This last trip to Paris was the first time that I had ever visited the world famous Paris Flea Market, Marche aux Puces de Saint-Oven. I have been to the Porte de Vanves Flea Market four times before, but had never made the St. Ouen a priority. From what I had read it sounded like this flea market was more expensive and possibly a bit stuffy. But now I regret holding onto that information, that is not what I found at all. It was lovely. And I also found many great deals.
I went on a Monday morning. It is open Saturday-Monday. I took the metro line 4 to the Porte de Clingnancourt station. When I exited I had about a 10 minute walk to the flea market. I followed the signs and used my phone as guide. It wasn’t the most scenic neighborhood to walk through and there were a lot of vendors with random stuff on the way to the flea market. But it was worth it. If you have seen Lupin (I recommend) on Netflix, his longtime friend owns a shop in this flea market. I can see where they found the charm to include the setting in the series.
When I arrived at the market I was pleasantly surprised. This market has a permanent set up of stalls that just like little shops. This is much different than the Porte de Vanves market, where it is just temporary tables with goods set up on the street. The benefit of permanent stalls is that some were beautifully curated, it was a real treat to walk through the spaces and get inspiration. There was a large variety of styles and prices. Some were filled with fancy furnishings that looked like they could belong in a museum, and some were more casual and some were not curated at all and there were just piles of treasures to sift through. I appreciated all of the above.
As for the prices. Yes, there were some expensive price tags, and I respected that. Some of those pieces history filled pieces were so unique and so beautiful it must have taken a lot of time and money for the vendor to find. They should get paid a fair amount. But I also found a lot of things that were in my price range, which is more the bargain range versus museum range. I am not sure if going on a Monday, the last day of the week, that it helped that people were more open to a discount. But I was thrilled. I found several beautiful paintings. One in which I thought was my least favorite of all the paintings I purchased, but it found its way onto my mantel at home and has never left.
I loved this set of apothecary jars that I found. The vendor had them set out in front of his booth offering a discount if you bought multiple. I picked out 4 of them and paid him for them. He let me leave them in his booth while I shopped, this is a pretty standard thing I have found most vendors will do to make shopping easier. But make sure you make note of where your purchases are waiting for you, this market is big with tiny squiggly streets that all look very similar. When I circled back around he offered me the complete set at a further discount. I am so glad I took him up on it. I was able to get them home by packing them in hard shell suitcases wrapped in linen, some I checked and some I carried on and they all made it perfectly.
I found linens and I found some reasonable prices on a couple sheets. But I think the prices and selection for these is a bit better in Porte de Vanves, I definitely understand it can vary from day to day at both places, but that was my experience. However the area that this market really shined with linen is the unique toiles. There was one linen shop that had piles, and piles of remnant antique fabrics. I found so many unique pieces. The owner of this shop was not offering very discounted prices, but it was worth it for me to make a pile and she offered me a price for it all. I suppose I should tell you that I am not an aggressive bargainer. It’s just not me. I know first hand the amount of work that goes into the job of selling antiques, so if the price seems fair and works for my business then I usually just pay it. There are times when it feels right to offer a better a price, and I will take advantage of that, and really the worst thing that can happen is they say no. Also I found that if its something I am waffling on, if I set it down and start to walk away, the vendor might offer a better price. I tell you all this so you know what kind of shopper you are receiving advice from, but you do what is best for you in the bargaining department, there is no shame in any of it.
Because the market was more of permeant set up, there were some vendors who took credit cards which was a nice surprise. However cash is king if you want a deal and some vendors only took cash. I didn’t have trouble locating a nearby ATM when I needed it, although it was a bit of a quick walk off the flea market property.
Also this market felt similar to Porte de Vanves in the amount of English that was spoken. Most people spoke enough English to carry on a bit of conversation, however I always try my very basic French first. I feel like I get a warmer response when I do this, and we were in France after all. Some of the vendors didn’t speak any English, but we wiggled our way through our transactions with very broken French and hand gestures and it worked out. I had very kind and positive interactions with all vendors.
I finished up seeing all I could see after about 3-4 hours. From what I understand there is a lot more, it would take days and multiple visits to see every stall. And there were many stalls closed, I am not sure if that is because Monday is a less busy day, or what the reason was, whatever the case there was PLENTY. I don’t regret not staying longer, that was good, successful trip for and I was totally loaded down by the end. There was no way that I could walk to the metro and take the train. I took an Uber back the airbnb and it was perfect. This will be my routine going forward, as much as I enjoy the metro, I don’t need to do it carry 5 bags of a mix of fragile antiques and heavy linens. Non merci.
I wrote about the Porte de Vanves Market here in case you need more Paris Flea Market information.
During my big trip to France with my kids, I wanted to add a small town experience. A friend of mine who always offers the best advice whether it is about dry shampoo, restaurants, where to travel to, or parenting recommended this town. Through experience she has earned no questions asked when following her recommendations. Even my husband knows it will be good if Toni recommends it. So when she raved about the French town Annecy, it immediately went on our trip itinerary. I am so glad I listened. It is so incredibly WONDERFUL. It is a town very close to the Swiss border and is a picturesque on a lake surrounded by mountains. I was told this is area is considered the Pre-Alps. As soon as we left the train station I was hit with the feeling that the quality of life here is what I would imagine it would be if I lived in a snow globe. A charming snow globe. The air was so clean and the lake was crystal blue. People seemed to be leisurely enjoying their lives. I saw families picking up their kids from school, then walking onto the playground on the Lake to meet friends. And people slowly enjoying cafe meal. The pace seemed much slower and more enjoyable. It somehow felt so magical that I couldn’t believe any worldly problems could exist here, just like living in a snow globe. It felt so happy.
We spent 2 nights in Annecy and enjoyed every minute. We just did a lot of wandering, eating, and inspired by the locals took it slow during our two days here. We sat by the lake a lot and the younger kids played at the park. I would have liked to bike around the lake, but it didn’t happen, hopefully there will be a next time.
