The Antiques Diva Does Italia!

Toma Clark Haines definitely knows la dolce vita!

We’re speaking Italian on this Travel Tuesday with some exciting news. Our ONLY choice for European lifestyle tours, The Antiques Diva, is expanding to, you guessed it, Italia; and Toma is already working her magic on the romantic language by saying, “Buongiorno Baby” to anyone wanting to come along for the Tuscan ride!

Tuscan tastemaker Susan Pennington will create and direct the tours, which will amble through the best venues in Florence, Sienna, Arezzo and Lucca (here’s a feature in Belle Inspiration). A British expat living in the heart of Tuscany, Pennington was once an antiques buyer for Harrods in London and an auction-house specialist in New York City. She’s lived in Tuscany for the past two decades, running Montestigliano, a local agriturismo business known for its sumptuous Tuscan-style luxury décor.

Word up, Diva fans; this is Toma’s sixth country, and the list of destinations for gallivanting is impressive: France, England, Belgium, Holland, Germany and, now, Italy. Where’s my passport? Did someone say the University of Bologna is calling?

P.S. We understand there is a spot of royalty in The Antiques Diva’s future. Check in at adroyt in the next week or so and we’ll fill you in!


Of the Paris Persuasion

Was it just two weeks ago I was flitting around Paris with Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva? Uh-huh, and what a blast we had combing the Marche aux Puces and sifting through floor-upon-floor of goodies at Bazaar Hotel de Ville (She even cooked a sumptuous Parisian-inspired meal!) One of my favorite souvenirs from Paris is the tote bag she had made for me. Get a load of the close-up below and you’ll understand why!

About to Embark on a Diva-fied Day of Shopping (note the tote)!

About to Embark on a Diva-fied Day of Shopping (note the tote)!

This is the second year I’ve had the delight of touring Paris flea markets with Toma and I thought I’d pass along news about one of her newest offerings, customized Diva City Tours. I asked her to explains to RBD readers what inspired her to create seven-day gallivants chock full of more fun than the faint at heart could endure! She has a great group of Divas lined up for her Paris tour from March 7 through 13 and she will be posting news on her blog so be sure to stop in for a bit of voyeuristic pleasure Diva style!

The Diva Dishes on Her New Explorations: The concept behind The Antiques Diva® & Co European Shopping Tours is simple: we combine the jet-setting lifestyle of a diva with antique shopping in favorite European cities, including Paris, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and beyond. Our one-day tours have been wildly successful due to this formula of carrying a shopping sack in one hand and a champagne glass in the other!

What differentiates us from most antique shopping tour companies is that we do not arrange group tours, shoving a bunch of strangers together for an inflexible, pre-set period of days. Instead, we cater to our clients travel dates, taking them by the hand on one-day tours that maximize their time with a private, one-on-one customized shopping experience.

While we do offer a variety of services for antique dealers and interior designers, we also offer shopping tours to mere mortals…letting our clients source European antiques and vintage pieces at addresses usually only known to the trade. We recognize that most clients don’t antique shop in a vacuum: while they want to shop les puce they are also visiting these cities to tour the destinations.

All our Diva Guides are well versed on what’s hot in their city and thus we’re always making recommendations to clients on where to eat, drink, shop and tour; our Diva Guides are your best friend abroad. With our new multi-day Diva City Tours, we’re taking those tips a step further and offering clients a chance to see Europe through our mascara-laden eyes.

Frames at the Marche aux Puces

Frames at the Marche aux Puces

These Diva City Tours are usually four-day packaged trips whereby the Diva Guide takes the clients to a variety of must-see addresses in the city. In our popular Paris Diva City Tour we do cooking classes at the Ritz, dine at Michelin-starred restaurants and tucked-away bistros a tourist hasn’t touched. We shop both vintage and haute couture, see where Coco became Chanel, but then turn around and surprise clients by hitting the local grocery store where they can load up on innovative European products they’d never find in America or the UK.

