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Guest Blog: Mantiques – The Professor Shops Chatou

Regular Diva Readers know how I adore the twice annual 10 day tou/foire/acc.htm” target=”_blank”>“National Fair of the Flea Market and Ham” held in the Paris suburb of L’ile de Chatou. You’ve heard me tou” target=”_blank”>wax poetically about this market on numerous occasions and in numerous publications and you’ve even read a guest blog from Lady Lotus on the subject. Now, Lady Lotus’ husband, The Professor, has taken time to add his 2 cents in this blog titled:

“Mantiques – The Professor Shops Chatou”


top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>When a man says something about getting wood, some minds may wander down more prurient paths. Clearly, these people have never been shopping for antique wooden furniture at Chatou, the grand antique bizarre to the West of Paris.

The real pleasure may not be shopping for some table made of an old worm-eaten bit of bark, but instead the ham. The very name of the event, Chatou Foire au Jambon (Chatou Ham Festival), tells the tale: the event is not merely for dainty antique-o-philes of stereotype. It is also – even primarily – a place to go for ham. Ham choices are various. They include a ham sandwich that is so piled with add-ons that it is a food grenade for anyone who dares try to eat it while wearing good clothes. There is usually some form of ham-and-cheese mixture in a hot pot, typically to be served with boiled potato slices. Roast ham is everywhere. So, too, is a selection of mostly white wines and beers. All this is central to the market, self-righteously occupying the central rows of the grounds.

The antique shopping itself is rather enjoyable, possibly because the goods for sale are not antiques by French standards. In France, an antique is old. The people in the paintings on sale at a real antique market died before your great-grandparents were born. At an antique shop, “second empire” is hardly old enough. There, a chair on sale might have last suffered an ass more than a hundred years ago.

The market at Chatou is a brocante, which might be something like a junk sale to the blasé French. “What, less than a hundred years old? Mon dieu, it’s still trash.” The objects for sale at Chatou, excepting the ham of course, tend to be anywhere from a few decades old to a few hundred. This garage-sale material from France may be mouthwatering to the shopper from the Western US, where some states themselves are not quite a hundred years old. At lunchtime, the merchants shamelessly sit on the very chair you might want to buy and spread their hams and drinks on the table you are eyeing. “Excusez-moi, but would you try not to get any condensation rings on the table I am buying?”

There are challenges of shopping at Chatou. First and foremost, there is the fine balance between eating and drinking too much and effective shopping. Clearly, every man must face this burden in his own way. My preference is to arrive in the morning, shop for a while, and end with a late lunch.

This sequence leads me to throw caution to the wind when choosing my heaps of ham and accompanying liquids as my shopping is finished. After that, I am useless for shopping and it’s time to nap my way back to Paris by train. The only interruption for the rest of the day is my own quiet belches – and my wife nudging me and telling me to stop belching, even quietly.

The second challenge is the shopping. This entails two steps: scouting and negotiating. I particularly enjoy the scouting part because I cheat. My wife, knowing that I am a lousy shopper, will have already scouted at the event with more patient friends earlier in the week. This may seem bizarre: why, this man wonders, would anyone go shopping twice? I’d go twice for the ham, but not for shopping. Perhaps it is a mystery of the universe not to be solved here, but why do women bother to identify the things they want to buy, but not buy them? Yet she claims to enjoy this method. I enjoy not scouting.

The negotiations can be a chore. It typically starts before you know it. By the time you have come within 10 meters (must be metric in France), the merchant will have sized you up and decided how much can be wrung from you. As a visitor from the US, you are stamped with the word “sucker” until you prove otherwise. This can be accomplished by showing a modicum of appreciation for the object in question, rather than a lackadaisical interest as might suggest itself when your wife’s fancy falls on some frilly whatever that you know will mock you from the wall beside your television until you accidentally break it while she is away. Speaking a bit of French is always welcome, even if the negotiations end up devolving into typed numbers on a calculator for want of any real foreign language abilities on either side.

The verbal negotiations are fraught. Just how much is the thing worth – taking into account the type of wood, the Louis-Philippe style, the crack on the side, the evidence of worm damage, the replacement of the handles, and so on – is irrelevant for most people. As we usually plan to keep it, the question is how much it is worth to the buyer and whether or not
we can get it cheaper. This requires seeing the prices on comparable pieces at the market and some pre-negotiation negotiating among the buying spouses.

