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!



  1. Oh lordy I'd be happy doing this!!!
    That paper hat with the red, white and blue :) Ha! I might have to make myself one...

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