In Annecy we stayed in the center of the old town in a lovely, clean airbnb, with just the right amount of room. It was just a couple minute walk from the lake and right in the center of all the shops, and only about a 10 minute walk to the train station. I really enjoyed the windows and the views out onto the street, canal, and a restaurant next door. Not that I spent time starring at people while they ate at the restaurant, but there was something very happy catching glimpses of people enjoying a meal through the kitchen window. My kids loved the layout with one bedroom with bunk beds, another bedroom with double bed, and then the living room had a fold out sofa that folded out into two twin beds.
Underneath our apartment there was a Falafel Restaurant, Ali baba. It was yummy, affordable, and fast. It was perfect for big lunch to keep everyone happy. We went three times :). We also had a couple lovely meals along the canal, where the setting was a perfect compliment to a fresh margherita pizza (a staple for us). And gelato, they had that too, in so many flavors, SO MANY. No one ever got a bad flavor.
Getting to Annecy from Paris was my most brave endeavor on the trip. I strongly encourage everyone to try the train, I just think you might need to have a bit of a sense of humor about it. I found that buying 2 day Eurail passes for us was hundreds of dollars cheaper than just buying train tickets for our trip. However, figuring out how to get all the QR codes that I needed was a challenge I hadn’t anticipated. We ended up needing to transfer trains once each way, so we took a total of 4 trains. Some trains needed reservations, some didn’t. Some trains had assigned seating, some did not. It was a lot. We sat in someone else’s seats once. We also sat in First class instead of Second like our purchased tickets. And I never had ALL the right QR codes, one for our Eurail pass and one for reservation. But everyone and every conductor was so kind to me, especially when they saw that I was traveling with 4 kids. No one was really helpful, because it just didn’t seem like anyone really knew how to use the Eurail app. I was able to present enough information to show that I was fully paid, but it was never exactly what the conductor was looking for. However they made us feel welcome and we didn’t get kicked out of first class. I would do it again and again, but know was not going to be perfect. And also it should be noted the time between connecting trains is not very generous, we made it both times but its quick. Make sure you are prepared for a mad dash. Everything in France seemed to operate at a leisurely pace, EXCEPT catching a train, then it turns to pandemonium. But again, totally worth it!! Embrace the pandemonium and you will likely have an exciting story to share.
I had really good for me fortune that our stay in Annecy overlapped with the monthly flea market. As far as I can remember it was purely a coincidence, but who knows maybe I subconsciously lined up our dates to make shopping in the flea market possible, that is highly likely.
Whatever the case, I sure was happy I was able to shop the flea market. It was an experience to treasure. I don’t think I will ever get over the charm of the setting AND then to add my favorite pastime of flea market shopping. It was the best. I found a lot of good things, and in my opinion the prices were the best that I have shopped in France in comparison to Paris and Provence. I found a couple paintings and dishes. There was an incredible booth with copper pieces, I had to bring something home from there. I ended up purchasing a stunning large pitcher, the copper with its large scale got me.
I felt like I hit the jackpot with linens. There was one booth that was fully stocked with beautiful, clean sheets, tea towels, and handkerchiefs. I was in heaven. And I admired all the antique furniture pieces and dreamt about having an apartment there to furnish. I highly recommend this market.
Annecy is very special and I am so glad I got to experience it. I hope to be back. My kids loved it too. This is a spot that I think any and all ages would enjoy.
If you would like to know more about our travels to Paris you can find it in this post.
Bonjour mon amie!!! After the trip I took alone with my kids in March to France, I have been asked by a couple people if it was worth it to bring my kids to France at their ages. My interpretation of this question is if they are wondering if the kids got enough out of the experience and memories to make it worth the investment of both time and money on the parents part. And stress. Let’s face it, there is always stress involved traveling with a family and internationally can add another element of uneasiness. My quick answer is in applying this to my kids is ABSOLUTELY for my 15 and 17 year-old daughters. My 12 year-old son is more of sure, I think so. And my 10 yer-old daughter is maybe. I know every child is different, your 12 year-old could like much different things than mine does. Believe me, I know, each one of my kids is extremely different from the other and they all have the same parents, have lived in the same homes, and ate the same food. Your kids could be totally different. So my experience is just that, my experience, but for what its worth maybe it offers some insight or encourages you to have an adventure with your kids.
This trip was a dream of mine. When I was 11 years-old I was able to travel with my dad to Paris while he had a business trip. This is one of my most treasured childhood memories and it completely opened up my world. I wanted have this experience with my own kids. I know its a bit strange that we ended up going without my husband, but I am sure as anyone who has multiple kids knows, schedules are complicated. And I was feeling a sense of urgency since we have a daughter that will be a senior in high school next year. Our options were to travel during spring break or in August. Well, traveling in August to Europe everything was twice as expense, and with our multiplier of six travelers, that is significant. We might as well just go on two trips. For our spring break my husband ended up having a huge work presentation two days after we would return, we had hoped he could make some of the trip work, but in the end he knew he would be too stressed worrying about his work it to enjoy his time. So we ended up going without him, but sharing as much of it as we could through pictures and FaceTime. Fortunately my kids are at ages where I could travel alone with them just fine. No one ever wander off, they were very loyal little ducklings following behind me every step of the way. If I had toddlers that would have been a totally different story.
The impact that this trip had on my 17 year-old was enough to make up all the investment. She is very easy to travel with and extremely helpful. She is better with technology than I am, which I do not believe is unique for a parent-child relationship these days. There were a couple moments when she stepped in to help me and saved the day. I also stood back a couple times and let her do some navigating. Mostly to give her the experience so she had confidence to travel in the future, but also there were times when I needed it. One was when we were switching trains. We had 12 minutes exit our first train, find our next train in an unknown train station, and board the second. She was able to lead the way through the train station while I kept track of everyone and our bags. We made our train connection because of her.
