When I arrived in France, to our three chambres de bonne* and hallway apartment, it was not a nest. It didn't have bit of feather fluff in it. Located on the seventh floor, not close to heaven, though very close to the red light district of Les Halles in Paris.
I stared at it with my mouth wide open, no furniture, a kitchen smaller then a teacup, plus a bathtub with a huge skylight right above it. French husband was proud to have found an apartment in the heart of Paris. I pivoted around the little nest, asking him if he knew of any second hand stores? He told me that on Saturday morning we could go to a brocante (antique fair,) or a marchè aux puces (fleamarket.) These were the first French words I learned and the ones that would hold my heart close to France forever.
The following Saturday morning we went to a flea market. I couldn't believe my eyes. Had I died and gone to heaven? Treasures enough to fill every home I ever knew. I didn't know where to focus, mirrors, clocks, tables, rugs, dishes, postcards, linen, chairs, nightstands...French husband was labeling each thing as a Louis 15th, Louis 16th, Louis Philippe...Louis this-Louis that, what was all this "Louis-ing" about? I saw antiques, decoration, and bric-a-brac galore spread out like a picnic. Our three chambres de bonne and hallway apartment could be filled in one shop-stop.
My eye caught a hold of a cardboard box full of drinking glasses.
Oh I squealed, "Look Honey drinking glasses, we need glasses!" French husband glanced at the box, then at me with a puzzling stare..."Pots de Confiture?" "No no no," while I pointed to what I thought were drinking glasses. In disgusting disbelief, French husband gave me my first French culture lesson: "We do not drink out of confiture jars." Why not, I questioned, they make great drinking glasses as I imitated drinking out of one. I asked the dealer in English, How much? The blank stare put me back to reality! I turned around and stared at French husband who took the cue and asked how much in French. French husband's eyebrows raised as if to say, you gotta be kidding 100ff for old dusty, *pots de confiture!! French husband quickly added like an auctioneer a dollar a piece! I waved my hand, reassuring him that the price was OK, we bought them and moved onward.
Next we came across a table, a table de campagne, as French husband referred to it. Without knowing it we started what would become our best negotiating tool --language culture barrier in our favor--This is how it went:
We would see something we liked-
French husband would ask how much then he would translate it to me.
I would say offer half. French husband would balk and say he didn't want to.
The dealer would chime in saying, "Ah your femme wants the table!"
I would ask French husband to translate. I would smile.
The dealer would smile.
French husband would say it is a good price, let's buy it.
I would become stubborn, no offer less. French husband would look up in the air experated. The dealer would offer a lower price.
So on and so forth this went, the dealers often thought it was French husband who didn't want the object, and would offer it to him for less and less. French husband feeling terribly embarrassed, which translated him looking as if he were upset and mad, I appeared as the little woman pleading her man to buy! We always walked away with another feather in our cap!
*Pots de Confiture,
Jam jars. The image enclosed isn't one of the pot de confiture /jars/glasses we bought 17 years ago. This image is of pots de confiture of an older style (1900s period,) we use them as aperitif bowls, or whatever fits our fancy. Here is yet another use for pots de confiture!
*Chambre de Bonne,
Chambre de bonne is the French word for the Maid's Room. Each apartment in the building use to have one small room, (roughly 50 square foot,) on the seventh floor, for the maid. A single bathroom was at the end of the hallway for all the maids to share. Literally they lived under the rafters. There was a separate staircase as well.
Our Apartment use to be, three Chambres and part of the hallway. The previous owner had converted these three rooms and the hallway, into one apartment. This is were we first lived in Paris 17 years ago. Small is an understatement, what it lacked in space it made up for in Charm!
Some of my most favorite memories are gathered there up above Paris under the rafters.