The French President declared that today at noon there would be a moment of silence. I was in a massive hardware store when over the intercom I heard, "We will respect the moment of silence ..." The entire store stood still, people bowed their heads, the store music stopped, a moment of utter silence and reflection took place. It was so moving, powerful, sobering... in that moment of silence I heard courage, beauty, love... prayer in its finest.
Chelsea took a few days of vacation to come home, and to be her friends Domi and Leah (friends from the sixth grade.) Leah lives and works in Milan, and Domi works and lives in Guyana.
We had dinner, which started with melon filled with limoncello, why not.
Chelsea is wearing Leah's glasses, because she is silly like that.
A few stories about them here:
and Sacha's first kiss (Domi's sister)
As a parent I see now that my children will always be my children, and that no matter the age or distance between us they are and will be my darling little ones in my heart. After dinner, the girls went into Chelsea's old room, that looks more like a storage unit and tried on Chelsea's old clothes. You see Chelsea is the same height and size as she was when she was thirteen, plus she rarely and I mean rarely gives anything away. She has clothes from when they all first met. Teasing is order.
Today Chelsea went through her closet and gave bags of belonging to salvation army called Emmaus in France. It was odd to see her going through her things and bagging them up for a new life. Do not get me wrong Chelsea is not a hoarder, nor is she a spendthrift, she takes such good care of her things. She had pens and pencils from grammar school, she just never saw the need to buy new or give up what she loved. But the day came for things to move on.
Do you friends from childhood?
Do you keep things or give them away?
Do you wear the same size as you did ten years ago, twenty years ago... yesterday?
Hug those you love
The moment tragedy hits, soon there after a piercing reality that life is a balancing act of both frailness and strength, and when tipped life seems it will never be same again.
At first it is painful, seemingly unbearable at times, and in the same breath someone might recall a silly moment shared, and peels of laughter will pour. You see life does not stop even during times of grief. What does happen is isolated fragments of feelings and thoughts, a freeze frame of time, a depth so deep one feels raw to the core, tender to the bone and stark naked to every memory and emotion.
And there in that raw truth life's hand plants gracefully seeds of hope, courage and forgiveness, in an insufferable soil of ones heart.
And in time healing blooms, and one remembers love without shedding a million tears.
Photo via my childhood friend Laurie SF
I wrote about Laurie here....
The photo was taken in Nice on the Promenade des Anglais.
Also, today my friend's daughter, Natacha you may remember her when she came to visit in 2011, wrote this on her Facebook.
Natacha is French/American and now lives in the States:
"I'm overwhelmed with grief. A City right next to the one where I spent every summer of my childhood with my grandparents. My grief is made worse by the apprehension that I feel to know that racism and islamophobia will increase with these latest attacks. That ISIS is going to continue to take advantage of these roma, that the French Muslim and Arab origin will be the next victims in French society and with the state of emergency extended as daesh has wanted. All this while hundreds of innocent people died in recent weeks in identical attacks in Baghdad, Dhaka and Istanbul just before the celebrations of the eid which reflected the same universal values that we commérait today. We are united and identical in our grief and our initial reactions in us make sure that those that we love are safe. Let's not let ISIS continue to take advantage of these attacks in dividing us. Freedom, equality, fraternity for all. Let's not forget these dear values the following months."
Thank you for outpouring of love and friendship poured towards my family because we live in France. Every prayer, thought, email, message, text, phone call... that you sent I imaged it going forth to those who need it, those who were in Nice yesterday.
We came home, all four of us, we had not all been together since Christmas, the minute we walked in my phone was buzzing, "Are you safe?"
Yes we are.
I am speechless.
My prayers are with those who suffer this evening.
XX Nice XX
One thing leads to another. I met Ching and Gary years ago through blogging. They would say each time they visited, "When we retire we are moving to France, and you will help us find a house." I sold Ching items from my brocante, now those things are coming home.
One of the best things about looking for a house is that you get to go inside and look at the house! Century old houses makes it even more interesting.