Chatou negotiations tend to be good natured as far as such things go, particularly as compared to, say, the markets of Marrakesh or the rug merchants of Istanbul. But the vendor would probably be willing to let you pay much more than you should. Negotiations can often be complicated if you add in an object mid-way through. However, one will ideally have identified any “throw-in” beforehand lest, as in the case of one infamous shopping expedition, one’s wife identifies some trinket off-hand that leads the merchant’s eyes to widen as multi-digit price calculations race through his mind.

The third challenge of the shopping expedition is getting the object home. Even for ex-pats in Paris, this can be a bit of a chore, as anyone who has tried to arrange their day around a typical French delivery time knows. The statement that the delivery will be “sometime next Wednesday” often leads to boring days awaiting a delivery, rescheduling after they do not show up, and so on. For the international traveler, modern airline restrictions may constitute more than a mere nuisance. For example, I was quite concerned that the airline staff would not let me carry an old cane with a brass handle onto the plane. Fortunately, it passed the test: one staff person glanced at it, then rapped it against her own head before judging that it was safe. The challenge of getting the loot home would be amplified if one sought to buy some nice big armoire of walnut with mirrored front doors.

Chatou is a place to go for ham, drinks, and old stuff. It can be a cheap few hours or an immensely expensive expedition. In either case, this twice-a-year event is fun for all – or, at least, for me – and is to a worthwhile trip for anyone who may have already ate and drank too much in Paris during previous trips and is looking for a new location for such indulgences. The antique shopping, frankly, is pretty fun, too.

MARCH 6 – 15, 2009

Dealer’s Come Early – March 5, 2009

Guest Blog – Vintage Clutches

Kelli from A Rendez-Vous with Style is back again with another exciting guest blog for Antiques Diva readers… This time she shares with you details on some vintage clutches she found in her Grandma’s closet.


A Rendez-Vous with Style writes:

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 214px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />
top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Last fall, as my family and I sadly laid my Grandma to rest, my head was swirling with questions. Of course whenever she and I spent time together I would ask her about her life. I always enjoyed looking through the hundreds of photos documenting her wonderful years here on earth and I never turned down an opportunity to ask about her past experiences, her parents, what life was like “back then”, how she met my Grandpa and many other questions that I am sure at times were overwhelming for her. Yet, once someone is gone, you realize that there is so much that you didn’t know about them or their life, even after 30 years of asking questions and spending time together. I guess I am still coming to terms with the fact that certain experiences, other quiet secrets, are taken to the grave.

While cleaning up the remaining belongings at her home, I couldn’t stop myself from wondering why hadn’t I ever asked to play dress up with her or even request to see some of her favorite items she had acquired throughout the years, on her many travels around the world. It is unfortunate that I didn’t ask more than I did! Alas, the stories behind these vintage beauties are lost forever; however, I am keeping my imagination open and my daydreaming vivid! I am sure these hand-beaded clutches lived well and of course always added just the right amount of pizzazz to my Grandma’s already very stylish wardrobe.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />
Bullocks, wow! That department store was around when I was young and I had almost completely forgotten it ever existed! Not being allowed in Grandma and Grandpa’s room, ever, I had absolutely no idea what I would find inside. Needless to say, I was delighted to uncover 4 gorgeous vintage clutches!


Vintage Clutch #1:
Silver Mesh Whiting & Davis Co. Bags
This clutch could very well date back to the 1920’s

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front View ~ The silver mesh is stunning along with the large rhinestone clip

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Inside View ~ The tag reads “Mesh Whiting & David Co. Bags Made in U.S.A.”
The same information in stamped into the frame of this shining beauty.

I was curious about this bag as well as the company, so I did a little research and this is what I found out about Whiting & David Co.

With a pedigree that dates back to the jazz age, WHITING & DAVIS handbags are renowned for their sleek and innovative collection. First introduced in 1876, they became world renowned for fashionable metal mesh handbags. In addition, they are also a major supplier of mesh for industrial, architectural, jewelry, scientific and home décor applications. In 1999, The Inge Christopher Group acquired WHITING & DAVIS handbags. Soon after the acquisition, as they began pioneering new ways to play with the metal mesh, they realized they had acquired an aesthetic gem.

