October 18, 2021

Luxembourg - Discover a place celebrating women's history

Today I want to take you to Pafendall or Paffenthal a neighbourhood in the old Luxembourg. First mentioned in the 15th century, it was a popular neighbourhood for all sort of craftsman who were making things along the banks of the river Alzette. At one point it had its own language, a dialect of Luxembourgish, called Yenish. In our days it is known for the Panoramic Elevator which connects it to the centre of the city and for the Funicular which connects it to the Kirchberg area. 

In the middle of Pafendall there is a basin which is called kneipp path (foot bath) where one could exercise the stork walk which improves the circulation. But before that was transformed into a contemporary socialising place, the kneipp path was a lavoir, a place where women would come to wash clothes. 

This particular lavoir was one of the four washing spots that existed in the area and the only one surviving today. It was built in 1931 and it was used for more than forty years up to the era in which running water was introduced in every house and the washing machines became popular. It was a place where women would come to wash, to meet and to chat. It was restored in 2016 almost at the same time they installed the Panoramic Elevator and if you want to find it, it is across the street from the church.

Close to the Luxembourgish National Day, which is June 23rd, there is the Day of the Neighbourhood in which they organise a water carrying contest for children around the old lavoir. 

The place has a specific energy and if you visit it on a sunny day as I did, take a coffee or a sandwich with you to enjoy it, who knows you might meet your next best friend there.

A shorter post for today, as I am in a very busy part of my year, but rest assured I have more stories to tell you about Luxembourg, friendship and collies :) so stay close. I hope you've liked reading this post as much as I've enjoyed writing it, hope to spot you on Instagram where I am a bit more active @mademoiselle.ralu 

P.S. Pit Weyer a graphic designer drew the pattern for the railings that lead to the lavoir trying to recreate the old, local, colour of the neighbourhood, with women washing clothes and children playing.

October 12, 2021

Luxembourg - Iconic fashion pieces - The basic striped t-shirt

I wrote so many posts about the Romanian Blouse that you might think that is all I wear, but it's far from the truth. Normally if we'd meet on the street, chances are I am wearing a striped t-shirt. Long sleeved, short sleeved, blue and white, white and blue, green, red, orange, coloured, it doesn't matter, really. This year I've discovered the striped dresses and I already own and wear two :)

I've started wearing them almost ten years ago, because I was working on television and striped t-shirts were a big no-no because the TV screen is made of horizontal stripes and the t-shirt of vertical stripes, together they create something which is called the Moire effect. My everyday uniform was a striped t-shirt, jeans and converse, because my other t-shirts were for TV.

My personal favourite are the blue with white stripes, but that design is not the original one. Turns out the Breton Striped T-shirts were invented in 1858 as the uniform for the French Seaman in Northern France, in Brittany. They were made of wool fabric, white with blue stripes and they had exactly 21 stripes, one for each of the Napoleon Bonaparte's victories against the British. Similar to Romanian Blouses, when a sailor would die in battle he was recognised as being French after his striped t-shirt. 

The one who is responsible for turning this uniform into a fashionable item is non other than Coco Chanel. Apparently striped t-shirts with trousers were worn by women at the seaside towns on holidays, and she had a store in Deauville on the French Riviera, but they became fashion items in 1917 when she made a whole collection inspired by this shirt and called it the Nautical Collection. We already know that she helped promote the wearing of pans in women clothing so one could say the striped shirt and pants combo became fashionable from then on and it is still now.  

Over the years a lot of celebrities chose to wear the striped t-shirt in a casual setting or in a more formal one and with just one Google search you can see all the examples. I have chosen just three:

Coco Chanel wearing a striped t-shirt and flared trousers.
Audrey Hepburn in the 1956 movie "Funny Face" wearing a striped t-shirt, blue with white stripes.
To me she will always be the Fashion Icon of my generation, so here she is, Sarah Jessica Parker wearing a striped t-shirt.
Closer to home, here is Her Royal Highness the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Maria Teresa wearing stripes. I took the photo from their oficial instagram account  

As I've said, I think stripes are good for any occasion, I dress them up or down, I wear stripes at the office or at parties and you know what, I even find them flattering on my silhouette. The combination stripes with pearls I think it's amazing. I always choose natural fabrics, cotton or linen t-shirts or dresses, I haven't yet found a hemp striped t-shirt, but if you know a good one, send it my way. 
Let's just pause for a moment: when or where would I ever end up together with Sarah Jessica Parker or Coco Chanel on an article? But nonetheless here I am in all my glory, this Spring in a wheat field.
Here I am on our holiday in the South of France in Martigues
Stripes again at the Souleiado Factory Museum
Stripes on my hometown
And again stripes on our weekend in the Netherlands with the tulip fields.

Where to find good quality striped t-shirts? 