Gary and Ching wanted to live in an old village house, which are called Maison de Village, these type of houses are usually on three to four floors, ours is on three floors. We looked at a few... they found one that caught their heart in Lourmarin. I wish I had found it first, I love it, but I do not need another house
Ching has asked me to help her set up and design the interior, oh twist my arm, pinch me, but do not tell me this is a dream.
The other best thing about house hunting in France is going to the villages and exploring.
How easy to get 10000 steps in without counting.
Ansouis was one of them, the house we visited was in the shadow of the castle.
Dang isn't that just terrible.
How many painted shutters do I need to see before I turn a blind eye? Countless.
Are you looking for a house in France? If not let's pretend!
No, I am not kidding.
Yes I am.
No I am not.
Are you? Just say yes.
If their offer is accepted then they have found their nest.
More to come.
During the last few days, between renovating two houses, running a blog, keeping up with guests in Paris and the tiny house, brocanting, cooking for three hungry men, having friends from the States visit... I have been with Gary and Ching house searching in Provence. We have visited several homes in the last three days, and today I think they have found their nest!! More photos to come and details to follow, but for now I am crashing to bed.
He is back.
So glad to have him here to hug.
I won't ask for how long, or if he is going to go back to the US to find work, no I won't ask. I won't. I won't hold him back. I will try not to that is. Oh man why do babies grow up? I am going to lock the door.
He is home. Who knew that love like this could be so strong?
He came home and went straight to the fan zone in Marseille with Yann and our family friend Arnaud.
Photos by Sacha on Snap
Chelsea and Sacha both in twenty four hours, a dose of forever after goodness.
Last night French Husband and I were surprised to see Chelsea and Mr. Espresso coming home. Nothing better than having extra love.
As the evening fell I quickly took some photos, better blurry than not at all. We had a lovely dinner outside serenaded by the cicadas.
Chelsea went back to Paris today and Sacha arrives tonight. Just what a mother needs, her little chicks coming in and out to brighten the day.
Several times a year throughout France massive international antique fairs happen. They are different from the brocantes. If ever you want to see the mother lode, find the source, the root, the beginning and the end of antique happiness then any of these international antique fairs are a must.
You do not need to be a professional antique buyer to enter, though mostly professional antique buyers go. Whatever you buy that day must be taken with you or by your transporter by the end of the fair. No credit cards are accepted.
The towns in France where the international antiques fair happen are:
Beziers, Avignon, Montpellier, Lyon, Chartres, Lemans... the international transporters are at these fairs too.
The first international antique fair I ever went to was back in 1996. When I went inside, I could not move due from overwhelming emotion, nor could I believe the amazing display of history in front of me. I stood their with my mouth dropped open starring in wonder. Twenty years later, I feel the same way but am not awestruck with emotion.
Sure the antiques have changed, not as old, not as ornate, more repurposed pieces and new kids on the block called mid century modern. But still there is plenty to be surprised about. Mind you the antiques fairs are not inexpensive, nor are they for the inexperienced buyer as the fair moves fast.
Nevertheless whether you are buying for yourself or for a shop, whether you are filling a suitcase or a container, if you love antiques you have to put this sort of antique fair on your bucket list you won't regret it.
Not a single photo that I took does these fairs justice. I did not go to take photos, instead I snapped a few on the side as I walked around with my friend Lisa, (her home is in the recent French Cottage by Victoria) as she looked for some pieces for her newest add on to her home.
If ever you want to go and need a guide, a translator, someone to negotiate for you, send me an email I love doing just that. Or if you want to give me a blank check and say, "Have at it." Well duh, I will call you my hero and lick you feet forever. Doesn't that make you want to give me a blank check, hehe.
Everything you can imagine or not is at the international fairs... well regarding antiques and decor that is.
Oversized pieces, upholstery, kitchen wares, textiles, religious, painted, wooden, steel, statuary, facades, plus every antique dealer and or personality you have ever known on TV, famous shop or show in the USA, Australia, Italy, England, Russia, China... are running around trying to buy before their competitors do. It is a sight to be seen.
