Friday, February 27, 2009

A la bonne franquette

It's 5 am and she awakes to some French guy's
voice screaming from a little black box
about Sarkosy being spotted on the beach in
his speedo's. TMFI at 5 am.
Slowly, hugging the banister, she creeps down
from the 3rd etage at 32 Bis, counting the steps
as she descends and trying to avoid the squeaks
of the 19th century maison, as not to wake the
others. Creaks, pops and moans are common
sounds to her, but it is the "hisssssing" sound
that is music to her ears. Genevieve is making
her espresso.
Four kisses (they are soul sisters), alternating
cheeks, morning pleasantries exchanged, then
Genevieve performs an about-face. Gestapo
appears and shouts, "VITE, VITE, VITE!"

Thirty minutes later, her only contribution
to French fashion is a scarf. Genevieve
assures her she looks fine. Going to a
brocante market requires sifting through dirt.

As her eyes scan the stalls, the hunt evolves into
a dance with the partners being her eyes and feet. Trying to stay one step ahead of Mr. Vendu.

She relies on her BLINK to make buying decisions.

She applies her cost formula and decides she can sell the French iron daybeds for $699. With each French buying trip she knows they are becoming more scarce.

A wonderful petite oak vasselier from the early 1900's. That gets added to her stash. $2495 will be a deal for one of her clients.

Louis XV style fauteuils with original paint will fill her shop. A good buy for $399.
Pairs are always perfect. Walnut, Louis XV style twin beds get added to her corner.

Garden pieces and architectural fragments always fill her container. She needs to exercise discipline here or change the name of her shop to the European Garden Market.

And the accessories...that is just about the money, as they take no space on the container. The morning has passed quickly, but has been productive.

Slowing down a bit, she begins to take in her surroundings and her mind wanders. She is already planning the new layout of her store. Fretting over whether she can do the pieces justice. Not only does she want others to find the beauty in the French antiques, she wants them to share in the French experience.

Friends and vendors gather as everyone's mind starts to turn to food and drink.

She looks quite giddy here and gazole has taken on a whole new meaning!

Did someone say they brought ham?

Maurice offers some wonderful olives he bought this morning at the marché.

" Pas problem," Lulu chimes in, "to whip up some pasta." It was turning in to one of those beautiful days. One of those days full of life. She learned some French songs, laughed until her jaws ached, and made new friends. Genevieve glanced her way and made a toast, "a la bonne franquette."

She scrambled digging in her sac for the small steno pad that held her scattered thoughts and French expressions. Directly under "Those that assemble, resemble," she scribbled...

A la bonne franquette...A simple, come as you are, food, wine, and song, often unplanned, gathering.

Some would say, the material surroundings would make no difference. She however, likens it to drinking a good vintage wine from a plastic cup.

Some things are just better, authentic.

French farm tables, friendships, and franquettes, just to name a few.

Sometimes, she thinks she philosophizes too much about life. Passing thoughts, those are.

How could she even begin to sit here and not
expound on the wonderful things in life.

Revel in them, she does.
So if you ever decide to visit
you just might walk into
"a la bonne franquette."
Until then, may your life's path take you in a wonderful direction.
Photo # 16, 17, 18, 19 & 23 via Le Fiargo
others, European Antique Market

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A "France Trance"

Traveling up a winding road in Provence
and humming along with the melody of
the Coors playing on Nostalgie FM radio,
she caught a glimpse of their silhouettes.

The three cypress trees.
Something drew her closer.
She was succumbing to the "France Trance."
She relinquished her control and just
let it happen. Her instincts had guided
her in the right direction before.
The diesel powered Peugeot turned in the
drive and the sounds of crushing pebbles
seemed to fade to a higher calling.
She had read of the symbolic meaning
of the three cypress in Provence.
One meant a drink for weary travelers,
Two, bread and cheese would accompany, and
Three, a place to rest your head.
The place was deserted.

A 300 year old farmhouse abandoned
for decades and battered by mistral winds
lay sleeping on the hillside while three
lonely cypress kept watch.
Good thing she had on her ballerines today,
as her promenade would have to be
choreographed around decay.
As she toured the fading elegance, tumbled
stones and aged timbers started to unveil
their beauty.

She was a dreamer, seeing beyond the ruins.

Her imagination being fueled by adrenaline
began to restore and furnish the interior.
Italian lanterns and 18th century
French candlesticks began to cast
their light against the pearly gray walls
that became a backdrop to a
Venetian buffet, a perfect resting
place for an antique Italian
gilt mirror that reflected the
Antique Italian chairs dressed in vintage
linen graced the floors like ballerinas
and awaited the guests at the Swedish table
adorned with French metal florist pots
embellished with wooden pom-poms.

Unbeknown to her, the
Louis XV fauteuils, gilt wood picture frames,
French antique painted tables, and accents,
the color of olive leaves, that existed only
in her mind now, would one day grace
the cover of Veranda.

She was having beautiful thoughts.
Visions of chalky, limed finishes,
crystal and gilt laden sconces,
finials and religious relics were
brimming over which once arranged,
would reveal their simplicity.

The gardens were already restored in
her mind and she could smell the scent of
lavender wafting through the air.
Peering out the 2nd story window,
she lingered a bit longer in her
"France Trance."
Fresh cut flowers along side French candlesticks

turned lamps, decorate the stone mantel and
a glass of eau-de-vie awaits a friend.
There would always be pain et fromage
in honour of the 2nd cypress.
Laughter and the sounds of clinging
glasses started to echo in her head.

The image of an old Venetian bookcase she had
discovered in a Parisian antique store crept
into her trance and wrapped itself around a
doorway. Trumeau's began to morph from
the walls and it was starting to feel like
a home. A place to bear her soul.