This trip seemed to have an influence on her future plans. She will be applying for college next year and she realized that going to school in Europe is an option. We did a bike tour in Paris and our guide was a college student, he mentioned how much more affordable it is to attend school in the EU than the US. I can’t remember the exact number but it was something similar to our monthly cell phone bill for his tuition for a semester. Of course this got our attention, because we are trying to figure out how to work out the massive expense of college. She also found herself very happy visiting France. She was motivated her to come home and meet with her counselor to see what she needs to do to attend school in Europe. She has had a couple very positive phone calls with schools and it is in fact MUCH more affordable. Time will tell as to where she lands. And yes, my heart will hurt when she leaves for school, but I will be comforted as long as she happy and progressing, and I get to visit lots.
This was a great trip for us to experience together. We are bit in the middle of that fun teenage stage, where she thinks I am WORST most of the time. We made some memories together that I treasure. She was easy to travel with and up for almost anything. She loves shopping and would love to have a career in fashion. Paris is the place for her. She had a dream of one day living in Paris, and this trip completely reinforced that. Per her request we spent an afternoon shopping on the Champs-Elysees. We both enjoyed going into the high end fashion stores, our favorite being Dior, which is as much like a beautiful museum as store. There is something pretty special about finding common ground and doing an activity with your child that you both really enjoy. Shopping is it for us. One afternoon when the other kids needed down time, she and I headed out to the vintage clothing shops. I highly recommend this. We both got some great pieces from the Kilo shop.
Okay, so 12. This is when it gets a little more questionable about the worth of the trip. My answer is still yes for my son. But traveling with him was not stress free. I think in nutshell a trip to Paris involves A LOT, A LOT of walking. There really is no way around it. We did take the metro often, but even still this all involved a lot walking to the stations and up and down the station stairs. I added in an occasional Uber when it made sense time wise and it didn’t completely break the bank. This coupled with jet lag, left him exhausted at times, one time in particular there was a bit of a meltdown at the Eiffel Tower. I doubt he will ever see a picture of the Eiffel Tower without thinking of that special moment :). But he did it, and he is always so happy and excited to show off his pictures of our trip. He was the one that surprised me the most with speaking French. This is a kid that has been in speech therapy since he was 3 years-old, and he made the most effort to speak French while we were there. As we were flying to Paris he turned to me and said “The French speak very romantic, I guess you would say.” He asked me to teach him a couple very basic statements, like “please,” “thank you,” and “can I have?.” He had no fear, he would walk into a bakery and order what he could using his minimal French, at one point he turned to me and said “I really need to work on my accent.” It was true, he did, the accent is hard. But the storekeepers loved him, they were very patient and seemed so happy he was trying. This made the meltdown worth it. One thing he lost his mind over was seeing the fancy cars throughout town. We had the most luck when walking through the Place Vendome and the Champs-Elysees, in case you have a car lover too.
I am so glad she came. It makes me so happy to look back at our pictures and see her big smiles. But I think it was much more exhausting than she had planned for, as mentioned above there was A LOT of walking. She is up for just about anything except walking :). She was a trooper and then of course not a trooper at times. She seemed to enjoy herself most of the time but added in her fair share of complaining. To be fair, maybe the trip would have been better for her if she weren’t having to keep up with her older siblings. Her absolute favorite thing we did was the trampoline park in the Tuileries. I think we went there 3 times. Both she and her brother loved it. It isn’t anything fancy, just a set up with six very bouncy individual trampolines. The men that run it are very kind and everyone is happy. And they do let your kid stay on the trampolines for two turns if you ask. I enjoyed my time sitting watching them in the idyllic park. It can be as little as a 15 minute jump if there isn’t a line or you can take as many turns as you would like to pay for. It could be definitely used as a good bargaining chip to keep a child going through a museum. It costs maybe around 3 euros for a turn jumping. I also recommend getting a lunch of croque monsieur and a crepe at the take away restaurant in the Tuileries that is about a 5 minute walk from the trampolines.
This was our lunch spot in the Tuileries, insert yourself and your family here 🙂
3/4 my kids loved climbing to the top of Sacre-Couer. This was amazing. My child and I who are nervous about heights struggled a bit, but I think it was still worth it for all of us to go. Its an incredible view and climbing the tiny narrow steps was a cool experience. Also I don’t believe it was very expensive or that we waited in line longer than 20 minutes. I was surprised that the line was so short because the area around the church was completely and utterly packed with tourists.
Versailles holds up to its reputation most definitely. This is not technically inside Paris, but it is easy strait forward train ride from the city center. Due to a series of events we ended up taking an Uber. My daughter wasn’t feeling great that morning, so I hired an Uber to drive us to the train station. That morning many roads in Paris were blocked and the driver was unable to deliver us to the train station. He offered us a discounted rate to drive us all the way to Versailles. It worked out great for us. But I don’t believe the train is bad, so Uber or train works. If you are going, I recommend allowing the entire day. We did not have enough time. We were there for about 5 hours. We had to wait for about an hour for tickets (I bought mine online, and the kids were free but I could not for the life of me figure out how to get a ticket for them on the website, you might have better luck).
After walking through the palace, we needed food and that led to another 45 minute wait for takeaway. We just saw the grounds briefly, and they are the most spectular part.
I scheduled for us to see the equestrian show. I loved it, the arena that it was in was stunning and made me feel like we had gone back in time. My 10 year-old also loved it. But the other three, not so much. Its a bit of a slow moving show that is very artistic. And I forgot horses aren’t as entertaining for my teenagers as when they were 6 years-old. I had thought that the kids would be free, they were not and I believe it ended up being 70 euros for their four tickets. I totally recommend it if my description sounds like something you would enjoy and its in your budget. But hindsight, I probably should have just rented bikes on the grounds with my crew and all would have enjoyed that. I did that once with friends and it was magical.