And you gotta watch out for copies.
I have known a few antique dealers who have bought copies not knowing they had.
I remember going to a friend's house and seeing a table she bought for 10,000 dollars, "Isn't it incredible? A farm table from France from the 1700s!"
I did not burst her bubble. Somethings are better left unsaid. The table she bought from an American importer, located in California... what was I to say? She could not return it... there was nothing to do but say:
"You are right it is incredible."
A beautiful stand at the international antique fair each of the pieces where created using old elements. Recycling with taste, chic repurposing. And not at all inexpensive. The owners of the stand did not try to cover up the fact that the pieces are repurposed. Though most antique dealers know their trade very well, it is the decorators that might not know the difference, and the international antique fairs attract every kind of buyer: Antique dealers, artists, decorators, set designers, architects, crafters, home owners, admirers...
I loved the oversized gigantic lanterns that were created with repurposed elements.
There is nothing new under the sun, everything blooms, fades and passes away to be reborn or re-created again and again.
Antiques have many lives.
Our taste is inspired by what we see, and what brings pleasure to our senses.
The international fair in Avignon had about 1500 antique dealers. It is best to come when the three fairs in the south line up:
A cupboard full of 1600 to 1700 parchment Italian books simply haunted me.
They sold before I could utter, "Oh my God."
If you cannot come to France, try Round Top, especially Marburger, many of the antique dealers there come to these fairs in France to buy. Their prices are very fair considering the exceptional amount of time, energy and money it cost to transport antiques to the States.
Of course as I live here I know a place or two to go before the items arrive at the international antique fairs...
But with that said, why drive around France when you can do a one shop stop...
Because driving around France isn't a depressing thing to do that is why...
Unless you are in a hurry, or fall asleep at the wheel.
Dig these I do.
Oh baby baby, my baby baby.
Styles and design trends come and go.
Come and go, and stay on and on.
Over the centuries, fashionable then not.
Once for an altar, and now for a side table...
The international antique fairs start at eight in the morning. Give yourself PLENTY of time to get there, traffic can be ruthless, and parking is a beast, especially if you arrive too late.
If you go to the international antique fairs expect to pay more than you would at a brocante fair.
Even if the antique is something you see at the brocante for less. The point is the better the fair/market, the more costly it usually will be. It can be compared to buying a tee shirt at TJ Maxx or at Barney's.
My friend Lisa and her purchase.
A mid century mirror that had me in many places all at once.
There was a wow factor about this mirrored coffee table. It was already sold when I asked about it
Mid century wow.
I can say wow and not want it.
Links to antiques and fairs in France:
If you want The French Muse can be your guide, just send us an email
Feast on love, a feast of love,
a peeled grape
a hand caressing, a lip trembling
tomorrow plenty of them, and here and now and yesterday too.
Thank you Mom, Thank you Dad for your feast of love
that came together on this day sixty years ago,
and though Dad you are no longer here, now...
the many yesterdays are with us still.
A wedding feast, my mother and father's marriage day.
Such love, every ounce of it that never ends.
Symptoms of the brocante bug:
-The person infected with the brocante bug usually is not in bed sleeping on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
-Their homes have a certain old look about them.
-A person who has the brocante bug usually stops whenever they see an old table leg, or worse a peeling-painted-ruin-of-a-thing sticking out of a dumpster.
-The brocante bug is said not to be contagious... but a person who has the brocante bug badly knows that is not a fact to count on. For example when you have the brocante bug badly you know that if you take your friend to the brocante they most likely will develop symptoms instantly, grabbing germs (pieces) that you would have gladly suffered with had they not be around.
-A person with the brocante bug carries a big old bag... if you dare call it that.
-Instead of lipstick, or a compact in their purse they have a slew of addresses, a tape measure, and a flashlight.
Do you have symptoms of the brocante bug, or know of symptoms to be aware of?
Rows of lavender.
The best time to buy lavender is after the harvest in July, not before the harvest in July.
The sound of the bees remain you to watch your step if you venture out into the field.
