EXPERIENCE | Paris with Chaumet (Photo HEAVY)

If you have been following me on Instagram, you will know that this trip to Paris was a REALLY big deal for me because of my fear of flying. Though Paris looked magical in the movies, I really did not think I would ever see the Eiffel Tower with my own eyes because I couldn’t envision myself surviving the flight and the anxiety of traveling. I don’t even really like traveling within my own city for a whole day let alone a foreign city. I am a true homebody and though it would have been nice to have some new scenery for the Gram, I don’t think I will ever truly have the travel bug. 

In 2021, it was decided that I would be the new Chaumet Boutique Manager at my work. I would still be the manager for Birks, but I would take on this additional role as it was still a fairly new brand in Canada. We had a rather small space for Chaumet at the time, but because we were upgrading to a full blown boutique in December 2022, it was decided that the new space needed a dedicated manager and staff. Part of being a manager for Chaumet was the opportunity to attend the International Retail Seminar (IRS) which would be in Paris (though I have heard it changes locations every year!). When I heard this, I was immediately struck with fear and I didn’t truly think it was happening even when my flight was booked! It wasn’t until I had hotel reservations and an itinerary that I started to believe it was real! Essentially every time I thought about this trip, my stomach would lurch and I would be consumed by anxiety. I even asked to resign as manager and was told in a not so nice way that that was not an option and realistically, who in their right mind would turn down an all-expenses paid trip to Paris with a beautiful jewelry brand?! So, about a month before I got a prescription for some low-grade anti-anxiety medication, got the Calm app, obtained three types of Gravol and talked to a therapist (who said I was uber prepared and to use logic to talk myself out of my fears). I won’t lie though that for the whole week before the flight, I was a ball of nerves. I woke up with butterflies in my stomach and I went to bed with them. I lost 4 lbs and had to force myself to eat because I also didn’t want to get sick before the trip! 

My husband had already been in Europe for almost 2 weeks and when I said goodbye to him at the airport, he said to me “The next time I see you, will be in Paris!” He met me at my hotel after I had landed and it was such a relief to see him and know that I had made it to The City of Love! I only had an hour of sleep on the plane so I was pretty out of it, but I was only going to be in Paris for four nights so I knew I had to make it count! The day I landed, there was a welcome cocktail party at the hotel at 6pm so I took a quick nap beforehand, told myself to be social and meet the other 130 boutique managers! As a classic introvert, there were MANY moments on this trip where I needed to psych myself up, but in the end I knew that as the newbie manager, I could either have a “meh” trip or do my best to make it as memorable as possible. Obviously, I chose the latter and honestly, once I gave into the events and chatting with people, it was easy to forget how tired I was or how shy I felt. I just had to dive headfirst and DO IT and not think too much about it. I had three days with Chaumet that went from 7:45am-10:30pm the first two days and then we ended around 3pm on the last day so that we can run off and explore Paris.

Firstly, I apologize for the photos being of different sizes as some were for IG Stories! Even though this was a work trip, Chaumet did a beautiful job of making sure we got to see some historic places in Paris starting with staying at the Intercontinental Paris Le Grande! They even gave us a PDF of historical facts about the places we visited in an app they created specifically for the event! 

On the first day, the sales meeting and welcome breakfast were at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal, built in 1784, and was originally a puppet theatre. It seats 750 people and is now used as a playhouse for various shows. It felt a lot like the Moulin Rouge era and seeing a red velvet curtain complete with red velvet chairs was actually quite cool to experience. 

We later went to Cafe de la Paix, built in the 1800s, and host to many guests including the likes of Victor Hugo and Ernest Hemingway. We had an incredibly filling lunch and dessert that I wish I could have doggy-bagged (I heard that this doesn’t really happen in French restaurants)!

Next, we were off to 12 Place Vendome, home of the Chaumet flagship store and Atelier aka where the jewelry is made! I had been dying to see Place Vendome as this is an iconic luxury shopping area and home to the Ritz. We spent about 2 hours checking out new jewelry releases and seeing how a tiara is made! It was so informative and I feel like I got to know the brand so much better!

That night we had dinner at another iconic Parisian place called Maxim’s! Established in the early 1900s, Maxim’s has played host to many international celebrities like Marcel Proust, Brigitte Bardot and Barbara Streisand! The vibe of this multi-floor restaurant is classified as very Art Noveau and there was a ton of entertainment during the cocktail hour leading up to dinner. There were fun people like these guys here and even makeup artists giving us some extra glitter for the night! 

All of that was on the first day from 8am to 11pm so I was pretty exhausted by the end of the night. I left when the party was still going on as I wanted to move past the jet lag as quickly as possible and thankfully, I slept right through the night! 