She would contact the architect Gilles Gregoire
who restored the fabulous Hotel La Mirande
in Avignon to help her realize her vision.

Once her vision became reality, Jacques Dirand
would photograph.
Whoops, you have to excuse me, I was in a
"France Trance."
I posted a few photos from this dreamy place
before, via Marie Claire, but was going thru
an old Veranda (2004) the other day
and Viola! There it was, in all it's glory.
Just had to share the photos.
I wish I knew who owned it, but the article
did not say. Another unknown on my dinner
A bit of a romantic I am, so I
like to think this is how she discovered it.
Dirand whose work was published
often in World of Interiors sadly passed
away last month, but leaves us with his
inspirational photography.
Well, I think I'll return to my "France Trance."
Want to join me?

Bisou mes amis!
Photos are via Veranda and Marie Claire Maison.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Leçon française

Learning French

The Spoken

She (the American Antiquariess), still hears
Michael’s words echoing in her mind.
He was her English speaking, French teaching,
British courier for three years in France.

“Stop translating French to English in your head,

you’ll loose the bloody moment, associations,
make associations, form a picture of the object
with the word!” he would say, banging his
pipe on the dashboard.

The only association in her mind was a

Louis Philippe commode playing musical

Photo European Antique Market
The top drawer opening for English, 2nd drawer
for French, 3rd drawer was for stashing all
the cultural tidbits, food and wines, and the
bottom drawer held names of people and
Her drawers were full, names hanging
half out, French words spilling into the

wrong drawer, places tumbling to the floor.
A mess!
Names were hopeless, so she applied the
association first to Brocanteurs, AKA,
NoPants, Caveman, Madame Canal,
Horsetooth, etc. They were located in

villages throughout the countryside
like Tripe Village, Duck Maison,
Eau de Vie Ville, and One Man Band.

She knew where and who she was going to see,
even if Michael didn’t. It was only fair that if
she had so much to learn, he should exercise
his white mass too. That is when he told her to
drop the last consonant. Not foolproof, but a start.

“Jesus Christ!” he screamed, as his pipe

tumbled to the floor board and his
tweed cap rearranged itself on his head.

“The car exiting the lane to the right
always has the right of way!” followed by an

incomprehensible flow of French.
Michael just had to understand that she
only had a four-drawers, there was no room
left for stashing road signs, besides there were
It was just one of those things the French

The French lessons usually took place in the van.
"Quit flowering up the language," he would tell

her, "the French don’t talk like that."
How was she to express her emotion without

an overload of adjectives? Although she
was glad, because she didn't know if they
were placed before or after the noun.
Even though he disliked her use of too
many adjectives, he did tell her about
B for beauty
A for age
G for gentile
S for size
Adjectives that are BAGS or describe those
traits, go before the noun.
All others after.
He reassured her she would start to understand

the French language if she stayed in the
moment, and not rummage around in her
drawers trying to find the English translation.

The Unspoken
L’heure pour l’aperitif

“SVP Madame, une bouteille de Perrier Jouet, brut,"
Michael orders.
As they wait for the champagne, Michael

starts to bang his pipe on the table and
fidget with the tobacco. He arranges the
pinches of tobacco just so in the bowl and
seems to enjoy chewing a bit, on the pipe stem.
She wonders why his hesitation in firing it up,
but lets it drop in fear of interrupting his flow

of thought, as he proceeds to tell her the story
of his Frenchification.

A welcome interruption, the server arrives
bottle in hand, perfectly chilled,
accompanied by two thin crystal, tulip shaped
coupes. She watches as the sommelier performs
his ritual.
Peeling the foil, he twists the metal ring to
loosen the muselet and covers the top of the
bottle with his white napkin. He holds the
bottle at an angle and slowly twists it with
his right hand. The deed was void of the big
POP and corks a flying, only a slight hissing
from the effervescence.
Everyone smiled.
The sommelier poured Michael's glass half full,
then resumed his military stance in silence.

Michael held the glass to the light and
studied the bubbles against the brilliant
color in his scholarly gentleman manner.
How many, their size, and at what speed
they traveled. He brought the glass closer,
slightly below his nose, but close enough to
allow the dancing bubbles to tickle and
the aroma to reach his olfactory region.
Michael wasn’t speaking, but it was
evident to her there was an inner conversation
Eagerly anticipating, she waits for the
glass to meet his lips and the champagne
to engage his palette. How many adjectives
will he use to describe this poetry, she thought.
After huffing and swirling he simply smiles
and nods at the sommelier.
Alas, her glass is filled. She decides to
fore go asking for OJ, which is about
the only way she drank Champagne before
France. She heeds the advice, when in France...
She mimics Michael’s routine even though
she has left her comfort zone.
Micheal doesn’t comment on her technique.
He proceeds to tell her stories about the
Champagne region of France. The three
major grapes grown on the chalky terre,
the wars and hardships the region has endured,
how the wine is fermented twice and aged a
minimum of 15 months. She learns about
riddling, recipes, and Madame Clicquot’s
contribution to the Champagne Houses.
He tells her the typical French person
knows this before the age of 12.

Still puzzled by his lack of any description,
she prods, looking for those words that he
would use to translate the tasting experience.
Silky, toast, hints of almond, white flowers??
While tapping his pipe, he tells her it is of no
importance how his palette would interpret
the champagne, for hers would likely differ.
"The point is," he tells her, "the ceremony,
that so eloquently engages the senses."
"Joie de Vivre," Michael told her, "are
those moments in life, when all your
senses are engaged."
"Stay in the moment," Michael told her.

Photos courtesy Comite Champagne & Perrier Jouet

Sante mes ami's