But why a girls’ guide? Aren’t men welcome?
“Of course,” Belau says. “It’s just that women in particular are known to become obsessive about Paris. It’s the romance, or fashion, that je ne sais quoi. Men can make fine use of the site for reviews on restaurants and shops and tips on where to take their loves if they want to plan a romantic getaway. You know the age-old question men always ask: ‘What do women want?’ Well, here’s the answer — Paris. You can never go wrong with Paris. And men can join our travel club. We’re gender-neutral.”
Belau, who was born in Nebraska in the mid-’60s and married her high school sweetheart, took a trip to Paris in 1988 with her husband and fell hard for the city.
“My husband, Robert, also loved it, and we kept going back,” Belau says. “In 2000, we bought an apartment there that we could rent out, share with friends and family, and, of course, have a place to stay on yet another trip there.”
Then she began taking her daughter and sister and friends. “There is no better girls’ getaway trip than Paris,” she says with an emphatic nod. Fait accompli, pas de question. Guys want Vegas, girls want Paris. Doesn’t everyone know that?
So how would you expect Belau’s own residence—a 1940s Cape-style set among farm estates in Bedford Corners—to be decorated? Like Paris, you can’t pinpoint Belau’s look to one particular style or era.
“I don’t want to be limited,” she says. “I like to find things that really strike me, then make it work.”
Her house is an eclectic mix of furniture and colors — distinctly modern but with a timeless feel.
Same with the artwork. There is a David Salle lithograph in the same room with a Matisse lithograph and a Picasso lithograph, “Jacqueline,” which Belau bought from Sotheby’s. A signed Robert Longo lithograph from his 1980s graphite “Men in the Cities” series hangs in a gleaming stainless-steel kitchen with lamps crafted in the 1950s-style by Danish designer Louis Poulsen.
Belau’s background was in communications, and when her children were born, she became a stay-at-home mom who volunteered for political organizations and worthy nonprofits. Even though she spends a great deal of time on her Girls’ Guide venture—there are Girls’ Guides to London and New York in the planning stages—she still stays active in various groups, including serving on the board of directors of Ubuntu Africa (ubafrica.org), dedicated to underserved, HIV-positive youth in South Africa.
Belau maintains a second home, built in the 1780s, in the historic Bordeaux region of France, nestled among vines and sitting directly on the Dordogne River with private access and a dock. As with the house in the States, eclecticism rules. Trips there “are conveniently related to my business,” Belau says with a smile. “After all, now I absolutely must keep traveling to Paris!”
What is Belau’s best tip regarding Paris?
“Just go,” she says. “You don’t have to spend a fortune or wait for the perfect travel partner. Life is short. Don’t keep putting off that dream trip. Go.”
For your Gallic adventure, visit GirlsGuidetoParis.com.