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South ‘n France: Le Mariage

When creating South ‘n France, Charlene Dupray and Pascal Siegler wanted to celebrate the things they love best about their respective cultures. They set out to marry the relaxed charms and gracious living of the South with the style and flair of provincial France. They would join together simple, traditional Southern pleasures with the spirit of French joie de vivre.

They knew the marriage of these concepts would work beautifully, because as a husband and wife team, Pascal and Charlene have spent years working on blending their two unique cultures into a harmonious whole. Here’s Charlene’s story of their own marriage; how South met France, how they fell in love, and the day they married:

Paris, 1993

Le Début

Charlene Dupray

It was a Sunday afternoon, September 5, 1993. I had been in Paris for less than a week when I decided that I should waste no more time before pursuing my dream. I wanted to sing in a French cabaret before my year of studying abroad ended.

The Fodor’s guide book I had brought along was eight years out of date, but I had felt compelled to purchase that one instead of a newer edition. While studying the Entertainment section, I decided that famous cabarets like the Moulin Rouge or the Folies-Bergère would not receive me with open arms, so I selected two smaller cabarets that might possibly consider adding an unknown American ingénue to their acts: Chez Felix and Chez Ma Cousine.

I had come prepared. Of course, my suitcase contained the jeans, sweatshirts and sneakers requisite for any college student, but it also included two evening gowns, a boa, elbow-length black gloves, high heels and rhinestone jewelry. I carefully applied some stage make-up, put my hair in an upsweep, donned a full-length evening gown, and hopped on the métro! I found my way to Chez Felix, music in hand, only to discover that their doors were closed. I had overlooked one minor detail: most restaurants and cabarets are closed on Sundays in France.

Gourmet Chocolatiers

Determined to let nothing stand in my way, I decided to do some investigative research by asking local shopkeepers about the club. An ice cream parlor, just across the narrow street, was open and completely empty except for the cute French guy working inside. That cute French guy was Pascal Siegler, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Some people might consider our story a chance meeting. But we know it was not. Remember the two cabarets where I had chosen to audition (one on Rue Mouffetard; one on the opposite side of the city in Montmartre). Both were right next to the two independently owned homemade ice cream shops where Pascal worked. Chez Felix stood right across the street from one; Chez Ma Cousine, next door to the other. In later editions of the Fodor’s guide books, neither cabaret was listed among their tourist attractions. I say it was destiny; Pascal, of course, calls it: “le destin”.

Hendersonville, North Carolina, 2000
It Took Seven Years To Get the Itch to Get Hitched

For the next seven years, Pascal and I dated — mostly long-distance. This was before the popular age of email and internet connections, so we spent thousands and thousands of dollars in phone bills, postage, and plane tickets. During his vacations from the restaurant Le Vieux Chalet in Paris, Pascal visited me at work on the cruise ships or at my apartment in Fort Lauderdale. I spent my breaks between shipboard contracts visiting Pascal in Paris.

Finally, on the evening of December 30, 2000, Pascal made an official proposal and asked for my hand in marriage at the home of our dear friends, Linda and Harold Runion in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Pascal cooked a classic French dinner for everyone present. Mrs. Runion set a table so beautiful, even Martha Stewart would have been in awe. After enjoying our meal, wine, and a champagne toast, Pascal gave a very courageous speech in English, asking Mom’s permission (not Dad’s) for my hand in marriage. A huge fan of political strategy, Pascal definitely knew who rules the roost in my family!

New York City, 2001
Le Mariage

Pascal and Charlene Wedding DayIt took us seven years to decide to get married, but just seven weeks to plan our wedding! On Friday, February 23, 2001, Pascal and I joined hands in marriage at a small ceremony in the Big City. Our first minutes as husband and wife were quintessential New York. We laughed, we cried, we kissed, we hugged, and we walked through the doors of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, right across the street from the Disney store and the Trump Tower. Walt himself could not have orchestrated a more perfect moment. There was snow on the ground, city hustle and bustle on the street, and a fairytale horse and carriage waiting to take us for a romantic ride through Central Park. We felt on top of the world, and as famous as the Trump who owns the building across the street when a busload of Japanese tourists started snapping photos of us as if they were the paparazzi. The dinner and celebration that followed made for the best evening we have ever known!

Wilmington, North Carolina 2006
C’est Si Bon Bon!

Pascal and I had both found success in New York City. He worked at Daniel, the French restaurant rated #1 by Zagat six years in a row and owned by celebrity chef, Daniel Boulud. I worked for Accent International, a recruiting firm that specializes in placing bilingual employees in international corporations. We lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and enjoyed the upwardly mobile lifestyle of young, professional New Yorkers, but we both missed the kinder, gentler lifestyles we had known while growing up. Pascal grew up in the countryside of France, near Fontainebleu, and despite years of living in Paris and then New York, he’s not much of a big city person. During a visit down South for a family celebration, we decided to return to the sweeter, more relaxed lifestyle in my hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina. Since both of our jobs were very specific to New York, we knew we’d have to reinvent ourselves. It was the perfect time to launch a concept we had nurtured for years, the idea behind South ‘n France. We look forward to creating a multi-layered company with products and services that combine the best of Southern and French lifestyles, and we invite you to join us on this journey. We welcome your feedback or suggestions. Please feel free to send us a message via our contact form.

 

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