WHITING & DAVIS’ new design team added novelty colors, dramatic new textures, and retro-paint effects to its repertoire, creating exquisite metal mesh handbags. They soon became coveted arm candy by many fashion icons, as well as celebrities. Their bags are used for everything from one’s wedding night to prom and even on the red carpet.

WHITING & DAVIS handbags use their signature metal mesh to create an array of products from cosmetic cases and wallets to sophisticated daytime and evening handbags. Their handbags range from timeless to classic to vintage styles with Art Deco and Victorian influences, to young and contemporary silhouettes. Let your imagination take you away with all of WHITING & DAVIS’ alluring metal mesh handbags.


Vintage Clutch #2:
No Name
Hand Made in France
Small pearl-like beads & flat metallic beads hand sewn onto ivory silk

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front view ~ I am in love with the attention to detail! It is absolutely exquisite!

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Back view ~ I love the “hand slip” rather than wrist strap. I can just imagine it appearing as to float magically in hand.

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Inside tag reads “Made in France. Hand-Made”
A vintage clutch after my own {French} heart!

Inside the interior pocket safely rests this clutch’s original mirror. It is gorgeously backed in the same silk as the bag’s inside lining.


Vintage Clutch #3:
No Name
No Tag
No Idea!
to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front view ~ Beautiful hand-sewn detail. I love the sunflower inspired motif! I can definitely see this lovely vintage clutch accompanying me to many weddings in future years.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Back view ~ Again, I love the litt
le hand slip.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Peering inside ~ Even the zipper pull has a vintage motif engraved around it.
Things just aren’t made like they used to be!


Vintage clutch #4:
No Name
Hand Made in Hong Kong
Black beading on black silk

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Front view ~ The perfect beaded black clutch!
I absolutely adore the shape of this clutch’s opening flap. It is larger than the other 3 bags and much “newer”; I am estimating late 1970’s – early 1980’s.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />A peek inside

to 10px; WIDTH: 240px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Black silk lining with small tag. This clutch was certainly purchased when my Grandma & Grandpa traveled to China.


My maternal Grandmother gave me this adorable purse when I was just a few years old. It is paisley velvet with a long pink strap and I remember dragging it around everywhere with me. I have kept it all these years and hope someday my daughter will enjoy playing with it, just as I did. My Grandmother has been gone since 2001, so when I pulled this little purse out while re-organizing my closet the other night, it brought a smile to my face.

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The tag reads “Hans och Greta” ~ Hans and Greta

As I continued about in my closet, I enjoyed reliving memories of times spent with my Grandma and my Grandmother. I thank them for their love, their care and their always impeccable, personal style.

Until next time… Call someone you love, enjoy something passed down to you from another generation and embrace styles from the past that you enjoy!

to 10px; WIDTH: 214px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 320px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />Kelli Djulus –
The Diva’s Wardrobe Stylist Extraordinaire

Meanwhile: Chacun à son goût on Thanksgiving

Dear Diva Readers,

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>In honor of Thanksgiving today, I’m posting my favorite tongue-in-cheek article on Thanksgiving, written by Art Buchwald, explaining this very American holiday to his French readers.

This column first appeared in the International Herald Tribune many, many Thanksgivings ago! Each year, the IHT reprints his article, much to the delight of readers everywhere!

Happy Thanksgiving! Bonne “Jour de Merci Donnant”!

The Antiques Diva™

to 10px; WIDTH: 320px; CURSOR: hand; HEIGHT: 240px; TEXT-ALIGN: center” alt=”” src=”” border=”0″ />The Turkey Growers Association has approved this message.

One of our most important American holidays is Thanksgiving Day, known in France as le Jour de Merci Donnant.

Le Jour de Merci Donnant was first started by a group of Pilgrims (Pèlerins) who fled from l’Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their heart’s content.