Well I have to confess I buy most of my striped t-shirts online from Debenhams (back when they had a decent store for Europe) from M&S or a recent favourite is Seasalt Cornwall. In Luxembourg I found good t-shirts at MonoPrix in the City Centre, from there I bought my blue striped dress in the first picture and IT HAS POCKETS :) but depending on your budget you can find them at Camaieu, H&M, Zara, C&A, Esprit...they all have good quality cotton striped t-shirts.

If you want to splurge and buy a close to authentic striped t-shirt, there are Saint James or Orcival stores, the first advertises itself as the ones producing the t-shirts for the sailors back in 1858, the last sells only striped t-shirts, but they are one in a lifetime items, I would asume. 

And that is it, boys and girls. I don't want to jinx it, but I'm imagining this blog taking a bit of a different direction. So stay with me :) As usual I am more active on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu


September 27, 2021

Luxembourg - We might not have so many rainbows, but we have gorgeous sunsets

Linked with one of the previous posts, the one with the LetzBingo, where I've said it is very hard, if not impossible to catch a rainbow in Luxembourg, well going into the sunset (another box in the game) should be an easy thing. That is because we do have gorgeous sunsets here and I've got a tone of photos showing just that.

They are from all seasons, from all over the place, in towns, in the fields, in my back garden, Spring, Summer, Winter, you name it. Even on gloomy days, somehow the sun manages to show its face just so it can set.

I wanted this to be on the blog, because lately I take a lot of random photos and I'm not using them anywhere, I'm not giving them a second look back, they just sit in my phone. To me, they are lovely and they deserve a show. So here you have it, sunset pictures from Arlonia.

As usual you can find me on my Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu

September 20, 2021

France -The Souleiado Museum in Tarascon

At the cause of the pandemic, last year I've discovered the south of France and, most importantly, I've discovered I like it. Also last year, I've discovered an YouTube channel called The Chateau Diaries where the owner of a castle in France started vlogging about life at the castle and about her passions, one of them being old fabrics such as Toile de Jouy and this Souleiado.

I remember briefly that last year on our visit to Tarascon, I've passed by the museum, but did not bother to enter as I knew Souleiado being a luxury brand I find interesting, but not interesting enough to spend my money on. 

But, after seeing Stephanie's vlog at the museum, convinced me that it is actually in line with my passion for the history of textiles. Arriving there I also found out that they allow dogs in the museum and that was the final click that proved it was the right thing to visit. 

So a bit about Souleiado and the printed cotton in Provence, France.

Tarascon is located close to Marseille, a big port, where all the printed fabrics would arrive from India and Turkey, the locals naming the fabrics "indienne". The local craftsmen saw the beauty of those fabrics and started producing their own in most cases employing Armenian craftsmen. Quickly they became more affordable than the embroidered silk produced in Lyon that was in fashion at that time in France. As well they were introduced into the French Royal Court and soon they started replacing the silk. The silk manufacturers complained to the king which was Louis the XIV and he gave an edict banning the wearing, the production and the sale of printed cottons. So the producers in Marseille were forced to either go to England, Switzerland or Alsace, which was in Germany at that time or to go to Avignon, which was under the property of the Pope and not the King. Seeing that his edict did not stop the Provencal printed fabrics, the king gave three years later a second edict, ordering the destruction of everything related to the printing of cotton. The producers, having huge quantities of white cotton,  specialised in quilting, a technique which is called "boutis" and it is to be found even in Romania on the blouses of Banat region. Only in Banat, it met the Balcanic influence and the embroidery is not made with white thread, but with metallic thread, the technique being somewhat similar. 

Two kings later, Marie Antoinette was queen and she loved all the things inspired by the peasant life and she reintroduced printed cottons to the court in Versailles. From then on they were called Provencal fabrics and the women from the region introduced them into their traditional dress. 

In 1806 the first textile factory was open in the convent in Tarascon by Jean Jourdan, it passed from generation to generation and from money crises to money crises until 1916 when it was the last "indienne" (cotton printed as in India) maker in Provence. A chemist, Charles Henri Demery decided to save the factory, bought it and under his influence the factory flourished. His nephew inherited the factory with only 10 employees and made it what we see today. It changed ownership in 2009, but the current owners only continue what was put in place then. All the history is here.

Today, Souleiado is what I would call a luxury brand, its popularity increased when Princess Diana wore a bag produced by Souleiado at a horse race or something and you can find their stores all over the south of France, the closest one to Luxembourg being the one in Paris. 

Souleiado started its textile production with handkerchiefs, ribbons and scarfs like the ones you can see women wearing around their neck and tight around the waist. 

In France as in Romania, children clothes rarely survived, so when you see an every-day dress in a museum look closely and appreciate it. 

I love the delicacy of the everyday clothes

In the museum, besides mannequins dressed in Souleiado fabrics there are a dining area and a bedroom also decorated with printed cotton.