HIDDEN SECRETS BIKE TOUR
Hidden Secrets Bike Tour through The Latin Quarter and Le Marais. This 4 hour tour was a great time. Our legs needed a break from walking and it is pretty special to ride a bike through the cobblestone streets of Paris. When I booked this, I thought surely we will be on bike paths. Traffic in Paris terrifies me. Not only were we not exclusively on bike paths, meaning we were riding with traffic through the streets of Paris, our guide recommended I ride a tandem bike with my daughter on the back. Okay…
But, it was really wonderful, and the flow of traffic started to make sense to me. I think I only made one other driver mad once, well at least that they communicated to me their frustration to me, I felt pretty good about that. Our stops were very interesting and our guide offered a lot history.
We had one of our favorite meals in the middle of the ride in the Latin Quarter. There was a square with several takeaway restaurants that cater to college students and that was right up our alley, quick, delicious, affordable food. We chose the pizza at a cafe, Amore E Gusto and enjoyed every bite.
We traveled through the Le Marias and saw sights like this:
Part of the tour focused on the Jewish quarter of Le Marais, our tour guide offered a lot of history of what took place there during World War II. It was sobering to be reminded of this history while standing where it took place. But also a valuable reminder of the importance of respecting and cherishing all.
A less important, but still a lesson that should be noted, I learned from our tour guide about using the bathroom. Public bathrooms are hard to come by in Paris. You can order a takeaway coffee at a bar and they will let you use their bathroom. The coffee is just 1-2 euros and is totally worth even though I don’t drink coffee.
DAY TRIP TO MONT-SAINT-MICHEL
Seeing Mont-Saint-Michel was enchanting. This is a unique place rich with history and is located in Normandy. It is a tidal island, so depending on the time it could be surrounded by water or by land. It currently has an active monastery surrounded by a small town. I love, loved this day. The visuals made my eyes and heart happy.
I waffled on how to make this experience happen. In the end I just signed us up for a day tour. I believe I got 10% off because I had booked my bike tour with the site Viator, and then they offered me 10% my next tour booking. So that saved a bit. I would definitely recommend the tour. It isn’t a strait shot on the train from Paris. I am so glad I turned the navigating over to someone else. Instead of figuring out connecting trains and buses, I just had to make sure we met the tour bus at the right time and my work was done. They provided a very comfortable hired bus to drive us the four-hour trip to the island. I was worried this would feel like wasted time or the kids would get impatient, but it actually turned into nice down time.
We stopped in the middle at the world’s cleanest gas station and got some snacks. We are not above gas station snacks and most definitely not above them in the world’s cleanest gas station in France. The scenery was nice along the way. But then you hit this area close to the island and its rolling hills, with stone farms, and sheep throughout. IT IS MAJESTIC.
Towards the end of our ride there, our bus driver gave us an overview of the history of the area. My oldest daughter was so excited, like visibly excited, she said how much she loved sitting there listening to the history. She is our reader. The others weren’t jumping up and down about how exciting the information, but they didn’t complain. Sometimes that is all the affirmation I need that they are having a good time. They liked the experience. The island was full of charm, cobblestone streets, and stone homes.
I loved the exquisitely simple architecture inside the abbey.
And the views…
We enjoyed a nice lunch and a candy shop for those who weren’t so motivated by the historical aspects, and I left knowing my life is a little better with this memory.
SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY BOOKSTORE
If you need a quick and fun activity, I recommend a pop into this historic bookshop. It is located in the Latin Quarter on the Left Bank. This is such a charming store with history and books!!! They don’t allow photographs inside, but believe me its worth a peek. They have a lovely children’s section along with books for every other age, so we all loved it. And any situation that encourages reading over electronics makes me feel better about my parenting. A win all around.
Where we stayed:
In Paris we stayed in a lovely apartment in the Le Marais through Airbnb. It was charming and clean, plenty of room for all 5 of us. There were two bedrooms, and fold out sofa. Just one toilet, but two showers. Which is pretty standard in France and is still a bit of a mystery to me. I picked this place because it had great reviews (which ended up being accurate), it had a very generous cancellation rule, and it allowed us to drop off our bags early. I found the host, Vincent very kind and easy to work with. It was in a very central location that made getting around very easy. There was a nice grocery around the corner, along with a gelato shop that made the stay easy and sweet. This little courtyard to the entrance of our apartment made me smile every time we got home:
We all loved the interior. My oldest girls got to stay in this unique bedroom that was tucked down a spiral staircase:
It had a great kitchen and a washer and dryer. I always plan on doing a couple loads of laundry to allow for more space to bring treasures home.
I loved the living space with big windows that opened out onto the courtyard. It was the perfect place to rest during the trip.
Don’t try to see everything. It won’t happen. Don’t make this your goal. If you have a sense of urgency to hop from one landmark to another I believe you will miss the beauty that is found in the in between. Also schedules are weird in France. Things are closed, transportation can be unpredictable, I am not sure it is possible to stick to a schedule especially traveling with kids in Paris. It is true I am not the best planner in the world, but even my oldest daughter who is a tedious planner realized really quick that there is a lot of unpredictable factors involved that a loose schedule was the only option. My goal was to have one big sight or item on the agenda for the day, this was about right, and it even felt a bit aggressive sometimes. But we did see something new each day, we didn’t feel pressured to move onto to something else and it allowed time for us to stop in unexpected places or revisit the ones we really enjoyed. It also let us be present and soak up the experience.
Map out good, solid takeaway restaurants. This is of course depends on how your family eats. I have pretty picky eaters. I did enjoy some of our long sit down meals, but there were a lot of times when I just wanted to fill everyone’s bellies and get onto some activities. Also the sit down meals can add up really quickly and with picky eaters often they would just end up getting really expensive chicken nuggets and fries. I do love experiencing good food while traveling, but it also needed to balance that with keeping everyone happy. I don’t feel like I mastered feeding my kids when we were staying in the Le Marais in Paris. Surely everyone got fed, it just cost me more money than I thought it would. We bought cereal at the grocery for breakfast and tried to buy takeaway from local restaurants for dinner when everyone was tired, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Pizza worked for takeaway from a sit down restaurant. But in my experience many of the French Cafes aren’t equipped to package up a takeaway meal, so that I wouldn’t recommend. We of course loved a pop into a bakery for treat or grab a fresh crepe from a street vendor, but weirdly there were times when I couldn’t find them just when we needed them. As mentioned above we loved this takeaway pizza we had at Amore e Gusto in the Latin Quarter. We also got some dinner one night from L’As du Fallafel, it was delicious and they had fries and chicken nuggets which is great for three of my kids. If I were to do this trip again, I would have taken the time to research the restaurants better for my crew in accordance with where we were spending our day. It would have been even better if we had stayed close to a good takeaway restaurant. However, I did love our airbnb with or without a good takeaway restaurant, so I am torn on that one.