They landed at a place called Plymouth (now a famous voiture Américaine) in a wooden sailing ship called the Mayflower (or Fleur de Mai) in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pèlerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. The only way the Peaux- Rouges helped the Pèlerins was when they taught them to grow corn (maïs). The reason they did this was because they liked corn with their Pèlerins.

In 1623, after another harsh year, the Pèlerins’ crops were so good that they decided to have a celebration and give thanks because more maïs was raised by the Pèlerins than Pèlerins were killed by Peaux-Rouges.

Every year on the Jour de Merci Donnant, parents tell their children an amusing story about the first celebration.

It concerns a brave capitaine named Miles Standish (known in France as Kilomètres Deboutish) and a young, shy lieutenant named Jean Alden. Both of them were in love with a flower of Plymouth called Priscilla Mullens (no translation). The vieux capitaine said to the jeune lieutenant:
“Go to the damsel Priscilla (allez très vite chez Priscilla), the loveliest maiden of Plymouth (la plus jolie demoiselle de Plymouth). Say that a blunt old captain, a man not of words but of action (un vieux Fanfan la Tulipe), offers his hand and his heart, the hand and heart of a soldier. Not in these words, you know, but this, in short, is my meaning.”

“I am a maker of war (je suis un fabricant de la guerre) and not a maker of phrases. You, bred as a scholar (vous, qui êtes pain comme un étudiant), can say it in elegant language, such as you read in your books of the pleadings and wooings of lovers, such as you think best adapted to win the heart of the maiden.”

Although Jean was fit to be tied (convenable à être emballé), friendship prevailed over love and he went to his duty. But instead of using elegant language, he blurted out his mission. Priscilla was muted with amazement and sorrow (rendue muette par l’étonnement et la tristesse).

At length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence: “If the great captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me, why does he not come himself and take the trouble to woo me?” (Où est-il, le vieux Kilomètres? Pourquoi ne vient-il pas auprès de moi pour tenter sa chance?)

Jean said that Kilomètres Deboutish was very busy and didn’t have time for those things. He staggered on, telling what a wonderful husband Kilomètres would make. Finally Priscilla arched her eyebrows and said in a tremulous voice, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, Jean?” (Chacun à son goût.)

And so, on the fourth Thursday in November, American families sit down at a large table brimming with tasty dishes, and for the only time during the year eat better than the French do.
No one can deny that le Jour de Merci Donnant is a grande fête and no matter how well fed American families are, they never forget to give thanks to Kilomètres Deboutish, who made this great day possible.

Art Buchwald. This column first appeared in the IHT many, many Thanksgivings ago.

Last Minute Diva! Guest Blog – Bastille Brocante

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>This weekend I will be attending The Pier Antiques Show in NYC, but my heart will, as always, be in Paris. My 2nd favorite antiques show, the SALON D’ANTIQUITES BROCANTE PLACE DE LA BASTILLE, closes this weekend after 10 days. This indoor/outdoor antiques show at Bastille has always been a personal favorite, second only to tou” target=”_blank”>the famous ham and flea market fair in Chatou. With over 400 dealers and everything from fine antiques to junk, it’s a shopper’s paradise. Plus, with the cold autumn weather, my favorite Vin Chaud* was always purchased at Bastille, usually accompanied by a merguez sandwich with mustard and fries.

Salon d’Antiques Brocante Place de la Bastille
Daily November 6-16
Paris, Place de la Bastille
11am – 7pm

At Bastille my favorite purchase was my first armoire, discovered at the Spring show, and leading to a 7 year association with the vendor, Monsieur and Madame Nakhechkerian (The business is listed in the wife’s name – Mme Florence Mallion-Nakhechkerian – contact +31.(0) who became one of my personal favorites (partly because I spoke with him only in French for the first 4 years I knew him, and then discovered he spoke English! He told me my French was fine, which, in the Spring of 1998, I assure you was NOT!) In addition to being so kind and patient with me during my first purchase from him, he invited us to his home in the country to see how it was restored, all the beautiful furnishings he and his wife had found and restored (he went into antiques restoration with his father-in-law, so it was a long-term, well-established business.) He visited our home several times to help us with our purchases: he modified one armoire so that it could easily hold our TV, but then be restored to original state; another armoire he added a coat bar so that it could serve as our entry coat closet. After a guest left a wet glass on our buffet and I got a restoration quote of 900 Euro from another restorer, he came by, pulled out his handy can of wood wax, painted over the spot and voila! The spot was gone. The name of his miracle furniture wax: Pate Duqay Rustique Moyen (my preferred shade) found at the Clingancourt flea markets, 92, rue des Rosiers.

