Sunday, June 29, 2008

Le Vésinet

Le Vésinet is one of the wealthiest towns in all of France! So how could I miss this street sale? There were booths set up all around the church and radiating out into the streets surrounding it. There were a lot of professional dealers, and the "regular folks" selling their crap adjusted their prices in keeping with the local real estate, i.e. ever upwards. All this under the probing eye of the gargoyles carved into many of the building on the main square.

I met a woman seller with fantastic prices who I'd bought a vast amount of kids clothes from last year. Sadly, most of her high-end boutique stuff was gone by the time I found her. However, she remembered me and I remembered her, and we exchanged phone numbers so that she could sell me her clothes directly next year, instead of selling them on the street. I'm very happy about that. Go me!

I like the blue guitar. You don't see blue ones very often, do you?

And this is a bakery window display. I think the theme might be Tour de France, as it's that time of year again, but then there are motorcycles and vintage cars in the display too, so it's anybody's guess. It is very pretty though.

This is a vintage ad for egg cognac, so cognac presumably made with eggs. Eew.

On my way from the parking lot I crossed paths with a Yorkshire Terrier named Shit. It's pronounced "sheet" and is the local pronunciation of the English word shit, and is also slang for marijuana. Don't say I never taught you any vocabulary. I don't know which meaning precisely Shit was named after, but from my conversation with his mistress it's definitely one or the other. This is a picture of Shit the Dog, who happily rides in a steel cage on wheels, and probably has a perfect doggy life, gets to sleep a lot and never needs to worry about a thing, ever.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Love that 60s wallpaper

My one purchase at the crappy thrift store I was at last time was this 60s home decorating magazine. I love looking at it.

What fascinates me most is the scary wallpaper gone wrong in these pictures.

Mmmm, total-room wallpaper and formica.

I actually kinda like this next bathroom, but then the wallpaper on the ceiling makes it all horribly wrong. That's no toilet peeking out from behind the wall. That's a bidet! Very French touch.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The scariest thrift store of all

A couple of days ago I went to a thrift store I don't go to often. It's off in the countryside, and it consists of a bunch of shack-like buildings with tin roofs where all the stuff is kept. Same principle as the previous one: each building houses its own category of merchandise. The floors are dusty and the shoes are covered in a layer of dust. The place is a mess. Yuck.

Holy junkyard, batman! They visibly don't have room to put all the crap under a roof. There's 180° of it, whichever way you look.

The "abandoned games of the 80s" section, with obligatory half of the pieces missing or removed. Recognize any? This, by the way is one of the funniest surveys of vintage games I've read in a while.

This is the clothing section. In the winter it's oppressively cold and in summer it's oppressively hot. I can understand having a few clothes hanging on the walls but having them looming over the shoppers' heads is like living the final horror scene from Attack of the Fugly 80s Wardrobe!

This is the linens section, in the back of the clothes shack. Looks inviting, doesn't it?

I almost never find anything good in this place. On the positive side, there's never a line to get in or to pay, and the "shopping experience", as it were, is uncrowded. Can you figure out why?

It would be unfair to omit that you can come across cool vintage or antique furniture like this armoire, for a fraction of the price you'd pay elsewhere.

Monday, June 23, 2008

An afternoon visit to the thrift store

Today I spent a couple of hours at one of my favorite thrift stores. Most French thrift stores are nothing like American stores. The buying process is convoluted, it's dusty and dirty, and there's no nicey-nice customer service orientation like you get (more or less) at places like Goodwill. Yet, the crowds come. This particular store is only open for a few hours every afternoon, and you can see the line of people waiting to get in right before it opens.

There's a furniture section; a shoes section; children's and adult clothing; what they deem to be "nice" porcelain and glassware; a different section for crap pottery, mugs and knicknacks; toys; and books. That's not an exhaustive summary. Whenever you find something you like, you bring it up to the guy (it's almost always a guy) at the desk, he eyeballs your stuff, makes up a price on the spot according to how much money he thinks you have, and writes it on a piece of paper. He puts your stuff in a plastic bag and puts it under his desk while you go with your piece of paper to pay for your purchase at a central cash register, in line behind 500 million other people who are doing the same thing. Then you go back and show your receipt and retrieve your stuff. Rinse and repeat for every section where you want to buy something.

Today I found some super-cute vintage dish towels from the 60s: a couple of 1961 calendars with illustrations of the seasons, one of a working woman who can put together a meal in 10 minutes thanks to her trusty meat grinder, and a few celebrating French cheese, French wine and beer (I can definitely get behind those).

Sunday, June 22, 2008


This morning I went to a street market in Mareil-Marly. There was a scary thunderstorm at 7 am but it blew over quickly. This is what Mareil-Marly looks like after the rain when half the sellers are setting up and the other half haven't arrived yet.

Like most street sales, this was held in the center of the old town, and you can catch little sneak peaks into the courtyards of the old houses. I didn't have the guts to tell this guy to stop setting up so I could take my damn picture!

