjoy seeing comments by other readers.  Don’t hesitate to use the “Leave a Response” or “Add a Comment” links at the end of each post to share your thoughts!  If you’re a Facebook reader, enter your comments on the blog rather than on Facebook, so non-Facebook readers can be mesmerized by your erudite observations.

We'll explore Notre Dame and the Ile de la Cite

 

Sous le ciel de Paris! Photo by Dygert

What started as a trip report has blossomed into the ETs favourite obsession, thanks to your enthusiasm and interest.  We are deeply appreciative of your continued support and we’ll do our best to publish every 7-10 days, depending on the demands of The Real Job.

Bonne Année dear Readership!  We promise we’ll get back to the City of Lights in our next Post!

Autumn Leaves

October 10, 2010

A sunny weekend crowd in the Latin Quarter

It was a perfect day in the  Latin Quarter, with students, tourists and locals basking in the autumn sunshine.  Cafe terraces were brimming and gelato sales were up.  The Experienced Travellers headed for the Luxembourg Gardens to relax, but since we were in the neighborhood,  a visit to The Great Ones Of France at the Pantheon seemed in order.

The Great Ones of France are buried in the Pantheon crypt

The 8 euro entry fee was waived for both of us since Nurse had her hotwheels and I was her escort.  Since we were prepared to pay, this is 16 euros of “found money” that we can use later!

The Pantheon was a church dedicated to Genevieve, the resourceful 5th century patron Saint of Paris, who vanquished Atilla the Hun through prayer.  Since the French Revolution, it is a mausoleum for the great and noteworthy of France, like Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo, Zola, Pasteur and the Curies. 

In the Pantheon, Foucault's Pendulum demonstrates the rotation of the earth.

You’ll have to ask Nurse to explain the pendulum,  as she is the scientific mind of the tourgroup.  I thought it was a pretty little lead ball that swings.

Back to esteemed Saints.  The walls are decorated with heroic scenes from the life of St. Genevieve, but don’t look for her in the crypt.  She’s next door at Saint-Étienne-du-Mont. Go figure.

There are also scenes depicting the life of St. Jeanne d’Arc.  I enthusiastically asked a guard where in the Pantheon she is buried.   He looked stunned, and reminded me that she was burned at the stake.  My official excuse for this gaffe is overindulgence in wine, food and sun.  I have nothing else to say on the subject. 

The Lux - the perfect weekend venue

It was clearly time to move to more secular territory – window shopping and the nearby Luxembourg Gardens.  Tout-Paris had the same idea, but that’s what makes this such an enjoyable place to relax and people-watch.

Children float boats in the fountain

A casual-socks kind of day

After a welcome rest, we took the #82 bus home.  The bus system is our new best friend.  We were carrying the hotwheels down the metro steps, and performing a commuter ballet hoisting it over my head through the ticket turnstiles.  Believe me, the busses are the ticket. 

It was scallops for dinner, and Chef Nurse did a supreme job.  The pink part is delicious.

A Michelin star for Nurse!

After dinner, we were compelled to take our found money to the cafe to enjoy the warm autumn evening and a baba au rhum.

Baba au rhum, liberally doused

It was a relaxing day for the ETs, who want to know why life can’t be like this all the time.

The ETs are feet-first in the Luxembourg

 

Odds and Ends

October 9, 2010

The Experienced Travellers keep a little grab-bag of observations and “who knew” moments from the trip.  Here are a few:

Vogue! It's fashion week in Paris

It’s Fashion Week in Paris, so luxury hotels and chic restaurants are brimming with thin beautiful people in outfits that cost as much as the mortgage.  This has not inconvenienced the ETs one little bit.  Not for us, the “triangle d’or” delimited by the avenues Montaigne, George V and Champs-Elysées.  But it does lend an air of excitement and creativity to the city, which we enjoy.

Oh la la, even young men are chic

Even young French men take fashion seriously.  We have paid close attention for the benefit of my nieces.  Nurse is getting quite the reputation as La Cougar of the 7th arrondissement for her frequent photos.

ET Fashionista in her new specs

I don’t mean to imply that ETs are immune to the siren of style.  Nurse has some tres ultra new glasses that have a Diana Vreeland sense about them.  No wonder those French boys are smiling back.