The town of Valensole.
My friend Sara aiming at a better view.
Each lavender plant is about four feet wide.
A sea of purple with the scent of Provence.
We were in this field, that actually has a hiking trail that runs through it to Valensole.
Anyone game for a picnic there next year?
The French Alps in the background.
A wheat field for baguettes,
a sea of lavender,
the alps and
the halo of clouds,
what is there not to love?
I loved each and everyone of the stories each of you creatively sent. The emails were equally delightful. Thank you for taking the time to stir up a tale, I appreciate your participation. The random winner is
Kipper! Please Kipper send me your address so I can send you the 1900s postcard.
My dear friends Jan and Sarah were in Provence staying in the Little House.
We went to Valensole to see the lavender fields, Jan took my photo.
Best time to see the lavender fields in Provence
The last days in June the first week in July.
So very French.
Flash back to another time.
Last supper, so to say, with Jan, Sara, French Husband and Arnaud the grandson of the family who owns the little house.
Thank you for the photo Arnaud!!
I bought this painting, 1900s, French, oil on canvas
Found amongst a bunch of old postcards:
A fisherman and his granddaughter.
Tell me a story about it, I will randomly pick one of the stories and send it to you.
At the end of the street there is a stump of a plantain tree that probably was a couple of hundred years old when it died. It is at this tree that Annie cracked the watermelon and had the sweet juice run down her face which brought her joy on that hot summer day.
The other day I saw my neighbor standing by the tree stump with an electric saw. My first thought was, "Oh no I cannot stand it! He is going to remove the tree stump, he cannot! It is my souvenir of Annie!" I was so bothered I had to turn away, I didn't want to see or know what would happen. I went home thinking the next time I go down the street I will see the outcome.
A few hours later my friend Jan told me that a man carved a face in the tree.
A face that reminds me of Annie.
I tell you one of those watermelon seeds finally came into fruition!
And nearly on her anniversary.
The artist, my neighbor, is not finish with his creation. I have yet to tell him Annie's story. I cannot wait to hear his story as to why a woman's face...
An old post about Annie that I love:
While threading the needle to sew Sacha's worn jeans I asked Annie if she had any tender memories of living during World War II? If there was any light in that dark passage. Anything that reminded her of beauty when life around them was so unfair and off balance.
Annie keeping her eye on the thread and needle, said, "Of course there were tender moments, we had each other. Our family moved from Marseilles (which was heavily bombed) to our country house. We were lucky to have a garden, my mother planted lentils. We had plenty to eat. We exchanged food from our garden for other things we needed.
Annie went on to say that during that time she was barely twenty and pregnant with her first child. "One of my activities was to walk down to the village to exchange some of our produce for whatever my family might have needed."
"On the other side of the village, there was a man who grew watermelons. Whenever he saw me in the village he would race back to his garden to collect one for me. Can you imagine how wonderful it was to have a watermelon? It was such a rare treat. They were not very big, but they were sweet, and you know I have a thing for fruit. Mon Dieu, I prefer fruit over bonbons."
"Whenever he would give me a watermelon he would say, "This is for your baby. Your baby needs to taste sweetness." I was surrounded by such generosity. I think being pregnant brought out the best in people around me. Seeing my big belly gave them hope, made them reflect on the wonders of life... or something like that... instead of the hardships of war."
"I would lug that watermelon, the supplies I had exchanged from our produce, and my big belly to the river (The river is on the outskirt of the village, where Annie's home was on the other side and up a steep hill.) and I sat by the plantain tree, you know the one at the end of your street, and I cracked that watermelon open, grabbed the heart and ate it. Funny, after all these years, I can recall the feeling of the sweet sticky watermelon juice running down my face, neck and down between my breast. It didn't bother me in the least. It was a luxury that wasted, sweet juice running down my face.
Note: This is one of my favorite stories of Annie's. When Annie told this story I felt transported to another time where her memory is living, and her body is young and ripe. Annie... how she was full, ripe, sweet and with many seeds of hope.
Tomorrow I will tell you about the tree stump...