Bon weekend a tous!
La Reine

*My favorite Bastille show “vin chaud” vendor shared his recipe with me! I now make it at home and enjoy it many times each autumn!

1 bottle of inexpensive, but drinkable, red wine
1 small plastic cup filled with granulated light brown sugar
1 small plastic cup filled with orange juice
1 cinnamon stick
Heat until bubbly, stirring well, serve and enjoy!
Bon Ap!

The Antiques Diva Expatica Resource Guide

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>When we accepted our first expat assignment, I orchestrated the move while my husband went ahead to start his new job in Paris. When our shipment arrived months later with only a forth of our furniture in tow, my husband was baffled at my choices. As he sought a chair on which to sit in our living room, he incredulously asked, “Why didn’t you bring all our furniture?”

Realizing for the first time the consequences he faced as a result of not sharing in the coordination of our international move, he was given an answer that would define nearly a decade of expatriate life, “As an expat, Europe is now my playground. A person’s home should reflect not only who they are, but where they’ve been and where they’re going.” By bringing only our favorite possessions, I gave us room to grow into the people we’d become through living abroad.

Needing a table on which to dine, as well as the china to set on it, we began searching the flea markets of Europe, letting our travel choices dictate our décor. “Darling,” I rang my husband’s office one day, “We need a buffet and I’ve just read an article on the selection of antique side boards available in the Costa Blanca. Shall we go to Spain this Easter to see the procession and to stop by an excellent source for richly carved chestnut chests?” Weekends were passed flea marketing in the French countryside as we filled our home and stomachs while sampling the specialties of the regions. As our waistlines expanded, we’d return to 6eme Parisian apartment with a shabby chateau canapé that would groan when sat upon and Napoleon III side tables lacquered and adorned with mother of pearl embellishments.

When we moved to Holland, Belgium became our favorite getaway as it brought back memories of France with its abundance of French antiques, but better Belgium prices. Trips across Germany have filled our home with the type of knick knacks we never knew we needed until they completed a tableau. While visits to see friends living in Switzerland resulted in us starting a new collection of antique globes found at their many brocantes and led us to purchasing a politically incorrect vintage fur throw straight from a chalet at a bargain bin price.

Guests visiting us in The Netherlands nearly a decade after our expat journey began tour our home and comment on the eclectic international décor and when I point out a pile of plates that I peddled home in a box tied with a bungee cord to the back of my bike, they exclaim, “It’s just so you!”

By The Antiques Diva

PS: To read the country overviews I wrote for Expatica, simply click on the links below!

to-antiques-shopping-Expatica_country-wide.html” target=”_blank”>The Antiques Diva™ Expatica Resource Guide



The Netherlands




Guest Blog – Impressionist Giverny Comes to New York

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>Today’s blog comes to you “Live From New York”! The Contessa,a New York state-based antiques dealer and Diva reader, has written to The Antiques Diva™ to share details on a stateside exhibition of “American Painters in France from 1885- 1915”.

The Contessa’s conversational writing style is a joy, harking back to her days as a radio personality. I am delighted to say that The Contessa is joining the team of regular diva reporters as she’ll be writing a series of upcoming guest blogs which are sure to daze & amaze! Thanks Contessa!

The Antiques Diva™


The Contessa – Impressionist Giverny Comes to New York

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>If you can’t afford a trip to Europe this year but happen to be in the New York state capital, there is a fix Francais for you. Impressionist Giverny – American Painters in France, 1885-1915 is currently on display through January 4th at the Albany Institute of History and Art in Albany, NY.

Giverny, the French village where Claude Monet did some of his most beautiful works, attracted hundreds of artists – many American – through the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The beauty represented in Monet’s art attracted so many artists from around the world that it transformed the village from a sleepy hamlet to a colorful and thriving community.

