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Mes Vacances D’Été

Or in other words, “My Summer Vacation”! This summer I had the chance to go back to my summer hometown in Arcachon, France. Residing in the southwest of France, Arcachon is known as a vacation spot for the people of Bordeaux, especially as it is only about an hour away.  Filled with tall pine trees, farmers markets, beaches, boating, and families, it’s the perfect place to spend a relaxing summer. My grandparents live there half of the year (in between stays in their Paris home) and I’ve spent nearly every summer of my life there with them.

From being a crawling baby to a young woman, each year has greeted me with the same consistency — very little change. From family (grandparents, cousins and friends), food (seafood, my grandma’s fruitcakes, pastries galore) and the environment (temperate in climate, small cars, shuttered Arcachonais-style homes and calm ocean breezes), my heart delights in nostalgia and comfort when I am there. Not the kind of comfort I feel after having a delicious meal at Ha(a)itza (oh my word the creme brûlée!), but the kind of comfort that lulls my heart to sleep at night. Familiarity. Home.

A piece of my heart will forever be etched and grafted to this part of the Earth. More precisely, this town. Even more precisely, the home that my grandparents have brought alive and allowed life to live in for so many years. For as long as I live, the Pyla home will be a special place to me, one that I will forever pull inspiration and sweet memories from.

I decided to create a few sketches to depict some of my favorite moments from this summer. Here are a few, including a map of Arcachon, to give you an idea of what a typical Arcachonais summer looks like:

My mother-in-law Anne came with Scott and me to France this summer! We first stayed in Paris, then the South in Le Pyla, with my grandparents. Because Anne and my grandmother would both wake at around 6 am, it was fun to hear them come together in the kitchen, whispering and talking over their morning coffees. Neither of them knew how to perfectly speak the other’s language, but they sure tried, sometimes repeating words and phrases a few times. It was an adorable way to wake up!

Every morning, listening to my mother-in-law and grandmother talk: “Could you ‘shooz’?” “Shoes?” “No. Chsooze.” “Choose.” “CHOICE!”Ahhh….” It was just adorable!

“The mornings…these windows…this air”

Waking up in Le Pyla (the tiny town within Arcachon, where my grandparents live) is a dream. Fresh sea air softly billows through the shutters. Once opened, soft sunshine fills the room while pink roses say “hello”, gently peeking into the bedroom.

In Pyla, I enjoy myself…sole fish, the ceteaux! The fruitcakes and tarts! The Charlotte strawberries or wild forest strawberries!”

Most of my most favorite foods come straight from my grandmother’s kitchen in Pyla. Her cooking is simple, tasty, flavorful and nothing short of incredible. While she has a serious talent when it comes to cooking, without fresh ingredients to start with, it’d be a bit more difficult for her to create such incredible dishes. Because Arcachon sits on a bay and is next to the ocean, fresh seafood is bountiful. Furthermore, because Arcachon is also surrounded by nature and farmland, it is rich in produce, strawberries and all of the freshest ingredients you can think of. Although most advanced countries are moving towards mass-produced foods, thankfully this area in France remains local.

 

… and the melons! I wish I could have you taste the sweet, fragrant melons from this area in France. My grandmother has the eye (and the nose!) and always knows how to pick the perfect ones. We usually eat melon as an entree, before the main meal starts. It’s refreshing, quenching and light – a perfect way to get a meal started!

“We were cutting up some vegetables to make a ratatouille when…I found a caterpillar in my bell pepper!”

Finding a caterpillar inside of this bell-pepper was actually incredible. Before I began cutting the bell-pepper, I remember inspecting it half-meticulously, looking for any brown spots or holes. Nothing. It was perfect, red and shiny. Upon slicing it open with my knife, I found a perfectly (thankfully unscathed) healthy caterpillar, living inside of his beautiful pepper. I’d never seen that before! And how did it get inside in the first place?

“In Paris, I walked 8 miles a day…in Pyla, -8. It’s all about finding balance!”

It’s all about balance. I don’t know what it is about Paris that has me walking miles on miles every time I step foot in the city. It could be the endless amount of beauty to be discovered around every corner. Or the endless amount of museums, monuments, markets, cafes, or boutiques. Or the endless amount of friends and family to visit. Paris stimulates all of my senses in the most wonderful way. Things to do, people to see!

Le Pyla, on the other hand, is relax-central. Soft fragrant sea air, long family meals, days filled with tanning, bike rides or…nothing. And because everyone around you is doing the same thing – nothing – there’s no guilt about being productive (like I usually feel here in Los Angeles).

 

For a long time now I’ve thought about creating a book filled with my grandmother’s sayings and genius expressions. She may be 75 years old, but she’s incredibly sharp, on the nose and witty. I, on the other hand, am slow to catch on when it comes to sarcasm and retaliated jokes. Hence why she blurted out one day, while my family and I were riding in the car with her, “You know, I may have a weak body but at least my head works!”. She is absolutely right — there’s no contesting her there.

One of my most treasured moments this summer was showing my grandparents Scott and my wedding featured in Vogue Spain’s Brides issue. My grandmother is the source of my initial interest in fashion and beauty, and she remains a huge inspiration for me in both my modeling and day-to-day life. Because of this, it had always been a dream to be able to one day show her a copy of Vogue (with myself inside the pages), to be able to, in a way, show her ‘the fruits of her labor’. All those years of teaching me about fabrics, colors, styles, and beauty weren’t for nothing! This was a huge coming full-circle moment for me that I will cherish forever. And of course, though my goals and dreams may change throughout the years, making those I love proud will always be one of my greatest sources of joy. I hope to keep doing so.

Au bord de la mer a Arcachon