I can say "un verre du vin, s'il vous plaît'

I’ve had compliments on my French accent. For this, I credit the Sisters of the Sacred Heart who taught me how to set the table for a four-course meal in French by the time I was in third grade.  A very useful skill.

OK, they like my accent, but no one seems to know what I am saying.  They smile, they nod, they gesture, then they respond in great detail about something completely different.  Am I all form and no content?

Madame would like the check?

ETs know the value of advance preparation.  It is likely that the cafe waiter didn’t leave  “l’addition” (the check).  After all, who wants to be rushed and hurried from a table on the terrace? 

You must signal the waiter and mouth the word “l’addition” or make a squiggly motion in the air.  He’ll nod, then go do something else. 

Awhile later, he returns with the check, but Madame wants to pay with “le credit card” and he doesn’t have the little machine with him.  Off he goes to have a cigarette get the little machine. 

If the machine isn’t working correctly, it will reject Madame’s credit card.  This necessitates a heated discussion with several other waiters (who also have clients waiting for checks).  So he leaves to do something else until another little machine is found. 

At last he returns Alors! There is finally success – 20 minutes later.

Finally, ETs of a certain age have public restroom strategies.  I’ve made room inquiries at hotels to gain access the the toilet off the lobby.  While a cafe purchase gurantees access, drinking  “un cafe” every time nature calls depletes “found money”  — and defeats the purpose. 

Free toilets! The door slides open and closed. After each use it self-cleans

 But the City of Paris has taken action.  Scattered around the city are cutting-edge automatic toilets.  It’s not surprising that after each use, they hermetically close and spew disinfectant for 60 seconds.  What is surprising is that these conveniences are free and operate without any French bureaucratic involvement.  Some of us are leery about getting sealed in and disinfected, but we use them anyways.

So there are a few odds and end for you to ponder over a glass of wine later today.  I know we will.

The hardest decision we'll make all day

From the Marais to Monet

October 8, 2010

The Hôtel de Sens, built in 1475, is one of the few remaining Medieval buildings in Paris.

The Experienced Travellers sought history and art.  Visits to the Marais neighborhood, and tickets to the blockbuster Monet exhibit at the Grand Palais were both su–perrrr.

History first!  The ETs walked Nurse’s wheels off exploring the Marais, the Ile St. Louis and the Ile de la Cite. 

This medieval building is a bit tipsy, but still standing

This part of Paris holds the core of her history, and many of the remaining Medieval and Renaissance buildings are found here.

We stumbled on the Paris Historical Society, where I got a private tour of 13th century Cistercian cellars.  I was delighted with the damp musty smell of old stone. 

The cellars are under an outbuilding of the Cistercian abbey of Ourscamp. The house is listed as Ancient Monument for its facade, its roof and its stairs.  The stairs merit careful attention from descending ETs.  They slope inward from centuries of enthusiastic, wine-toting Cistercians. 

Medieval Cistercian cellars and my wonderful Guide

My guide was wonderful, spoke slowly, and complimented me on my French (donation, 2 euro).  Then she remarked that I had a fine knowldege of Parisian history (donation up to 5 euro) and that my accent was very good (donation is now 10 euro).   Keep her on the payroll.

But it’s not just ancient streets and tales of tipsy monks.  Paris’ historic buildings coexist with contemporary art galleries and chic shops. 

A little something for the living room from the Ile St. Louis

These proprieters should take a lesson from my guide and dole out more compliments to tourists.  It’s quite lucrative.

No photos allowed at the Monet exhibit, so here's the garden at the Grand Palais

ETs are balanced travellers – it’s not just about food and shopping.  The Monet exhibit is the art happening of the season and the ETs were right in the mix.  We cut the line again, thanks to Nurse’s 10-speed walker (I guess sciatica has a few benefits!). 

And Monet was a balanced guy too.  His depictions of people and domestic life are as beautiful as the famous water lilies.  A bit of literary trivia; devoted readers of Proust will recognize Monet as the model for “Elstir” the painter. 

Between our connection with the past in the Marais and the inspiration of Monet’s painting, the ETs are full of critical thinking and academic discussion.  This requires a glass of wine in convivial surroundings to sort it all out.