More than 50 of those stunning oil paintings from American artists who lived in Giverny are on display, including “The Terrace Walls” by Will Hicok Low, “The Card Players” by Theodore Earl Butler and “Mabel Conkling” by Frederick William Macmonnies. The exhibit was originally presented by the Musee d’Art Americain in Giverny, France.

Admission to the display also includes admission to the Institute Museum as well. There are gallery talks on this exhibit by a museum docent every Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.

Head to Albany over the next 2 1/2 months and soak up this wonderful gem of an exhibition!

The Contessa

The One Minute Diva – Jolietrouvaille

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Dear Diva Readers,

tou/foire/jamb.htm” target=”_blank”>La Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambon is just a few days away and the anticipation is driving me crazy. Everyone is talking about it! I can almost smell the ham in the air! In this One Minute Diva, I wanted to encourage Diva Readers visiting Chatou this fall to stop by (and shop your heart out) at one of my favorite vendors – Blandine Bavoux’s quintessentially French stall located at 10 rue de la Gaite.

top:10px;margin-bottom:10px;margin-left:10px;font-family: Arial,Helvetica,Georgia;font-size:22px;line-height:18px;color:grey;text-align: right;”>Armchair travelers don’t despair! shop online Jolietrouvaille

Armchair travelers, don’t despair! The good news is that you don’t have to go to The National Fair of the Flea Market and Ham to benefit from Blandine’s cute French country kitchen collectibles and antiques. You can either stop by her stall at Chatou or buy online at Jolietrouvaille! Either way, make sure you tell her The Antiques Diva™ sent you! By the way, I happen to know she keeps a stash of cookies and warm tea on a shelf in her stall – it’s reserved for special guests but I’m certain if you linger long enough that she’d indulge you!

tou.jpg”>tou.jpg” border=”0″ />tou-brocante.html” target=”_blank”>The picture above is courtesy of fellow blogger Tara Bradford of Paris Parfait. Visit Tara’s divalicious site to see more gorgeous photos of Blandine’s stall and other Chatou pics! Tara intersperses gorgeous photos and musings of her life in France with witty political commentary!

Until Next time,

The Antiques Diva™

(picture at right taken in Blandine’s Booth at the March 2008 La Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambon )

Expatica – Bringing Home The Bacon & Antiques Too

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In a special article this week, The Antiques Diva™ sets Expatica Readers straight on Paris’ bizarrely titled ‘National Fair of the Flea Market and Ham’.

tou+logo.gif”>tou+logo.gif” border=”0″ />The fall session of tou/foire/jamb.htm” target=”_blank”>La Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambon takes place between September 26 – Oct 5, 2008. Over 800 vendors from “toute de France” come to the Parisian suburb of Chatou for 10 divalicious days, selling the best antiques and gourmet ham products in France.

Read what The Antiques Diva™ has to say about the history of this flea market in this Expatica article – Bringing Home The Bacon and Antiques Too!

Jambon Lovers Discount:

If you haven’t booked your airline tickets to visit Chatou, it’s not too late to take advantage of the Air France special discount for Jambon Lovers! You’ll receive a 25-45% discount when flying to Paris until Oct 11, 2008. Mention discount code 04367AF when reserving.

The Antiques Diva Does Rugby!

perhaps a more unlikely title has never been written in the history of blogging. I’m entering uncharted territory for both myself and my readers as I use an object and subject in the same sentence with polar opposite visual implications. But if you know me very well, then you won’t be too surprised – my life is nothing if not an oxymoron.

By coincidence, WG and The Antiques Diva ™ were in Paris this weekend when France – with the home-field advantage – played England on October 13th for the semi-finals of the World Rugby Cup at the Stade de France. 40,000 English fans had stormed and getting either a taxi or dinner reservations in Paris on Saturday was next to impossible. Fortunately for us, good friends Madame A. and Monsieur D. had invited us “chez them” in the 15eme arrondissement for casual dinner “en face de tv”. This is a decisively and shockingly un-French thing to do and can only be done in polite French society with the best of friends. We felt sufficiently honored to be included in such an intimate family setting.