There were a lot of antique dealers and I got there so early after the rain that most people hadn't put up their tables yet. Prices were somewhat high, not a surprise as this town is most definitely well up on the upper middle class scale.

I bought a cute little smocked boutique dress for my daughter (cheap! and not at all similar to the fashion disaster on the left), and stuffed it into my bag. The seller freaked and told me after having spent all that time ironing it, I could at least fold it up nicely in my bag. Um, lady, it'll get a hell of a lot more wrinkled in the wash, which is where it's going next! Why do people care what you do with their stuff once you've paid for it?

While walking back to the car I ran into an actual garage sale (or house sale, as it was in her house). I am so sorry I didn't take pictures of what I saw! This old stone house had once been a farmhouse. It had beautiful exposed beams and the floors were covered with typical French reddish-brown tiles (called tomettes). She had all sorts of vintage dishes and old wooden items, such as an old butter churn. So much that either she's a big collector or is an antique dealer! It was all so beautiful, though. It really felt like a French country Grandma's house.

Moving away from country elegance into tacky suburbia, I leave you with this vision of vintage garden gnomes. And a squirrel!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Vaucresson is an upper-middle class town and their vide-grenier (no professional antique dealers at all) was medium-sized and prices were way high.

A typical stand. I could have bought my very own French cheese-themed memo board (the one the seller is holding).

I like the canisters on this table (the zebra soap holder in the foreground, not so much).

Another brilliant specimen of French kid art.

Hey! That's my kid in the mirror! And my camera, too!

Little buddy got a whole bag of matchbox cars for a euro. After I paid for it I practically had to snatch it out of some dude's hands. He wanted to take a look inside. I paid for it already, nimrod! It's mine! It's a jungle out there.

Speaking of cars,there was a vintage car show going on right next to this flea market, but alas we had no time to take more than one picture as it was time to pick the older kids up from school. I bet you didn't know that most French schoolchildren go to school on Saturday mornings. Incredibly useful piece of trivia there.

We bought almost nothing, but I did pick up a funky-looking JP Gaultier tie.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Avernes is a cute village out in the countryside. It's dominated by its church, and not much else. It has a nice decent-sized annual brocante, though.

I covet this vintage coal-burning stove, I really do. I bet it does a better job than my electric one, too. And the chairs look neat.

Now for the wacky.

Okay, WHAT is going on in this piece of artwork? Naked men stand around while shoes appear on the horizon, the shoes rain down on the shoeless as they leap to catch the pair they want. You can see the Neanderthal-looking one got himself a spiffy tan suede pair. Shoes are donned by the still naked men and all is good with the world. I'm assuming there's a point to this work, because somebody thought about it long enough to sit down and paint it and then sign his/her name to it. What it is, couldn't tell ya.

This looks like dollhouse furniture that somebody made themselves. They even painted rabbits on this wardrobe, and they did a horrible job, too. Maybe it's rabbit-hutch furniture? There's a rabbit-sized writing desk off to the left. I should really be taking pictures of nice wardrobes like the one in the background.

Too bad this picture didn't come out very well, because you would clearly see that this is a lampshade that someone has decorated by cutting out pictures of food and drink, and they did a pretty lousy job doing the cutting out. I assume (I hope) it's kid art, but why someone actually thinks they'll get money for this crap is beyond me.

This doll looks seriously pissed off. I would be too if someone did that to me!

Everybody needs a ducky dispenser. Some people even need three!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A medieval street scene

I picked this up in Fourqueux. It's a street scene that hasn't changed since medieval times, and I have no idea where it is; it could be any of hundreds of towns in France! I like the perspective; it draws you in. For the moment it's in my downstairs bathroom, which is a clearinghouse for most artwork we bring into this house, while we're deciding where to put it!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Well, Sunday we went all together as a family to another brocante after all, in Fourqueux. Fourqueux is a bit on the snooty side and so was its brocante. Prices were high and even though it was the end of the day many sellers wouldn't haggle.

We came across these two bathing (and sleeping) beauties.

And apparently we happened upon the kitschy Vallauris lamp festival! Several of these conch/sea life lamps to be seen. Plug it in and watch the fishies light up. And hope the 70s wiring doesn't short-circuit the house.

"Women and wine are two agreeable poisons" What would a 70's French household be like without a clever saying like that hanging on the wall. Har har.

My favorite of the day was this guy. He's about the size of a five year old and he will hold your drinks for you with that expectant expression on his face as you sit and watch the Euro 2008 championship (which is happening right now, I might add).

Oh, and I bought a painting of a medieval-looking street scene, but the pic of that will have to wait.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A couple of acquisitions

A picked up a couple of things in Pontoise, for only a couple of euros. First, a pretty mirror, but cracked. Best of all, someone painted a branch and leaves right over the crack so I don't even have to!

And another icon (a cheapy this one) for my icon collection.