If you are traveling with a bigger family like ours and you find a good Uber driver get his/her card. You can request a XL uber on the app that will seat upto 6 people. I used the Ubers for rides when we had our luggage with us. We had great luck with all except one ride picked us up from the train station and the car did have 6 seats in the back, but no trunk. We had to pile our bags on our laps. Earlier in the trip, we had a great driver that gave us a bit of tour while we were in his van, and his van had plenty of room for us and our luggage. He gave me his card and it made it easy to schedule a ride with him to the airport.
I hope this helps you to take an adventure and thank you for taking the time to let me share this special trip with you!!
The magical French Larkspur tour of Provence included a lot of shopping. Antique shopping. Which it is no secret that I think this is one of the very best things in the world. And this is the part of the world to do it in. Tracey has gone to great lengths to create a tour in which we stopped by some of the most charming brocantes and flea markets. In the hilltop towns we found stunning little shops like this one owned by Corrine Massat:
In this picture the shop owner held open the sheets for me to inspect. I brought a couple sheets home. The texture, condition, and quality of the linen sheets that I purchased in this shop was exceptional. I still have a bit of fabric left from these pieces and its nice to know they are there to play a role in future projects.
One day we wandered through the town of Menerbes. I really enjoyed this spot, there were several shops that were owned and run by creatives. One was a distributor of Annie Sloan paint and furniture artist, Atelier de Couleurs. Taking a peek at her studio was definitely worth the stop.
We also popped into a store, Petits Points de Provence, that was filled with handmade sewn items and in the corner was a sewing machine. I spoke to the owner and explained that I too sewed items for work. She was a lovely vibrant person. She proudly gave me a little tour of her shop. She explained her favorite kind of work to do is cross stitch.
She had some incredible pieces, one caught my eye of teacups, as I ooooed and awed at it she explained that it was done by her mother who had Parkinson’s disease, and the action of handstiching calmed her.
I really wanted to bring a treasure of from her shop home and to support the hard work that she does, so I purchased this sweet cross stitch of a little girl. I may frame it or turn it into a coin purse. But right now its nice to just come upon it occasionally in my stash and to be reminded of the visit.
We also spent some time in Loumarin, that is filled with all sorts of charming shops. One of the highlights was a shop, La Boutique de L’Antiquaire, owned by a very talented woman named, Nathalie. Her shop is tucked into a storefront off a small cobblestone street and is in a very old building. I will let the pictures of it do the talking.
She too is a seamstress and had her sewing machine in the back corner. Her thing is my thing, vintage linen. She does inspiring work with the fabrics. It was as if I caught a glimpse of the tres chic French version of who I want to be. To have a shop like that and to be able to create in that space would be my ultimate dream. It was a pleasure just to get a taste of it and to bring home some treasures from it.
Tracey knowing that I was on the hunt for textiles brought us to La Boutique de Francine in L’Isle-our-la-Sorgue. We actually stopped in twice on one day because the visit was interrupted by a lunch reservation. As you can see this place need dedicated time.
Then the following day we had two flea markets scheduled that got rained out, so we ended up shopping there again. It would take several more than 3 visits to unearth all the special fabrics in this place. I was so happy with each piece I got and I bought a lot. The shop owner Laurence (which is such a beautiful name, don’t you think?) was such a pleasure to shop from, she kept throwing in little pieces of fabrics I picked as “presents” in my haul. It has brought me a lot of joy working with these fabrics. I hope one day to return.
We made it to one flea market, and I am so glad we did. We went to the flea market in Villeneuve-les-Avignon.
I love my finds from this market. I got some beautiful linens, the highlights being some remnants of old quilts. I used some red and pink quilt fabrics for Holiday pillows. I have been saving some purple colored quilts for a winter/spring pillows, these will be for sale at this weekend’s sale.
I also found the French Soldier fabric here that I used for tiny stockings, the fabric was in the form of two small pillows, I am pleased that they ended up as stockings after being in my care.
There was a lot of art at this market, I found several paintings, and I have sold some but I haven’t been able to part with a couple.
Here are a couple of the paintings I purchased and I thought I needed to photograph them in our stunning Air B and B.
There was a large selection of dishes to be admired
Even though I was nervous about getting dishes home, I couldn’t resist this set of red and white vintage plates:
Lastly you should know if you travel with Tracey and Steve you will have first class service. Steve spends the entire time circling the market taking your purchases back to the van. Lugging around my purchases is a sacrifice I am surely willing to take for some good finds, but to NOT have to do it is nothing short of incredible. It is an immensely better flea market experience. I didn’t know flea market shopping could get better, because I love it so much, but it does with Steve managing your bags.
During the trip we visited outdoor markets here and there. These greeted us with fresh foods, beautiful flowers, sometimes clothing, sometimes fabric, sometimes vintage fabric and antiques. There was always something to be discovered.
I treasure the sweet memories that it has gifted me with. Also to be able to work with the fabric that is coupled with memories of this magical place has added special element to my creativity, this is hard to out into words. I indeed feel incredibly grateful for this enriching experience.