Parisians relax in their historic city - a setting Monet might have painted

Eating in, eating well and found money

October 7, 2010

 
 
 

Great things come from small kitchens

We have a kitchen in our apartment.  Experienced Travellers know that cooking for themselves results in “found money” to be left at cafe terraces throughout the city.  This sound economic approach is endorsed by merchants and restauranteurs across the Ile de France.

Like our neighbors here, we do our food shopping in the Rue Cler.  I will confide to you that this terrifies me.  I fumble for change and forget how to say “potato”.  Inevitably I touch a vegetable that is meant to be weighed only by Monsieur.  In spite of my fears, I consider it a point of honor to go out and shop each day.  

We’re eating in tonight, so we must compose our meal.

"How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?" DeGaulle

The Cheese Ladies operate a fragrant shop filled with the most interesting choices.  Nurse chose an époisses, a soft, smelly cheese that will spread nicely on bread.  (Attention Bob G – do you know this cheese?)

The vegetable scouting unit

Of course, I sent Nurse into the produce shop.  If any unauthorized touching of goods takes place, it won’t be me getting scolded in fast French.  She did a super job and we left with three kinds of wild mushrooms, figs and a lemon.  Good work, Nurse!

This is how scallops really look. The French prize the pink part that we don't eat in the US. They will be dinner later this week.

After quick stops at the boulangerie and the fish shop, I ran into the Franprix for a few groceries and we headed home to cook. 

The chef models her chic new frames. (New lenses to come when we get home)

Taming the wild mushrooms

Let me clarify;  Nurse cooked. I handled the blog content creation and made encouraging sounds.

The result – a wonderful meal of pan-fried cod, wild mushrooms, potatos, sweet radishes, a baguette, fresh figs and ripe, smelly cheese. And remember the 2-euro wine from the lady in the grocery?  It’s just fine, and it’s 13% alcohol.

 By my reckoning, this dinner for two cost about 14 euros.  It would cost at least 40 euros to eat a light meal at a bistro.  That’s like finding 26 euros on the ground to spend on cafes or shopping!  Our Paris visit gets more affordable every day.

Better living through "found money"

Dinner at Le Florimond

October 6, 2010

 
 

Laurent at Le Florimond always remembers us. Rely on him to deliver advice and an excellent meal

By popular demand, more food pictures.  Last night The Experienced Travellers visited their favourite restaurant, Le Florimond.  It’s been #1 with us for over 12 years.   The standard menu features “grandma’s recipes”, and there’s always a chalkboard full of seasonal dishes as well. 

If you arrive between 7-8pm, there are lots of English-speaking diners so there’s lots of cross-table visiting. (After 8pm the chatter is primarily French.)  Our neighbor was a dashing Dutchman. And on his left, a couple from Toronto. 

Ann got the 3-course menu and I ordered a plat and a dessert, with an affordable half-bottle of Bordeaux.  And here’s the food:

Ann's rabbit fillets, rabbit sausage, figs, white and orange carrots

Julie's stuffed cabbage - the recipe of Laurent's grandmere

It was a wonderful meal in a friendly, comfortable place with interesting people.  So why can’t we clone the Florimond dining experience in Rochester? 

Nurse in deep preparation for her dinner

Julie, dazed and confused after two hours of feasting (Laurent in the background tending to outdoor tables)

After a fantastic dinner the Experienced Travellers strolled home along the Rue Cler in the misty rain of a Paris night.  It was just perfect.

Cafe Life

October 2, 2010

Living the cafe life in Paris

Everyone visits the corner cafe.  This one is on the Rue Cler, near our apartment and it’s a great spot.  The coffee is better down the street, but the Cafe du Marche is a more interesting location.  

I noticed some kind, generous nieces taking their ageing aunt out for a p’tite cafe.  I mention this in case any nieces or nephews I know wonder what ageing aunts like to do on a Saturday in Paris.

A balmy Paris evening on a cafe terrace in the 7th

In the evening, the preferred post for people-watching is the La Terrasse.  The location near the Ecole Militaire metro stop means non-stop traffic.  A glass of port or a Viennese coffee buys you a table for as long as you care to linger.  And the waiters are nice.  I want one of those black waiter’s vests because I like the pockets.  It means asking a waiter where to get one.  Do I have the nerve and the verbs to do it?

Why isn't he wearing a black vest?

Tonights fashion report;  girls are wearing black tights under short dresses, knee-high boots and retro Carnaby Street peaked caps.


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