20 Minutes To France
Have I mentioned that I'm a bit of a Francophile? Haha J/K. You're actually probably tired of hearing it but facts are facts: I'm mildly obsessed with all things French. The language (I brushed up before our trip in 2014 and can carry on a brief conversation). The food. (Wine + cheese + fruit + bread = the perfect meal). The fashion. (Need I elaborate?) And the country itself.
France is so beautiful it makes my heart hurt. In another life -- or who knows, maybe later in this one -- I want to live in the French countryside and bike everywhere with a baguette and fresh flowers sticking out of my basket. In my dream I also have perfectly imperfect natural hair like French girls do and I grow fresh herbs in my own garden. You can see this is all very rooted in reality. Ideally I'd live in Provence or maybe in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val where they filmed The Hundred Foot Journey, one of my VERY favorite movies.
Since we're not currently in the position to plan a big trip to the French countryside (much less move there), I'm left to live vicariously through travel bloggers, historical fiction, and film. OR I can just hop in the car and take a quick twenty minute drive to wrap myself in the magic of France. I'm talking about...downtown Asheville.
Specifically this darling little courtyard I found tucked away off Lexington Avenue.
I went downtown to do a photo shoot with Virtue, a women's boutique located downtown stocked with some of the most darling dresses you've ever seen. All three of these dresses are from Virtue, and each one gave me that feminine-sweet-but-sexy French girl vibe that I love so much. The silhouettes, the patterns, the details...all so lovely and alluring at the same time. I liked them well enough on the hanger but when I put them on I immediately felt captivating. Like my best self. Like I was a straw bag, a pair of shoes, and some fresh flowers away from completing my transformation and waking up in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
I've never been accused of having a lack of imagination.
Outfitted in my summery dresses, we went in search of the perfect location and it turned out to be right under our noses. Or, right beside the boutique, technically. We ducked into this brick-lined alley and came out in a beautiful courtyard filled with colorful umbrellas, ivy-covered walls, and the smell of roasted red peppers. And if I wasn't already drifting in my own dreamy French reverie, I discovered a local French speakeasy called L'Ecluse serving wine, small plates, desserts, and espresso.
Well knock me over and call me Fancy Nancy, the whole thing was magnifique!
They don't call Asheville "the Paris of the South" for nothing!
Next time you're in downtown Asheville, peak your head into the little courtyard and pop into Virtue! They've got something for everybody with designs that appeal to all different styles and sizes. Plus the whole store is really very affordable. The most expensive item I tried on was $57!
The epilogue to my French daydream: I couldn't part ways with my dream wardrobe could I? I took home these dresses and have worn them for a casual dinner with the girls and date night. I love that the French style of each one makes them wonderfully accommodating to "unfixed' hair and makeup. Meaning, it doesn't need to look too perfect to look...well...perfect.
Since I've already got the perfect outfits, the only thing to do now is start saving up for the trip of a lifetime. Until then, I can always visit that darling little courtyard to whisk me away to a French state of mind.
58 North Lexington Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
Virtue is an Asheville-based boutique located off Lexington Avenue that carries boho-chic women's fashions, accessories, home decor, and gifts. Thank you to the fabulous team at Virtue for partnering with me on this post, for teaching me more about this town I call home, and for being so much fun to work with!
Photography by Bri Salley