We visit out-of-the-way museums and when the day is done, we pop over to a friend’s apartment to have champagne and macaroons in a grand salon. The multi-day Diva City Tours are designed to show clients what their lives might look like if they lived in one of these international cities, as the next best thing to living in Paris, Antwerp, Berlin or Amsterdam is touring with someone who does! This tour comes with a WARNING, though: 3 of our last 10 clients decided to move abroad after doing the Diva City Tours!

Some of My Loot from BHV

Some of My Loot from BHV.

Insiders Tip: Tourists traveling in Paris might be surprised to know that some of the best souvenirs in Paris come from the local hardware store. The department store BHV, or Bazaar Hotel de Ville, has a basement level bricolage store that serves up everything from those charming blue & white Parisian house numbers to gorgeous fleur-de-lys picture hooks to upscale Parisian tea towels, copper pots and a variety of accessories for the home.


Channeling Your Inner Diva

Toma Clark Haines

Toma Clark Haines

When The Antiques Diva tells you that she will have you shopping until you drop, you had better believe her! I spent a day in Paris with the daring Toma Clark Haines, the Diva herself, and was just about to the point of crying uncle when she breezed us right into The Ritz and straight into the Bar Hemingway! After one of head barman Colin Field’s French 75 cocktails, which he claims are the perfect balm for soothing fretful feet after a day of shopping or sightseeing, we were nearly as good as new.

As a design journalist, I had been hearing about the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, Paris’ famed flea market, for years. Some of my favorites among the homes I’ve covered were either filled with or accented with personable finds from the market, and I’d always dreamed of going myself. One of the reasons I had wrangled Patty into accompanying me to Paris (which, I’ll admit, was not a difficult task!) is that I don’t speak French and she does. But even with her language skills, we knew that trying to go it alone with tasks as intricate as price negotiations would be a mistake.

I learned about Toma through Carmen Natschke, The Decorating Diva, when she featured both of us on her kicky site that serves as one of my favorite surveys of what’s hot in design (I’ll be featuring her Look Books in a future post). I knew the minute I read Carmen’s write-up that Toma was a gift from the antique-shopping gods and I was right. We formulated a plan and Toma rang our buzzer at 9 a.m. the morning our adventure was to commence. It was non-stop action from that moment on and I was thrilled to hang on for the ride!

I was staying in an apartment in the 2nd arrondissement so Toma planned our route to take us to the Porte de Vanves Flea Market first, as it was on the way to the other venues she had planned for us. Toma calls Porte de Vanves the “other Paris flea market,” and I nabbed great finds there. She also took me to a Vide Grenier, which literally means “empty-your-attic sale.” These are neighborhood flea markets that dot the city on weekends. After a quick lunch, she guided me to our most magnificent stop: Les Puce de Paris, or Clignancourt as some people call it, referring to its location at the city’s perimeter in the Porte de Clignancourt.

There are so many facets to the hulking market that it would have been impossible for me to have made sense of it on my own. Two thousand vendors are spread out through thirteen districts and 7 miles of alleyways! Toma had identified three districts that she felt would suit my needs the best, just one of the ways her expertise made the experience manageable. I hit the usual sensory overload that I always reach during such stimulating experiences, but I never once felt lost during the nearly 10 hours we moved through the city and its renowned markets.

The backstory is that we had such a great time thanks to Toma’s bubbly personality and positive attitude that I walked away from the experience feeling as if I’d made a new friend (see for yourself here). Once our antiquing adventures were finished, we freshened up at The Ritz before hitting the bar. Thanks to Toma’s urging, I’d packed one of my prettiest scarves, which I tied around my neck, instantly feeling an elegance befitting Paris and our storied locale.

When Colin ornamented our drinks with a fresh flower that he said he chose to compliment how he perceived our personalities, it felt like the icing on the cake. Getting to bring two very special finds home from Paris is the decorative marzipan curlicues! To schedule tours, visit Toma’s web site; to keep up with the latest, she had an informative blog. Happy antiquing all you Divas out there!