Beauty / Beauty Shoots

Camellias, chateaus and Coco’s apartment: From Paris to Gaujacq with CHANEL Beauty

There's just something about Paris. It feels like the epicentre of everything. But I've actually never ventured outside the city, albeit a quick jaunt in Monaco when I was in my early twenties. But all that changed when CHANEL Beauty came calling: a week-long journey through Paris to Biarritz and on to Gaujacq, a small town in South West France where the House have established an open-sky laboratory.

Special barely begins to cover it, but I'll do my best to recount a week in France with CHANEL beauty below.



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I landed in Paris on the Friday evening. I think it's my sixth time visiting? But I'll never loose the frisson of excitement for Paris, whether it's for work, fun, or a combination of the two.

I entertained a late dinner, but exhaustion won and I went straight to bed after a hot shower and some skincare (N°1 DE CHANEL Powder to Foam Cleanser, Revitalising Serum, Rich Revitalising Cream – perfect in cooler climates – Huile de Jasmine and Hydra Beauty Nourishing Lip Care).

Because Parisians are slow to start, Saturday involved a morning walk, coffee and late breakfast, followed by an appointment with Paola Segondi, an osteopath and physiotherapist who specialises in facial anatomy. I've had countless facials over the years but this was special; less focused on topical formulas, but instead targeted massage to sculpt, define and release tension. Given the 24 hours of travel, it was heavenly.

After lunch at Boubalé (go for the food and the interiors) we spent the afternoon at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, guided by botanist Marc Jeanson. Situated in the 5th, it's home to millions and millions of natural specimens. It's also incredibly beautiful, fascinating and inspiring — definitely worth a visit. Saturday night looked like drinks at Chateau Voltaire, dinner at Sugaar, and a nightcap at Hotel Costes; if you only have one night in Paris, let this be your itinerary.

The remainder of my weekend was spent shopping, eating, wandering and working. Meals worth sharing include escargot and French fries at L'Avenue, everything at Déviant (a near-perfect candlelit wine bar), Gigi's for the view and Bistro Paul Bert for a classic bistro lunch. For something low-key, I love Le Mézières, too.

We were due to depart for Biarritz on the Tuesday, but before that, a visit to Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's apartment. The 18th century building has been the beating heart of CHANEL since 1918, housing the retail boutique, a couture atelier and her personal residence. While she didn't sleep there — Coco preferred the Ritz — the apartment is a mecca of iconography and symbolism. Lions (she was a Leo), Camellias and her lucky number '5' are hidden everywhere. It's been preserved almost exactly as it was when she passed in the early 70s; it even smells like N°5. The dinner parties and creative endeavours that have happened in that apartment are legendary. If only walls could talk! On the way out, we were invited for an extremely quick preview at upcoming pieces for a couture collection. A magical, once-in-a-lifetime type experience.

Eat: Sugaar, Déviant, Gigi's, L'Avenue and Chez Georges. Don't miss Bar Hemingway for a drink. 

Shop: CHANEL's iconic 31 Rue de Cambon boutique. Smith and Son for magazines; Ofr for books. Le Bon Marche is my favourite department store, as well. 

See: I never miss a visit to Musée de l'Orangerie when I'm in Paris. It's my favourite gallery and small enough to cover in an afternoon. I didn't have time for Musée Gainsbourg rue de Verneuil, but it's on my list... Next time! 




We left Paris for Biarritz via train. Manoeuvring my luggage was... interesting (I grossly overpacked) but we made it, joining those visiting from other countries in the process. I've caught the Eurostar before – how seamless is the public transport in Europe? – but this journey was especially delightful, likely due to the on-board hand massage ft. CHANEL La Crème Main.

Once we disembarked in Biarritz, we checked into Hotel Du Palais. Overlooking La Grande Plague, it's as close to heaven on Earth as I can imagine (opulence is a word that comes to mind). The weather was cool, but the beach was beautiful — it was my first visit to Biarritz, and hopefully not the last. A friend had described it as the Byron Bay of France, and I understand the sentiment. There's a nonchalance about it — a palpable sense of cool – but its not without elegance. It's great for surfing, sun bathing, people watching and food. I love French food, but its proximity to the Spanish border means there's an interesting mix of flavours, cooking techniques and wine!

Eat: The hotel! With beauty at every corner, it was hard to leave. The service was impeccable and menu varied. Plus, the dining room has sweeping views of the sea. Champagne at the outdoor bar during sunset is a must, as well. 

See: I ran out of time, but a walk to Rocher de la Vierge (Rock of the Virgin) should be on your list. If you can handle the cold, a swim or surf, as well. 



The Road to Gaujacq

The preeminent reason we journeyed to Biarritz was to visit Gaujacq, a provencal French village located about an hour of out town (the view of snow-capped Pyrenees on the way was something else). It's also the home of CHANEL Beauty's open-sky laboratory. Established by the house in 1998, the open-sky lab serves as a means to study and preserve the Camellia; a flower that was not only Coco's favourite, but possesses countless skincare benefits. The lab spans 40 hectares, functioning as both an ecological farm and first-of-its-kind research hub. On that note, CHANEL grow all their Camellias in-house; an impressive feat that ensures both consistency and thoughtful cultivation practice. It was harvest when we visited, so the trees were heavy with flowers. Incredible.

We started at Chateau Gaujacq with Jean Thoby, a renowned global Camellia expert. He led us on a tour through the beautiful grounds and explained his work on Camellias — there's over 2000 varieties globally, many of which they cultivate in Gaujacq. After lunch, we moved on to the open-sky laboratory. It's a place where science and ancient farming rituals co-exist. It's also where CHANEL uncovered the properties of the red 'Czar' camellia — the key extract that defines the N°1 de CHANEL product line. Incredibly, almost the entire Camellia flower is used within CHANEL skincare (and this extends well beyond N°1 de CHANEL). Water, waxes, antioxidant compounds, distillations and fermented extracts are all used. The pulp is even dried, ground and repurposed as packaging — an extension of CHANEL's commitment to sustainability.

In its entirety, the day was enlightening and so informative. What CHANEL Beauty is doing in the skincare space, and within beauty in general, is inspiring. They have autonomy over their entire supply chain, a feat that's all but unheard of. The marriage of science, house codes and ancient plant wisdom is alchemic — it was very special to witness up close.

And if you find yourself in South West France, I highly recommend a day in Gaujacq.


Shop my travel edit:

N°1 de CHANEL Lip and Cheek Balm in Berry Boost

N°1 de CHANEL Powder to Foam Cleanser

Hydra Beauty Nutrition Nourishing Lip Care

Le Lift Flash Eye Revitaliser

Huile de Jasmin Face Oil

Hydra Beauty Essence Mist

La Crème Main

N°1 de CHANEL Rich Revitalising Creme

N°1 de CHANEL Revitalising Serum


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