A couple weeks ago I went on a trip to Paris for the first time since I was a little girl. So, although I did some fun things back then like go to The Louvre, climb the Eiffel Tower, and marvel at the sight of Versailles - I definitely still considered myself a total "City of Lights" novice some 13+ years later. Since my recent visit to the Caudalie boutique for a Birchbox event, I have to say that one of the things I was most excited about was exploring new French beauty brands. I also love French food so I was looking forward to that too - but who wouldn't?
Given all this, I was thrilled to see a post online about a brand new subscription box called "The French Box" which sends you 6 unique home, beauty, fashion, or gourmet products from France each month. The box costs $24/month, but you can receive your first box for a special discounted price of $14 (like I did!) by using the code "firstbox" at checkout.
First, I have to show you this box's impeccable packaging. I just love the little Eiffel Tower with a bow motif and the boxes are all very sturdy and high quality (just like Glossybox). They're so nice that they'd be perfect for gifting, storage, or repurposing. In fact, I was thinking that ordering a one-off box would make a lovely hostess present sometime.
Each month seems to have a theme that incorporates a cute art print card and recipe sheet. This month's is "The Warmth of Provence" - how cozy for the oncoming fall season!
The first item in my box was the Matis kabuki brush. It is a full size product and it retails for $15.50. It is perfect for mineral makeup, loose powder, or blush. It's made of super soft goat hair and is far superior to any other brushes of its type I've found at that price point. A nice kabuki brush can easily put you out $30+ (even my decent Sonia Kashuk one from Target cost $12.99). It's hard to describe just how luxuriously soft to the touch this brush is - just lovely!
I love that this box isn't just about beauty products. While I absolutely love them, I'm sure I have enough of them by now (if I have to be completely honest with myself!). So, I was excited to see a nice little sweet treat. I adore French macarons but they are so extremely sweet that I'm not overly tempted to have them all that frequently. I was exited to learn about this other delicacy - native to the South of France. It's got more of a Madeleine-like cake consistency. A box of 16 Calissons is nearly 16 euros on the Couleur Calisson website, so the $3 retail price estimate seems a little low to me actually. Judging by the flavors described on the site and the ingredients on the package, I think my 4-pack includes Chestnut, Prune, Lemon, and Raspberry. They're good until April 2015, in case you're "on a diet" right now...in my house, these won't last long.
Durance Marseille Soap (Full-size, 3.5 oz: $7.90)
I was really excited to see something from Durance in my box. Although I did have some time on my trip to shop, I was mostly in Paris for work. So, although I saw quite a few Durance stores around, I never had the chance to go into one. This was like sending to my doorstep the luxe souvenir I never got to buy - just fabulous! I like that Durance is a well known brand in France that hasn't quite made its way here yet. That's exactly what I was looking to get out of my French Box. The soap also came with a promo card for 15% off any purchase on Durance's website. I received a 3.05 oz Triple Milled Marseille soap with Verbena essential oil. If it's not the full size, it sure is close to it! The front label says "3.05 oz" but the soap actually has "3.5oz" engraved in it. It has a nice invigorating lemony scent that doesn't smell too sweet or too much like cleaning products. Judging by the photo in the info card, it's entirely possible other subscribers received different scents.
Le Panier Francais Provence French Herbs Mix (Full-size, $6.99)
This is another full size item and it is absolutely giant. A 3.5 oz bag of Provence Herbs will last you a long time. This bag contains Basil, Savory, Rosemary, Thyme, and Marjoram. I haven't opened it yet because I know I will make a mess but the Le Panier Francais product looks very fresh and I'm sure it smells delightful. If you're not much of a cook (like myself), this could be a great way to spruce up a very simple dish. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure 9 moms out of 10 would love to receive this as a little gift!
Oshibori Refreshing Towel (Retail Price: $5.00)
Now, this is a fun product! It's a set of three rolled Oshibori 100% cotton hand towels infused with green tea (2) and white tea (1) scents and one extra flat refreshing wet towel also with green tea scent. I just love anything with green tea and the taste and smell is just so calming. So, I'm looking forward to using these after a particularly stressful day. The cute little carrying case and insert were clearly made exclusively for French Box. These are high quality cotton towels, so they are re-usable, if you so desire. However, the packaging does describe them as "single-use" and they have an expiration date of 2/2016. To use, the package says you simply heat them in a 600 watt microwave for 10 seconds. I haven't opened mine yet but through the packaging they smell very soothing with a hint of some floral notes.
Atelier Cologne Postcard (Retail Price: $3.00)
This was the only brand in this month's French Box that I'd heard of before. It's been featured a number of times in Birchboxes. I've also seen the full size Atelier Cologne bottles for sale in a number of US and UK department stores and they're very expensive - $195-265 on Birchbox.com. So, getting a sample is quite a treat, if you like the scent you receive. The scent I received in my box is Santal Carmin. The scents I do know vary this month among subscribers. Luckily, this is one I've never received in a Birchbox. Sephora describes this one as a "woody" scent with notes of sandalwood, white musk, vanilla, bergamot, saffron, and more. I agree with that description but think it is a much lighter and more feminine "woody" fragrance than most of its type. It's definitely a fall/winter scent but the vanilla and bergamot make it a bit more powdery and soft.
The previous six products were the ones listed out on my info card. However, there were two additional sweet little surprises. One was the above notebook with a print made especially for French Box by famed French fashion designer Christian Lacroix. The picture is titled "L'Arlesienne" which I looked up and translates roughly to "The Girl from Arles", a short story set in Provence and written by Alphonse Daudet. It was later turned into a play. A fun little fact on Wikipedia - "Arlesienne" is now used to describe a person who is prominently absent from a place or situation where they would be expected to show up, since the title character is never show in the play.
This is a thin, soft poster board cover book with French Box branding on the back - a real exclusive piece for subscribers! The cover's a bit flimsy so you have to be gentle with it. The pages inside are completely blank and there are about 20 of them. It would make a lovely sketch book on your next trip to France!
My other surprise extra was the Sothys Contour Concealer Base. I hadn't heard of Sothys before, but I saw that it was also featured in September's box (the very first French Box), so it must be a favorite. In other subscribers' reviews I saw that they received different Sothys products in this month's box. I know one received a mascara. I looked up this product online and it appears to be worth at least $21 - it's full size. I don't currently own a high end concealer aside from my Tarte Maracuja Creaseless Concealer which I use quite sparingly since it's very pricey too, so this is fantastic.
This month's receipt card included instructions to make three different Provencal Dips: Ancholade, Tapenade, and Aubergine Caviar. Those will definitely come in handy for a cocktail party some day. The decorative theme card for this month was also really endearing. It includes the Provencal proverb, "In Provence the sun rises twice a day once in the morning and after the afternoon nap".
Overall I have to say that I was just blown away by my very first French Box experience. This box packed some amazing value, taught me a bit about Provence history and culture, and provided a good variety of items across several categories. It's a bold statement, but I think this is my favorite subscription box to date. Period.
I have to admit that $24/month is a really hefty price tag to me - not that the products aren't worth the price, just that it's a lot to spend every month for a little indulgence on top of all the other shopping I like to do. Plus, I think the products would just pile up if I ordered this one every month. However, I definitely plan to order this one again in the future, whenever I need a little pick-me-up or start feeling some major wanderlust. It's certainly a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. So, keep your eyes peeled for future reviews some time in the coming year.