The next day was all work as we spent most of the day at Chaumet headquarters in a meeting room planning for our group presentations the next day so no photos were taken. Once it was announced that there was to be one spokesperson for the group and that the presentations needed to take place in English, I knew it would be me seeing as how I was the only Canadian there. It also threw people for a loop when they found out I was Chinese, but couldn’t speak Mandarin and had passable French. What DID really wow me at this seminar was the number of Chinese people who could speak French, Mandarin and English fluently! What a glorious trifecta of languages to know! It inspired me to start Duolingo again just to brush up on my French! I plan on being more prepared when I head back to Paris because whether it is for work or pleasure, I would like to go again!

Later that night, there was a cocktail party at 12 Place Vendome plus the opportunity to attend the “Golden Age” exhibit which showcases Chaumet’s collaborations and inspirations from the 60-70s! This exhibit runs until Dec.2, 2023 and is free of charge by appointment. I did not expect to spend a solid 2 hours there, but I was totally enchanted by the jewelry I was seeing! I have all of the photos from the exhibit on my Instagram if you are interested in seeing more!

The third and final day of the seminar was to take place at the Louis Vuitton Foundation which was about 30 min by car from our hotel so we all loaded up into buses on a rainy morning and I had to take this photo of the Arc de Triomphe now that I am obsessed with Le Tour de France! This is where the cyclists circle on the iconic final stage of the Tour so it was really impressive to see it with my own eyes!

By the time we reached the LV Foundation, the sun had come out and there was no rain in sight! Unlike the other buildings we had been in the previous days, this architectural feat was built in 2014 and is an hommage and committment to art, culture and heritage. The Rothko exhibit had just started and though I didn’t have time to see it, it looked incredible even for a non-art person like me! 

As for the group presentation, well I helped write a poem which kind of makes sense since I was the only native English speaker so I was tapping out the beat with my hands during our meeting. I never told anyone that I was also a classically trained violinist so I sort of took over on the beats and measures aspects of the poetry-writing, but we also had a really good facilitator, Marco, who kept us on track. I read it in front of 150 Chaumet employees with the theme music to Chef’s Table playing AND we were the first ones to go! It went well, I did it all with a velvet tiara and I feel like I massively overcame some intense public speaking anxiety though my flying anxiety FAR outweighed public speaking!

OMG and then our team won one of three awards! I was so pleasantly surprised as there were some really good presentations out there! We won a really beautiful Rothko hardcover book as well as a fun read with photos about Chaumet. Now, as much as I appreciated this gift, imagine trying to fly home with a 15lbs book! Nonetheless, I am still VERY glad to have it on my bookshelf at home as a reminder of what I managed to accomplish in Paris. I am not normally one to openly toot my own horn to people, but between the getting on a plane, being very social and fighting through the physical discomfort of travel and then speaking in an auditorium full of people including the CEO and VP, I feel like I am allowed to say “Good Job Jayne!”

We ended the afternoon with lunch at Jardin d’Acclimatation and then it was time for me to say goodbye and then spend the afternoon with my husband – finally! We had very different schedules the whole week as I dedicated myself solely to work and he and my MIL took the time to explore the city and have most of their meals together. 

We didn’t have a lot of time so we decided to walk along the Champs Elysees and just look at stores. I had wanted to see the Parisian versions of many beloved beauty brands so I got my photos of Guerlain and Lancome which were my favourites to look at. I did take a browse through Sephora, but it was MADNESS and I wanted out pretty quickly! 

For dinner, this was the first night it wasn’t provided for me, I had made a reservation at La Souffle the week before when I was still in Vancouver based on the recommendation of my boss. He said the last time in Paris, it looked like a super cute place and that when he asked if they could seat him, they laughed in his face and said they were fully booked! I am VERY glad I made a reservation because I literally watched people get turned away in front of me. The restaurant specializes in one thing – souffles! It also only seats 20 people so it’s super intimate, but yet I didn’t feel like I could hear anyone’s conversations.
The souffles were soooo good and soooo massive! I wanted a dessert souffle, but they were the same size as the dinner souffles! I also decided to try some escargot as even though I have had them before in Vancouver, there is something about trying a French speciality IN France! No regrets here because they were delicious!
Our flight was at 10am the next morning which meant being at the airport at 7am so we ended our night around 9pm and walked my MIL to the train station, took this photo of the Eiffel Tower and then turned in for the night. Even though I didn’t get as much free time as I wanted to in Paris, I did miss home and my kitties. I felt so proud of myself and the adventures I had on this trip and just kept telling myself at the beginning that I would be so happy to make new experiences for myself as I haven’t had a real adventure in awhile. The pandemic really fed the homebody in me and I was ok with that, but being in Paris has sort of made me want to try a few new things in Vancouver!
Thank you to so many of you who checked in on my mental state as I was so freaked out about the flight. The few days leading up to Paris were really not fun for me even though I tried so hard to stay calm and so many of you had suggestions and tips or just words of encouragement which was very comforting. Let’s hope I can do this again and see a bit more of the world! A bientot!

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