Sacha is in the land of milk and honey, or should I say sweetbread and sopas, or with his va and chocolate chip cookies, he is in Willows, his heart land. Today is the Festa in Princeton, Sacha helped celebrate by serving.
My nieces and sister in law Shelley sent me "snaps" from the festa.
The beginning of the parade.
Marie in the band.
On the way home a flea market happened to sprout up. Wonders never cease: It was an evening flea market where the locals gathered with bits and pieces of this, that and the other. I found more than I expected to considering that amount of clothing, toys, books and not so old stuff that usually shows up at these type of flea markets. If it hadn't been on the way home I would have never stopped.
Rule of the fleamarket: Expect the unexpected.
The very first thing I saw was an anchor. Ever since we bought a place in Cassis I seem to notice seascapes, boats, blue, fishing rods, paddles, oyster dishes... Not that I buy any of it, or imagine any of it going in our place, but I have been noticing it.
Though if I found a mermaid painting from the 1800s I would be tempted, or if I found a treasure chest, or a message in a bottle, or a figurehead well I would dive in.
I loved the old back hoe sort of thing... My dad would be shaken his head if he could read this, "Corey, Corey you do not know what this is? What happened to your farm girl vocabulary?"
If I could blink my eyes and have things land in my mother's yard, I would have blinked all the above to her.
While at the flea market I met some older "brocanteurs" I know. I have been buying from them for years. We talked a bit, and then they told me about some "places" I had not heard of before. Inside scoop you might say. When they gave me the addresses they said, "When you go there tell them we sent you." I nearly bent down and kissed their feet. Okay I did.
Rule of the flea market: You never know what you might find.
The seasons make sure of that.
The old things gathered tell me so,
ah and the stories mingled between the two tell me this moment is more than meets the eye.
The French Brocante stole my heart before I was born, maybe a mustard seed was buried under my pillow... I don't know but I think it is true.
How can a brocante start such a revolution of pleasure. It is something I will never grow tired of....
Oh France how you seduce me. Loving you is just an easy thing to do.
Imagine the tree that once was a seedling somewhere in Provence, that is what I think of each time I see the beams in the bedroom, they have been here longer than me and will continue to be here after I am gone. The house is over four hundred years old.
The bedroom is upstairs. We took off the fake ceiling, sanded the high gloss painted off the walls, re did the electricity, took off the ugly 1970s flooring, tore down the wobbly rail between the stairwell and bedroom, added an 1800 forged iron rail and lantern. Need to add the new flooring and paint the room.
We moved the bathroom from one side of the room to the other. Reason being is that the bathroom had a window, and the dining nook did not.
Since we are taking the house back to its roots, we decided to put in a tub verses a shower. I found online, in the neighboring village a copper tub (inside is refitted with metal) the tub was handmade by a compagnon back in the late 1800s. The person I bought it from no longer wanted it, her grandfather had made it.
This is the main room, the little door connects our house, though it has been sealed with stone many moons ago...
To see more details please ask Rene to be your friend on Facebook. Rene is the brilliant young renovator we have employed to do our projects. The above photos are his.
We started a second renovation, we are doing two at once.
One in Cassis: Today the front door was delivered.
The second renovation is a small house next to our house. The house use to be part of our house over a hundred years ago. It is about the same size as Cassis, but on two floors instead of three.
Brocanting pays off, fixture and railing I found years ago.
Under the fake ceiling that I had taken out, this beautiful old ceiling was found.
The house, like ours, is documented over four hundred years old.
The house's front door and window look on to our garden.
Good things will come from this kitchen.
And before you ask, YES it is sturdy and officially safe.
The bathroom with the big tub that I recently bought will go here.
Rene, the same builder that we hired to do Cassis is doing this project too. And since he lives over an hour away he is staying at our house four nights a week, and so is his incredibly talented cousin Stephaine. Plus we have guests from New Zealand staying with us.
You might say I am busy, and not losing weight.
We pretty much gutted this house, but it is not nearly as complicated as Cassis.