I am back reminiscing about my travels to Provence during a bit of a winter blues funk. My travel partner, Jenn, kept saying during the trip that the memories would help to get us through a long winter, and as always she was right. In my last post on this little and slightly neglected blog (stocking season rolled around and that kept me quite busy) I talked about the two days in Paris that I spent leading up the tour in Provence hosted by French Larkspur. I have never traveled with a tour before and I am not sure that tour would be the right word for this kind of trip, because when I think of tour, I envision a massive tour bus with a guide using a megaphone. This is experience was the opposite of that. Tracey the owner of French Larkspur keeps her trips small, she only accomodates up to 4 travelers per trip. You basically are experiencing the most charming hilltop towns with a small group of friends and you don’t have to plan or worry about a thing except if you are wearing appropriate shoes. I am just like every other parent in the world, where I am rarely in a situation that doesn’t require me to be in charge or leading the way in one way or the other. I completely welcomed the opportunity to travel without even the tiniest bit of responsibility.
Tracey curated an amazing experinece that began each day with a delivery of fresh croissants to our apartment door so we could nibble on them while getting ready for the day. We had full days soaking up the beauty of this magical part of the world. This wasn’t a trip that was dictated by a list of tourist attractions we had to check off. We wandered cobblestone streets and our eyes feasted on all the treasures along the way, big and small.
True to the French experience we ate leisurely long lunches in some of the most stunning settings, always accompanied with a delicious meal.
The cathedral in Gordes is one of the most beautiful places I have walked into. The combination of colors, whimsical details, architecture, and it all being aged over centuries made for a truly remarkable place.
The Blessed Mother statues have always been a source of peace for Jenn, when we started the trip she would point them out to me. I quickly caught on, there is a lot of love communicated in them, and I always saw them as a good omen.
We would return to our apartment in the early evening and had this time to ourselves. Tracey always made sure that we stopped by a grocery store and bakery to get enough fixings for a dinner in. We could make the couple minute walk into town to eat a restaurant if we preferred. But we ended up really enjoying our dinners in our apartment. These were some of my favorite meals. We ate fresh bread with goat cheese and figs and grapes. And also the very best olive tapenade, which came with a story…Jenn and I stopped by a stall in a street market with a man selling various types of olives and tapenade. The truth of it is that he was very handsome and charming and his tapenade was delicious. He had us trying all the kinds, and we kept adding to our purchase. In the end we spent 20 euros on tapenade. EACH. Okay. We didn’t expect that. I guess I am not complaining because it was very yummy, it did last us nearly 3 dinners, and then there was the whole experience of buying it. C’est la vie. Sweet but not budget friendly.
This down time in the evenings was the perfect way to complete a full day. It gave me chance to look and edit my photos from the day which helped me to soak up the entire experience more. I also read some, and caught up with what was happening at home. A couple evenings I went jogging on a bike trail close to the apartment. I have run all of my adult life and there is something pretty special about jogging in a new area while on vacation that lets me experience it in a slightly different way.
One of the biggest advantages to this trip was that transportation was completely provided and taken care of courtesy of Tracey and her husband Steve. I am not afraid to travel and I can handle figuring my way through public transit in most places. Visiting the towns we did, would require renting a car. It gives me a little anxiety thinking about renting a car in a foreign country, and then to be responsible for navigating the tiny streets and parking. I am not discouraging anyone from trying it, and if I get to travel to all the places I hope to travel to, one day I will be doing this. But holy moly, it was so nice to have a chauffer in Steve that knew what he was doing. I am sure I would have seen less than half the places we saw if I had been in charge of finding our way and finding parking once we arrived. There were times when Steve would drop us off to start exploring while he circled to find parking. This was made it a first class/stress free experience.
I loved my travelmates on this trip. I suppose its a bit like the Bachelor, where you are doing these amazing things in this incredibly beautiful place of course you are going to start to love the people you are with (and in my case not romantically like the Bachelor, just as friends 🙂 ). Jenn and I planned to go together, so I knew I loved her, even though we had only known each other for a couple months. She is a really easy person to get to know well. The other woman who joined us came on her own from Boston, Jean. Before the trip she was stranger. Jenn and I both felt like we had hit the jackpot with her coming. She is one to love. I hope to travel with her again. I think we would survive real life friendship, not just one viewed in the rose colored glasses of Provence.
mon amie, jean, avec le chien 🙂
Tracey is an excellent guide. She is very much a perfectionist and hard worker. She will do everything in her power to make sure you are shown an amazing time. Also if you peek at her website or IG page you will notice her incredible photography. She has an eye for beauty and the ability to create an environment for you to enjoy it.
Our final visit was the tiny town of Oppede-le-Vieux. It had been a rainy day, our only rainy day, and the sun came out just in time to wander this town. It was a lovely parting gift from the area.
I am glad that I was able to experience each hilltop town that we did. Although they have a lot of similarities, there is something unique about each one. If I try to pick a favorite, I remember something special that stood out to me from each one. I am not sure I can even articulate those special qualities to classify the towns, often times it was just the feeling of the town or a moment when I turned a corner and saw something that was inspiring. It is such a gift that I got to experience this and hope to carry a piece of it with me.
Stay tuned for a post coming soon about the other important aspect of my stay in Provence. SHOPPING.
One of my favorite parts to my business is shopping/hunting/scouring the world for antique French linens. Here is a little back story on how it all began…In 2015 I tackled my first upholstery project, it was chair that I purchased off of craiglist for $5. Being inspired by pictures of chairs with grain sack material, this is what I wanted to attempt. And that was the beginning. I had very little kids at the time and did very little shopping, most especially at antique shops. I intially thought that I could just run to my local antique mall and grab some grain sacks. Nope. It is not out of the question that your local antique mall carries a couple, but I quickly found out mine did not, and finding the right vintage fabric was a process. A process I really enjoy, but there is some work involved. I was lucky enough to find a lovely grain sack from a seller on ebay, and the outcome was good. I wanted another project. So next I found a vintage French style sofa on craiglist. It had beautiful lines. I had committed to buying it, when the seller got a higher offer and threw me to curb. I was sad, I had grown attached already. But it finally ended up being mine when the other buyer never showed to pick it up. It had a lot of potential, but needed a complete overhaul. My vision was to upholster it using antique hemp linen sheets. So now I had to get my hands on some…That brought me to here:
P A R I S
Around this time my husband had a business trip in France, he asked me to meet him in Paris for a weekend. Eveything aligned, that mostly meaning my sister was able to watch my kids, with childcare in place all the other details are easy. It was a pretty special weekend, I think back on it with fondness. We wandered, ate crepes, stayed in a nice hotel, and even the book I read on the plane made me happy. But what was really quite a big deal for me was I needed some antique European hemp sheets for my sofa, and Paris was a promising a place as any to find those. I did as much research as I could online figuring out where precisely I needed to go to shop for the sheets. I flew in one morning and my husband couldn’t meet me until the evening. My research steered me to the Marais area, so I set out on my own in this direction with a mission.