Even the floor is something that I would include in my house today

This is what I was saying above. When the king Louis the XIV gave the edict banning the production of printed cotton, the craftsmen found themselves with a lot of white cotton. So they perfected the trapunto quilting technique from Italy, but called "boutis".  The embroidery from Banat region in Romania is first of all an embroidery technique and not a quilting one, but the result is similar to what you can see in the embroidery loop, just that instead of sewing white fabric over white fabric, you put cotton or wool on the design and cover it with metallic thread. To me it looks similar, to a trained person this could be a lot of rubbish. 

Even the bathrooms in Souleiado Museum are worth a visit

There are a few cases with pottery from the region and it is all lovely, but I've liked this jug the most.

Inside one of the interior courtyards.

There are, of course, the more contemporary Souleiado creations. This one I think I saw on the Chateau Diaries

I love the skirts, but I haven't seen them on their store and I doubt I could let myself buy one as they are expensive, to me.

Come on, tell me this is not something you would wear today?

Finally, Princess Diana's bag in a Souleiado store in Arles, I think.
The museum also has a shop which, to my husband's relief, I forgot to visit :)

I hoped you found this post somewhat interesting. I intend to write such posts from time to time, not only related to textiles, but next will be one on jewellery, another on a very contemporary trend and a love of mine, stripes :), so posts about things that I find interesting, that are not necessarily related to us living in Luxembourg, but the connection is there, always.

This being said, I hope you like reading the post as much as I've enjoyed putting it together. I hope to see you on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu 

September 13, 2021

Luxembourg - Luxembourgish children books, in English

In a multilingual and multicultural country as Luxembourg is I thought there will be a lot of books written by Luxembourgish writers or with the action placed in Luxembourg in English, but to my surprise beside city guides or books about Luxembourg as a country, I couldn't find any books in English. 

They have such a lovely and actual political fable by Michel Rodange, "Renert or the fox in a tailcoat and in human shape Renert oder de Fuuss am Frack an a MaansgrĂ©isst" which I've read in German, I think, but I would have liked to have it in English too and read it to Ilinca when she will be old enough to understand it. They have the tale of Melusina and Siegfried, based of a very old folktale. My colleagues said they grew up with the children books about the adventures of Maus Ketti, a country mouse who visits her cousin in the city and the other way around, a fable by Auguste Liesch. And I'm sure they have so many more, but I could not find anything translated into English.

Just yesterday, I've went to one of the big Luxembourgish book shops in the city and they confirmed that none of the examples above exists in English in a printed form. They guided me to the English book shop close to the Ducal Palace and there I found some books. Completed with what I've already had, here is an article about Luxembourgish books for children.

Of course I will start with my friend's book, "Our magic journey on earth. A book of kindness, friendship and respect" written by Clara Moraru and placed in the City of Luxembourg and Park Merl. It has three stories with lovely illustrations, it was written in English and Luxembourgish and you can order it here.

Another book which is not placed in Luxembourg, but it was written here and illustrated by a Luxembourgish artist I like is "Waking the mountain" written by Marina Fonseca with drawings by Lisa Junius. It is a very sensitive book about an actual topic. You will find it at the English Book Store.

Two books on a similar topic, to me at least, are "Wooow!!! Luxembourg Charlotte and Mister Owl's great adventure" and "Lucilinburhuc's treasure". Their characters are discovering Luxembourg.

In "Wooow!!! Luxembourg Charlotte and Mister Owl's great adventure" the author, Thomas Schoos and the ilustrator, Keong-A Song introduce the reader to Charlotte, a little girl who together with her friend, Mister Owl, tells the story of Luxembourgish places and myths, outside the city limits. 

In "Lucilinburhuc's treasure", two brothers start from the pirate ship playground in the city and following a treasure map, discover the old town and its legends and at the end they discover also a treasure. Written by Marie-Isabelle Callier. You can also find both books at the English book store.

Last but not least, I wanted to tell you about a book written by a mother and independent Luxembourgish artist, Anya Poulles which I've discovered over Instagram at the #mom_lu community. It's not in English, but it is a book for small children from where they can learn basic Luxembourgish words. "Meng eischt wierder" is called and you can order it on Instagram, here. We even wrote the translation in English and Romanian and made our copy multilingual.

It is not a children's book, but it helped me a lot to discover Luxembourg beyond the city guides, it's Anne Faber "Home sweet home... my Luxembourg".  It is indeed a cook book, but with a twist and it has pictures of places from Luxembourg related with food. Anne has five books in English and she is Luxembourgish and she is very active on Instagram.

If you live in Luxembourg and you are interested in books in English, besides the English Book Shop I've mentioned quite a few times, there is an online independent book shop called Little English Bookworm. They are very close to my heart as in the deepest and saddest lockdown they delivered to my door step books for me and Ilinca which made the corona times more colourful. So do check them out.

That is it from me, if you have other examples on books about Luxembourg, placed in Luxembourg or written by Luxembourgish writers, but in English, please dm me on Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu