Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Paris in Carmel – Part One

J’adore French style. Hunting and gathering is my game, and over the years my ‘tour de France’ has taken me to shops, flea markets, auctions and brocantes - from Paris to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Lyon. This obsession began when we were living in Genève Switzerland, perfected later in rural Belgium, and continues to this day.

In Genève, twice weekly, I would get up early, rush to the end of Chemin des Muguets, and catch a bus to Carouges. Then I would jump on a street car - next stop the flea market at Planpalais. The return trip was just the reverse. With numerous bags of treasure, it was always an exercise in strength and balance. For example, one morning I had the pick of a dealer’s stash of elegant antique Swiss theatre costumes; another time I purchased a rustic country dining table and benches. And, there were always endless stacks of original Beaux arts drawings and piles of finely worked lace curtains to be browsed through, and carried home.

In Belgium, my routine involved waking at 3 am, and making the hour’s drive to the center of Brussels - my destination, the famous Jeu de Bal flea market. Parking three blocks away (bonne chance finding a space nearby), I would run for my life through the shadowy and dark quarter. Arriving, I would join the rugby scrum as each vendor would empty their bags of wares on the pavement. Lots of jostling, pushing, shoving, grunts and cursing would follow. The contents of many an old and venerable household would end up this way. Once, I even got into a wrestling match over some particularly beautiful linen and lace window shades. Guess who won? The most humorous episode involved my excited purchase of thirty monumental baskets once used in the wool trade, and the realization that I couldn’t possibly fit them in my little car. Each morning’s foray would end at about 7 am, with a coffee and croissant, and a car full of booty. I would make the journey home, just in time to wake my sleeping husband.

How happy I was then, to discover troves of French treasures here in Carmel! My first stop was Sabine Adamson’s bijoux of a shop, tucked into a corner of one of the town’s picturesque courtyards (at Dolores Street between 5th and 6th).

Look for Sabine’s vintage Renault 2 CV which she parks nearby. Her yearly excursions abroad have gleaned an array of French wares: from antique printed textiles to Provencal furniture to Biot style pottery, all as charming as the proprietor herself. The day I was there, one of her many fans gifted her with a large carton of freshly-cut lavender. Here and there throughout the shop are exquisite tableaux of natural materials- dried pepper berry, oak leaf crowns, and twigs.

Around the corner at San Carlos and 6th Avenue, is the French-inspired shop Trouvé. Housed in a light and airy space this is a captivating and glamorous mix of antique and decorator pieces, luxurious fragrances and imaginative paper giftware.

Not far away on Dolores between Ocean and 7th, is a tiny shop, aptly named Piccolo.

The imaginative July 4th (or was it for Bastille Day?) window, starred two small mannequins in news-print tricorne hats, bedecked with red and blue ribbons. All of this, just hints at the creativity of the artist-owner, and the eclectic collage of curiosities within.

Some years ago, I had read an article in Victoria magazine about a very special shop in Carmel.

That shop, Tancredi & Morgen, at 7174 Carmel Valley Road, is in a league of its own. It is well worth the short drive out into Carmel Valley. The owners have a terrific eye. They cleverly curate their collection of unusual objects: fabrics, furniture, clothing, and garden pieces, with particular attention to patina, color and decorative appeal.

Among the items that caught my eye were the natural linen cushions, made with dressmaker detail by one of the owners, and a collection of ancient bee skeps.

Vive La France in Carmel!


Monday, July 13, 2009

My Bicyclette

My first bicyclette was a gift from Aunt Lois and Uncle Julian. They lived in Richmond, Virginia, and ran a tourist home on Chamberlayne Avenue. “Br-ring, br-ring” went the bell of my four-wheeler, as I rode the bumpy sidewalks of their street, and raced the large trucks that plied that route. At night, tucked into my bed, a lullaby from the sounds of those same trucks sang to me of faraway places.

One Christmas, not long after, Santa brought me a shiny black Raleigh: a real big girl bicycle! That bike transported me through my young adult years, and later safely ferried my toddlers to their nursery school.

In Belgium, our hove (old farmhouse in Flemish) was situated on a country road popular with the local bicycle racing clubs. On weekends, we would become spectators of this sport, as swarms of
riders would whip by our house.

One day at a local brocante, I found a large collection of vintage enamel bike manufacturers’ plaques. I had great fun fashioning them into the ultimate biker ‘bling’. (from The Parrott Collection at Pomme)

La Bicyclette is also the name of a café/restaurant here in Carmel. It is the artistic creation of the Georis family, who have made names for themselves with a series of experiential /themed eateries and a winery. Perhaps, due to their Belgian roots, their café is evocative of the estaminets of Belgium. These are the quirky cafes where an eclectic mélange of tattered and discarded elements; such as ancient baby buggies, umbrellas and chairs adorn the walls, and where good honest rustic pleasant fare is served. La Bicyclette is ‘ouvert’ for lunch and dinner. You can expect a good wine list and creative dining touches. This includes copper pots of steaming soup brought to the table, and elegant deserts. The deserts are made by the pastry chef at another Georis restaurant up the street, and are delivered in the basket of a vintage bike by one of the waiters. It’s the “wheel” deal!

Happy trails, Marjorie

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Postcard from the Beach


Wish you were here! The weather is fine. Most days you will find me under the big beach umbrella. That’s me with the dark hair. How do you like my snazzy new bathing costume? Let’s stroll the beach together, and dip our toes in the wide blue that is the Pacific. Retreating to the shade, we’ll spend the long lazy afternoon sharing Moscato with strawberries, life stories and giggles. So please join me, as our journey has just begun. The best is yet to come!

Singing in the sunshine, and dancing on a wave,


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Coming to You from Beautiful Carmel-by-the-Sea!

The fog rolled in from the ocean, and like two weary pilgrims walking the Camino Real, we arrived in Carmel. Both of us had our ideas as to what life would be like in this part of the world. Mine were formed by the sixties film “The Sandpiper”, which starred Elizabeth Taylor as an artist living the “life boheme”. Michael, on the other hand, pictured himself as Dave Garver in “Play Misty for Me”, driving up the coastal highway in his vintage jag roadster, with Erroll Garner on the sound track. It remains to be seen if any of these images will be true to life!

Some things do not change. I have resumed my early morning walks, which now take me past tiny fairy tale cottages set in lush green landscapes. Quite the opposite scenery of the sun-burnt land I have just left. There are dogs walking people everywhere, for Carmel is dog heaven. Even Doris Day’s Cypress Inn welcomes pooches, with their own list of amenities, rates and a newsletter.

How homesick for "Oz" I felt, when on my first beach ramble I came upon a surfing competition. On Easter Sunday we newcomers joined the crowds attending mass at the Carmel Mission. Not far from there is Clint’s Mission Ranch. Nestled at the edge of a salt marsh and inlet from Monterey Bay, its paddocks are home to a family of woolly sheep. To sit on the deck at about sunset and look over to Point Lobos is a spiritual experience. It is said “the man” himself comes by on occasion and plays the piano in the bar. Almost every-night of the week in Carmel, outdoor films play at the charming WPA Forrest Theater – Peter Sellers classics show next week. Around every corner and down every paseo are tempting choices for local food and wine. Intriguing shops and galleries abound.

For my part, I am look forward to exploring and refining my métier. So much has changed since we left the States 10 years ago. My travels have exposed me to the style idioms of Switzerland, Belgium/France, China and Australia, but it will be a challenge for me to catch-up with the trends here. It is my hope to bring something fresh to my field, and through this blog to introduce my readers to these influences and inspirations.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy July 4th!

Aunt Mary, age 14, celebrating the holiday in Nebraska, circa 1920.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fly Away

Time to say good-bye after six years in this safe harbor called Flinders. But before we leave, it was party time! Since Pier Provedore had become a favorite daily stop, it was the perfect venue for “My Farewell Party”.

With the date set, the invitations designed and sent (each attendee was asked to bring a favorite recipe to share with me), there was no turning back!

Ina, a tour de force in the kitchen, set about working her magic. On offer that day were salmon starters, delicious Coronation chicken and salads as the main, crowned by a dessert comprised of panacotta with strawberry topping. The later was served in tiny vintage stemmed glasses (purchased at the op shop next door), artfully displayed on a tall tiered tray. There was Champagne for all, as well as bottles of gorgeous Australian wines chosen for the day by my husband. The table setting was a group affair. Darling Jacki (daughter of Ina and café stylist extraordinaire) fashioned little blue paper origami boats as a special surprise. Good mates Linley and Sue contributed some table-top elements, as well as the usual moral support. (See the picture of these two dears). Small robin’s egg blue pebbles which I had been hoarding were finally put to use, and the napkins were artfully wrapped with seagull motif tags from The Parrott Collection. All in all Martha Stewart would have been proud! (More “happy snaps” from the event may be viewed on the Pier Provedore blog.)

That lazy afternoon in Flinders, the most amazing group of women were gathered around that long table: a gallery owner, a glass artist, a curator, a silver jewelry designer, fashionistas, a real estate mogul, an antique dealer, a local historian, gardeners extraordinaire, op shop gals, animal lovers, and some just impossible to describe. Each so unique and special in their own right. How honored I was to have known them! How grateful I am for their sharing their lives and talents with me! They all had enriched my life. Some were meeting each other for the first time, and that day many new friendships were made. So much fun was had, that I forgot to make a toast. I do so now-

Dear friends: “May your road be level and peaceful!” I thank each of you from my heart.

Merci beaucoup! Marjorie

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Flinders Sojourn

Here are some Highlights and Personalities from our six-year Flinders’ walkabout

  • Each day’s visit to the Flinders General Store, where there would always be a warm greeting and some local gossip;
  • Julie’s Café and her famous multi-berry muffins;
  • Textile artist Bernadette Gooden;
  • The fun clutter of Mostly Deco antiques;
  • Garden designer Fen Brady’s inspirational outdoor office/studio;
  • working as shop-girl at Fordholm Antiques;
  • The shop Tree - quirky and imaginative home of the screen-print creations from Succulent Designs;
  • The best chicken salad sandwiches ever from Kate and Victor’s Aloha Café;
  • Pier Provedore, the stylish creation of Ina Low and co, the new kid-on-the-block, which quickly became the home-base cafe for all “the girls”;
  • Afternoon treks to the village’s picturesque Post Office, where, John the Postmaster and his delightful sidekicks, could be depended upon to inject some humor into the day;
  • Linley walking her sweet dog Lily;
  • Sue’s Australian native garden;
  • Beach rambles and walks to the lookout with Heather;
  • Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays - Op Shop days, stopping by with a G’day for the crew, and checking out what was new or old;
  • The once-a-year church fete, when the entire village would turn-out in a setting that was pure Agatha Christie;
  • Pricing books or the “trash and treasure” items for the above event, with lots of giggles, lots of trash, and few treasures;
  • Pomme in Mornington, style beacon & home to The Parrott Collection, my design products;
  • The Studio Christmas Show, hosted by artists Flick and Leisa (Somers General Store);
  • Experiencing the vibrant food & wine culture of Australia;
  • Flinders Yacht Club social gatherings: “Bollywood” and “Tapas” evenings, the Commodore’s cocktail party, dancing the night away to local bands, and New Year’s eves lighting sparklers and watching the moon rise over Philip Island;
Our fun-loving Aussie mates taught us Northerners so much about friendship and hospitality, especially how to relax and to follow the “no worries mate” principle. There seemed to be no bad cooks in town, or for that matter in Australia. Many generous invitations came our way, especially during holidays. (A special thank you to Roz and Bill who loaned us their Flinders holiday home during our final weeks in Australia).

How was it possible that we were now saying good-bye to paradise?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Seachange

Our love affair with Flinders Australia began on one of those Beijing days when the wind and sand blows from the Gobi desert and covers the city in a coat of yellow dust. The streets were mostly deserted, except for an intrepid group of women on bicycles. When the wind filled the diaphanous scarves wrapped around their heads, they resembled bubble-headed extraterrestrials. The world was a sad place, as the tragedy of 9/11 had just occurred, and after 3 years in China, we were once again contemplating a seachange.

I had just settled in with the latest western style magazine brought back from an R&R trip to Hong Kong. There before me on the page was an illustrated piece on a tiny, unspoiled village in Australia on the Mornington Peninsula. I could almost feel the freshness of the cold winds which blew in from Tasmania and Antarctica. I could picture the rocky coast and rolling vineyards and pastures. My mouth watered at the thought of the delicious local food and wine. This was a place where artists (like me), ex-ballet dancers (like me) and ex-prime-ministers (unlike me) have found a safe haven. The more I read, the more it seemed Flinders was our kind of place.

Before I knew it, we had built a house there, and settled in to village life. How wonderful it was to live again in a place where everyone knows your name, (and sometimes your business). For six magical years this was home!