There was a courtyard like area tucked in to a block that had several quaint antique shops, I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I really enjoyed myself. I wish that I had taken more pictures. One of the shops I visited was this one, its a treat to just look at their website and dream about picking through the lovely collection of textiles and ribbons:
-photo credit Au Petit Bonheur la Chance-
-photo credit Au Petit Bonheur la Chance-
I was not disappointed that I didn’t find my linens on the first day, because I was feeling really hopeful and excited about my luck at a Paris flea market. There are several flea markets in Paris, there is Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, which according to the internet is the most famous flea market in the world. But I found information warning me that the prices were very high, and it wouldn’t necessarily be the best for linens. From what I could gather from my research was that Marche aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves was a bit more causual with better prices and plenty of linens. So Saturday morning I set out early on the metro by myself to buy linens. Antique shopping is not my husbands thing, and I really prefer to not have to drag an unentertained person through stall after stall. In addition I kind of like shopping alone, so it worked out. We bonded over French pastries later.
See THAT is an example of an assortment that served us well. Back to shopping, although, a proper shopping trip should always include snacks and nourishment. In my experience sugar is best to keep up the longetivity of a shopping trip, its science :). French pastries do their job well to keep a sucessful shopping trip going.
Okay, now back to shopping, I arrived early due to an internet recommendation. A bit too early in fact. Some stalls weren’t welcoming shoppers yet, and even if they were I am not convinced it was necessary. The atmosphere was not of a hustle to score the best pieces. It was more like a social event. Everyone seemed to be leisurely enjoying themselves. It was lovely.
I speak very limited French. I took French in high school, which equals me being able to introduce myself and order a crepe. But I did read up on how to ask for a price so I was prepared. My pronunciation was often not understandable and it was one of those experiences out of my comfort zone, but I tried. I always had warm feedback because I made an attempt. The vendors would either start speaking English to me or if they didn’t speak English they would write down the price for me. Even though I could sort of ask what the price was, it didn’t mean I could always (almost never) understand the response. But it worked out. The mutual goal of a sale and the fact that I tried to speak French in France we worked through any communication barriers.
I loved the flea market. There were some curated stalls, like this whismical one filled with ribbons, textiles, and sweet vintage childrens toys. Looking at these pictures makes me wish I had bought so much more.
There were also tables set up that were disorganized and random. But there were always good stuff to be found. The dishes!!! There were so many pretty ones!! And the prices were very good in my opinion. But there was only so much room in my suitcase.
It took the morning but I eventually found enough linen for my sofa. I was thrilled. It was a lot of linen, it didn’t make the metro ride back to the hotel easy, but I was beaming inside holding on tightly to my treasure. Even the plane ride home I was very careful not to check my pile of linen, I carried it on and made sure it was never too far away.
The quality of the linen made it possible to recover my sofa successfully. I remember one moment working on an arm, and the fabric stapled beautifully in place without very much effort, it felt wild because I was fairly inexperienced with upholstery and most DIY projects I had done before did not cooperate so easily. Between the magic of a special weekend in a foreign land with my husband and learning that I had a developed a new skill and love and a true love for it, makes this a time that I hold close to my heart.
This is the finished product of my vintage linens from Paris and my craigslist sofa in our old house
These days traveling to France is not an option, and it wasn’t very easy pre covid anyway. I have found shopping on Etsy gives me a little taste of the Paris Flea market experience. It has turned into one of my favorite pastimes. The hunt is for the perfect item is really, REALLY fun. Then there is nothing like receiving a package from France to make your day. Sometimes I am just buying a fabric remnant, or some ribbon so shipping remains reasonable. The items that arrive always make my project very special. Here are some of the Etsy shops that I have had the most success with:
-First off is my friend, Cybele’s shop Au Pres de Mont Toi. I purchased many French Postal Bags from her initially, but since I have bought some other beautiful treasures from her shop. A bonus is that I have gotten to know her through communicating over the internet through google translate. She is sweet, funny, and a mother like me. Last year I received a thoughtful note from her wondering how we were doing with the pandemic in my part of the world. I hope that to meet her one day in person. From her shop I purchased the postal bags that made these projects possible.
Newfoundland Postal Bag Pillows
Another shop that I love is Sissidavril, this little shop has beautiful fabrics, ribbons, and French laundry tags. Using the tiny French laundry tags that I bought from this shop added a lot of charm to my little stockings I made at Christmas time.
Sissidavril also offered this extra special fabric remnant. I love all the characters in it. I was able to make a couple of pillows and some Valentine’s decor with it. It was a treat to work with it.
I just discovered MarieDecor1888, when I was searching for vintage ticking stripe fabric. Browsing the shop is really fun, and I reached out to the owner in hopes that she possibly had some fabric similar to what she had listed. She was very easy to work with and had just what I was looking to buy. I hope to use these pretty pieces to make some stockings when the holidays roll around.
I have a package making its way over the Atlantic from FrenchVintageRetro right now. I have yet to actually receive a package directly from them, but a friend who bought the fabric from this shop had me sew a pillow for her. She actually ended up with some extra French linen and I gladly took it off her hands. This particular fabric is pristine vintage French linen, it is c’est magnifique!! Also a virtual wander through this store is highly recommended, their treasures are not isolated to pretty linen, and their photography and presentation is beautiful.
