I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t wait to read French Women Don’t Get Fat when it was first published. The book, written by former Veuve Clicquot CEO Mireille Guiliano, is smart, funny, and direct, and reveals some of the secrets of why our counterparts across the pond always manage to look infinitely chicer and slimmer while still indulging in life’s great pleasures, like wine, cheese, chocolate and a good roast. Their secret? No, it’s not down to genes (although it does help).
What Guiliano recommends is a sensible approach, where instead of punishing ourselves through diets and eating fake food, we should enjoy what we want – in moderation – and with pleasure.
I also loved her approach to exercise, as she shuns hard workouts (hooray!) for a brisk walk and suggests taking the stairs whenever possible. French Women Don’t Get Fat was such a hit it spawned dozens of copy cats, as well as a sequel- French Women For All Seasons. And for even more tips and recipes, check out Guiliano's website- but in the meantime, she shares her dining and shopping tips with iTravel iShop.
Where is the last place you visited?
Jamaica. I’ve just been there for a long weekend of romance- and work as well. I’ve been to Jamaica many times. We used to go to Montego Bay but now we go to Ocho Rios. It’s a bit difficult to get to- you need to drive for an hour- and we stay at the Jamaica Inn. It’s a little bit old fashioned and it’s great. It’s like staying in a private home. It’s very reomote.
Where do you go to get away from it all?
I love islands. In the summer I go to Block Island or Nantucket. In the winter we go to the Caribbean, but some of my favourite places are a bit harder to get to. I love Jamaica, St. Martin, St. Bart’s. Closer to us, I love Sanibel in Florida as it’s easy to get to.
What do you like to shop for when you’re travelling?
I’m not a very good consumer. All my homes are already furnished and we are quite minimalist. But I am a very curious person and always interested in clothing, flowers, art, food and design. I am inspired by what I see, and I bring home new ideas and new ways to entertain.
What are some of your favourite items you have purchased while travelling?
An 18th century French mirror called "une sorciere" or a witch’s mirror. It’s a small round mirror you can find in a flea market and the reflection looks distorted. We went to a little neighbourhood in Paris and found someone who was making them. We shipped it home and its almost like a sculpture. I love it because you can walk into the living room and see the entire house in it.
My other favourite piece is an Eileen Gray mirror that is in the bathroom. She was very modern and innovative.
What are some of your favourite restaurants in New York?
Oh wow. I love Jean-Georges. The price is high but it is very good value for what you get. It is very healthy too as he cooks with jus and not fat. He is very creative and he has just opened a new restaurant in my neighbourhood, Perry Street. I don’t need to go to the big name, big price places. I love small places like Balthazar, and all the new Italian places which are imitating the Spanish tapas. It's great because you can have lots of little dishes and not get served these huge portions. There are a few just around the corner from me, like Centro Vinoteca, Gusto and Basta Pasta. I have taken Italian friends to Basta Pasta and they say its better than what you’d get in Italy!
I also like the Moma and Blue Hill. I’d rather go less often and eat an amazing meal. I also love Greek food, like Milos and the new restaurant, Anthos.
What about in Paris? Where do you like to eat there?
I go there every six weeks and it's funny, because in New York if you live on the Upper East Side you think nothing of jumping into a cab and heading to dinner. In Paris, you eat out in your neighborhoud. We live in the 6th arrondisment and eat mostly there. I love oysters and one of my favourite places is Huîtrerie Régis. Its very small, with only about 8 or 10 tables and the menu is very limited. And the great thing about oysters is that you can eat as many as you’d like as there is no fat. Oh, and they don’t accept reservations.
I always love La Tour D’Argent. You cannot beat the view and its affordable if you go and only order a main course and wine. I also like La Mediterrane near the Seine.
What’s your advice for keeping healthy while travelling, but still enjoying yourself?
Walk as much as you can. It's also about being sensible and planning ahead. If I know I am going out to lunch and dinner, I won’t have two desserts in a day. Rather than deprive myself, I just balance. It's all in the planning- and prevention. If someone says to me, Oh I ate too much, I over-indulged, they did not think about what they were eating.
Are Americans starting to catch on to this way of eating?
Yes, I think it's starting to change. People need to learn to sit and eat slowly and take your time when you are eating. Most of us are quite sedentary duiring the day and we don’t need to eat 5,000 calories.
What do you always bring with you when you travel? Do you bring your own snacks?
Yes. I never eat on the plane. The most important thing is planning. I bring nuts, dried fruits like apricots, or a banana, things that aren’t going to leak or go bad. When I fly to France it's always a night flight from New York, so I might have a big lunch, and then eat a little something when I get on board the flight. Then I have breakfast when I get to Paris. I also drink lots of water. I drive the stewardesses nuts. I say to them, you can either bring me the bottle of water or you will have to refill it a million times!
What about books or an iPod, what do you always take on a flight?
I always bring a cashmere wrap and my iPod. My husband put all my favourite music on it as well as my Italian lessons.
How can you look stylish while travelling?
People now are so sloppy when they travel. From my mother I learned that you should always dress well because you never know who you will run into. I have clothes that are classic and comfortable, like a nice blouse, leggings and loafers. I don’t run around in stilettos. When you see these people in first class who are dressed so sloppily, you wonder where they come from, where they are going.
What designers and brands are you a fan of?
Everyone thinks I will say French designers but I think the Italians cut the best, and not even the well known designers. I find little known designers in Milan. I also love Japanese designer Issey Miyake. I wear so many of his clothes. The French are just starting to catch on to his use of polyster. I have this great jacket from him that you can wash and hang in your hotel room and it dries in 10 minutes.
In Paris, I shop in the streets around my apartment, like Boulevard St. Germain, Rue Bonaparte, and Rue des Saints Peres. I like designers like Vanessa Bruno and Isabelle Marant. They were well known in Paris but not the rest of the world. They make clothes that are well presented and not hugely expensive. I love the Belgian designers like Dries Van Noten, Natan and Edouard Vermeulen as well.
Click here for Mireille Guiliano's address book.