We arrived a quarter after eight Saturday night with a flurry of kisses and a “bouquet de fleurs” purchased en route at my favorite florist on the Rue de Buci. Monsieur D. poured an aperitif and immediately apologized for serving “le vin rouge”. Though the was peppery and a perfect accompaniment for the dried saucisson we were nibbling before dinner, he explained “I would serve the customary champagne to start our evening, but I’m saving the bubbly for our victory toast after the game!”. His partner, Madame A., a Chinese citizen in process of applying for a French passport, tossed our starter together with an ease and casual grace usually displayed only by native French chefs. Madame A. was “almost French”!

As she came out of the kitchen with a large bowl of salad in hand, Monsieur D. gasped, “Mais, non ! Les salade est toujours avec le fromage !” Apparently, Madame A. wasn’t fully French just yet. She had chosen to serve a salad as our starter rather than at the end of the meal with the cheese as is customary. Monsieur D was appalled!

Perhaps now is the right time to interrupt and tell you that, in France, a casual dinner is rarely casual. When invited to a French friend’s house to watch a game, you’ll never receive take-out pizza and hot wings. Cheese dip would be considered an atrocity and an affront to the French national pride. A French dinner is always that – a dinner, served properly with knife and fork, cloth napkin and table cloth and a good bottle (or two) of wine. Madame A.’s salad was casually chic and simply divine – a perfect, internationally-easy entree. She threw together arugula, shrimp cocktail and mixed together olive oil, mustard seeds and balsamic dressing to make an easy homemade vinaigrette. With tongs in hand, she piled our delicate entrée plates with heaping portions. A chilled Sancerre was quickly opened to accompany our starter, while Monsieur D. explained the rules of rugby.

”I love virgins”, Madame A. smiled deliciously as she continued, “New converts are always the most enthusiastic.” Right she was. For when La Marseillaise was played and the French players ran to the field, I stood to attention and pressed my hand to my heart, singing (and humming the parts where I didn’t know the words) the French National Anthem alongside Monsieur D. With a shout, “Viva la France,” Monsieur and Madame assumed I was “gung ho” about Rugby!

What they didn’t realize (just yet anyway) was that I was, in fact, simply ga-ga for the Rugby players who ran onto the field as if the Bay Watch introduction had been re-written and re-oriented for a mostly female viewership. Madame A. caught my eye, “Pretty, non?” as Jonny Wilkinson of the English team filled the screen in all his glory. Monsieur D. picked up where A. had left off, “There is a calendar of the ‘plus beau’ players available each year. The waiting list is a month long before you can pick up a reserved copy from FNAC.” I put my request in immediately and Monsieur D. promised to make sure I had an extra surprise in my Christmas stocking this year. *

The French uniforms fit a tad snugger than the English chaps and when I inquired about this, Madame A. explained with a wink, “A few years ago, rugby viewership was decreasing and so the association tightened the uniform and successfully increased their audience by attracting more female viewers.” Monsieur D. continued to explain that the rugby fans have significantly different demographics than soccer. Soccer, though loved by all, is really a working man’s sport, he said. “Rugby has a higher moral ground. Its followers and fans tend to show more respect towards one another.”

I questioned this as I recalled that the motto for rugby players at my university was “Give Blood. Play Rugby.” I also explained that soccer in the United States was more of an upper-middle class suburban thing, i.e., the so called soccer mom driving her SUV.

The television had been pulled out and placed temporarily on the center of a . Behind the television a lovely Gustav Klimt print was positioned perfectly so that I could study it and still look like I was in rapt attention during the boring bits of the game. We’d seen this exact painting earlier this year in Vienna and WG had recently returned from a private tour of The Belvedere where his company had held a function for the management team amidst the Klimt’s and other Secessionist works. This print reminded me that he and I had never really had a chance to chat about that recent business trip. Life was just too busy these days.

As I mused, Monsieur D. and Madame A. scurried about, putting the finishing touches on the main course – Sausage Stuffed Clams served on the Half Shell, accompanied by Poached Pears garnished with bright red snippets of Sun dried Tomatoes. It arrived with steam billowing from the plates in puffy clouds and I was poured a 2nd glass of the white wine while being delighted with my luck at having such good gourmet friends! Even rugby was fun with friends like this!