The pharmacy we went to was located near the Marais. I had mapped out some creative shops I wanted to visit in that area. I had lost sleep over how excited I was to see the ribbon shop, the whimsical antique shop, and the wallpaper store. Well…we got lost. I got us lost. It really isn’t the worst thing in the world to get lost in the Marais, I mean look at what we saw along the way.
The start of day two was the Porte de Vanves flea market. MY FAVORITE. The moment I had been waiting for. We enjoyed ourselves so much. The treasures are so special and the booth owners are wonderful.
Every interaction we had people were so kind. We always attempted to speak a little French, but often they would speak English to us, and if not we could negotiate transactions by writing numbers on a piece of paper, hand gestures and smiles.
I didn’t find tons of booths with linen, but enough. I purchased a pile of heavy French linen vintage nightgowns to use for their fabric. The fabric is remarkable, and I even tried one on hoping it would fit, but no. That’s okay, I still appreciate them so much. I also bought some vintage cotton red/pink fabric that is perfect for Christmas, I have already started sewing with it, and I am love it so much.
Mon amie, Jenn, purchasing paintings for her shop.
My favorite most unique find, were these sketches/watercolors that were done by a French decorator from the 1940s. The detail with them is mindblowing. It is just like everything else the France, beauty and detail are the focus. Its like things would be beautiful even if they stopped 5 steps before, but they just keep adding detail after detail to their buildings, to their pastries, to their gardens, and in this case sketches of furniture. Tres belle. This is defintiely the find that surprised me. I never once thought such a thing existed, but now they are my treasure. I did pick up enough for me and enough for my shop.
I planned out a gallery wall in my hotel.
I happily hung some up in my home.
The detail is incredible, this is just a 5 by 6 inch sketch add look at the decor that is drawn on the shade.
these ones will be for sale on my shop site on October 14 at 7pm CST.
a quick bit of styling in my hotel room
The man who sold me the sketches was so kind, and he threw in a couple as “presents.” This was our first time in France that we got freebies, but it turned into a routine. When I bought linen the shop owner threw in an extra tea towel as “present.” Even at a gift shop where I bought my son a Mbappe PSG jersey (if you don’t know what or who that is, its a soccer thing) and the owner gave me a PSG bag to pass on to my soccer fan. Everyone seemed happy to see visitors from America, I am guessing we were a bit of a sign that things might be getting back to normal.
What I regret with our flea market trip is not looking into taking an Uber back to the hotel. Riding the metro with our bags was something and climbing the metro stairs with our haul was an entirely bigger something. But we made it. It was a labor of love for my treasures that I did happily, but there might have been an easier solution.
After our finds were safely back in our hotel rooms we finally made it to the fancy candle store. We used an Uber to cut down on the chance of getting lost. The Cire Trudon store was Jenn suggestion. This special candle maker has been in business since the 1600s, and the scents are exceptional. I was totally there for it. It was really fun to look and smell, smell and look. Now these candles are quite a splurge. But if you need to treat youreslf to something, this is a good one. We really enjoyed speaking to the young woman who helped and she loaded us up of freebies. Those freebies were very welcome to travel home with me. Lucky for me Jenn did gift me a cire trudon candle in my favorite scent. I had used awards to cover our hotel stay and she wanted to do something special. I mean I told her she didn’t need to, but she didn’t have to twist my arm too hard. The candle makes me very happy, I allow myself to burn it for a special two hours a week, it smells so good and even adds a good amount of scent to the room when it isn’t burning. It reminds me of Paris. And sits in my sewing corner. I will report back on how long I can make it last.
Then we walked to the Tuileries soaking in all the sights we passed, the Opera House, and the Place Vendome for a few.
It was perfect weather and I enjoyed one of our favorite meals sitting in the gardens eating a croque monsieur and crepe for lunch.
Our last must see destintion for our time in Paris was Montmartre. My love for this area goes deep. Its beyond charming, all the shops and cafes nestled into the incline of the hill. Also this is where the artists of Paris have lived since the mid 1800s, so there is a unique artisitic vibe (all of Paris is artistic, but you will feel it being a bit different here).
It is such a treat to wander through Place du Tertre. In this square there are several cafes and artisits set up booths to sell their work, and often times there are painting while there. I have purchased a couple of my favorite art pieces here, they are lovely and I love having the reminder of the special place.
Do you spy what I brought home to my dining room?
We took time to walk through the Sacre-Couer. This is a must do in my opinion, the view of Paris from its steps is breathtaking. Also I love the feeling of peace and awe that I get inside a cathedral. I am not of the catholic faith, but there is so much history seeped into those walls its hard not to feel something emotional when there.
Our wonderful day in Paris came to end with eating two desserts in two different cafes in Place du Tertre. I was full and very happy.
In case you are wondering, we stayed in the Hyatt Etoile. It is about a 10-15 minute walk from the Arc Du Triomphe and just a block from the main metro line that goes to the center of Paris. It is very easy to get around from there. I like riding the metro. I also like the hotel, it is nice and clean with good service and the best part is that it was free for us. As a family we don’t use a lot of credit cards, but we did sign up for a Hyatt credit card years ago when they were offering two free nights at ANY of their hotels worldwide. My husband and I used those nights to stay in Paris in the Hyatt Vendome, now that experience would be another whole long blog post. It was very, very fancy and romantic too :). We have kept the credit cards because we get free award nights every year at their category 4 or less hotels. We have had some great trips because of them. Using them for the Hyatt Etoile is a great value, its not a budget hotel. Since we had not been traveling much we had 4 nights to use, so Jenn and I each got our own room. This was a good decision because the rooms are very small and even with two twin beds I think the beds would have been touching. I love Jenn, but with jet lag and waking up at weird times I think we were both very grateful for our space.
The view from my hotel room, notice the Sacre-Couer in the distance.
I am beyond grateful I got to experience this city again and with a friend that had all the same interests as I did. Next we were headed to Provence…