April 14, 2017

A Taste of France in STL: Au Café, Au Musée

On this beautiful Friday in April, I have the day off and I planned to take full advantage of this precious gift of time. I spent the week dreaming about what a perfect day off would include and decided to begin my day at Clayton's City Coffee House & Crêperie

Since my first visit to this charming café, it has been one of my favorite breakfast and brunch spots in the city. Enter into this cozy café decorated in warm tones of terracotta, red, and golden yellow. Look right to view the hand lettered chalkboard menus and choose from a delectable variety of both sweet and savory crêpes. Step up to the counter adorned with a scalloped awning to place your order, and then saunter off to a perfectly small round table with your Eiffel Tower order number in hand. On your way, enjoy the French artwork hanging on the walls. Settle into a Parisian style woven café chair, sip your café au lait, and take in the atmosphere around you. City Coffee is filled with the hum of lively conversations and the clinking of utensils as food is being both prepared and enjoyed. There are people reading books and newspapers. Others are writing. Many are enjoying time with friends. 

Today, inspired by a recently read memoir Paris My Sweet, I ordered a banana and Nutella crêpe. I savored every bite while also savoring the beautiful story of my latest read, The Sweetness of Forgetting. As my delightful breakfast came to end, evidence of a meal enjoyed remained on my plate: melted Nutella, dusted powdered sugar, and cloud like dollops of fresh whipped cream. It was a sweet start to this Friday, indeed. 

Next stop: the St. Louis Art Museum. St. Louis is incredibly blessed to have a beautiful and free art museum in a stunning building that dates back to the 1904 World's Fair. I'll admit that even though I live within walking distance of the museum, I don't take advantage as much as I should. When I heard that a new exhibit was on display (and with a French connection!) I knew I needed to make time to pay a visit to this St. Louis gem. While a large part of the museum is free to visitors, special exhibits are usually ticketed. But on Fridays, the museum offers admission to these special exhibits for free! Today was the perfect day to go and explore. 

The museum's current feature exhibit is Degas, Impressionism, & the Paris Millenary Trade. As the title suggests, the exhibit is centered around the Impressionists' focus on depicting every day life, specifically the lives of the modistes (women who made and sold hats predominantly in the 18th through 20th centuries). Works by Degas, Manet, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec are all featured in the exhibit, among others. Along with the paintings, incredibly ornate hats embellished with lace, ribbon, artificial flowers, and feathers are on display. It's amazing to think of the women who made and wore these creations. Many of the paintings highlight the artificial flower and ribbon industries that flourished during this millenary trade. Images of cascading piles of satin ribbon and expertly gathered tulle draw you into the Paris hat shops of the time. I was especially intrigued by the stories of the trottins, young teenage errand girls who would walk the streets of Paris delivering hats to the women who would wear them. I tried to imagine their experiences working for creative women and being such an integral part of the industry and fashion of the period. 

This beautiful exhibit runs for about 3 more weeks until Sunday, May 7. If you are a St. Louisan it's definitely worth checking out, plus there are three more free Fridays! I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

How do you like to spend days off? What's your vision for a perfect Friday? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. :)

Warm wishes and happy Friday from me to you,

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