When the game broke for intermission, France was up by 1 point and we feared that the English could “make a try” and take control of the game – which they eventually did. The second half of the game brought the 3rd course, Le Fromage, and we lingered over it as the room fell to a quiet acceptance. France was losing the game. Wanting to chat with a winner, we decided to call our mutual English friend Q, a British expat living in Cleveland, Ohio. “You can’t catch the bloody game on American TV”, he ranted, but unfortunately he spoke up a little too late and we’d already revealed the outcome of the game which he was intending to download from the internet and watch later the next day. Though he did boast that certainly “les anglais” displayed heroic splendor and efforts, he handled the phone call with the utmost of English decorum. He didn’t rub our faces in the loss and he didn’t complain once when we ruined his surprise by telling the final score!

Though the spirit in the room was dampened, Madame A. shrugged her shoulders and went to the kitchen, pulling out a gorgeous “Tarte au Pomme” with custard filling, and Monsieur D. expertly opened the champagne without spraying a drop around the room. My lovely husband, WG, the philosopher in the room, sighed as he took his first sip of the bubbly and explained, “Everyone knows a good champagne goes down as easily in defeat as it does in victory.”

Gros Bisous, et Au Revoir,

The Antiques Diva ™

* For the record, WG is sufficiently appalled by his wife’s assessment of this premier matchup (and the players…)

October 20th Update – As seen on Chic Shopping Paris:

the ultimate gift for a posh rugby fan, and a special souvenir for those who have been afflicted with rugby-mania…. a limited-edition chanel logo ball, 130 euros.
Posted by Rebecca at 6:36 PM

My Favorite Flea Market — Foire Nationale a la Brocante et au Jambon

our high school French isn’t as rusty as you think it is…. The name of my favorite flea market is indeed It’s held for 10 days starting next weekend Sept. 28 – Oct. 7 in the Parisian suburb of !

Over 800 vendors from “toute de France” come to Chatou, bringing with them the best assortment of antiques I have ever seen in one locale. Held twice a year – in September and March – this market, like almost all French events, is a Parisian tradition dating back centuries! While I’ve always thought the odd combo of selling pork products and antiques was a great marketing ploy to get reluctant husbands to go “brocanting” with their wives, the origins of this market date back to the “Moyen Age”. During Holy Week, pork butchers from all over France came to Paris to sell their products. One enterprising butcher decided that he wanted to “bring home more bacon”. So he started selling not only smoked ham, but the equipment for making it as well, offering his clients “the taste of Chatou year round!” The other vendors caught on to the idea and each started bringing with them more and more items, focusing on specialties from their region, namely furniture, pottery and antiques. Before they knew it, “a festival celebrating both the flea market and ham was born.”

Now, I’m still not certain how this pre-Easter celebration became a twice annual event. But I have an un-substantiated personal theory. In August, “tout de Paris” departs for their month long vacation. This is another tradition started in the Middle Ages when the stench from the annual cleaning of the Louvre’s moat (which has since been filled in) forced the citizens to flee until the gag reflex-inducing cleaning was over. This is where my part of the theory comes in to play. I believe that when the Parisians fled to the country, they found they enjoyed the country life so much that they didn’t want to return. Paris had to do something to lure them back! So I think they used the “Foire aux Lards” (or Fair of the Fats) – as the festival was then called – as an olfactory pied piper to lure them, salivating, back to the city. While this might smell a little fishy, .

What ever reason the festival is now celebrated in the Fall as well as the Spring, The Antiques Diva ™ couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to shop two times a year – and my purse needs the rest time in between to recover from the inevitable damage I do each time I visit the brocante. If you don’t have time to go to Chatou in the next few weeks, you must definitely plan a trip to Paris in March for their next event! As soon as the dates come available, you’ll be the first to know. And once you’ve visited Chatou, you’ll come back and fall at my feet, thanking me for the introduction to what will soon be called “your favorite flea market”.

But don’t take only my word for it… one of my Roving Reporters has written in with a sensational letter that has simply done my job for me!

So, TTFN from me,

The Antiques Diva and Greetings from Lady Lotus!
(seen right, with she and I flanking the table in the garden of the Paris Ritz. La Reine sits to my right and The Colorado and Tampa Girls are in the center)


Dear Antiques Diva –

I almost started crying when I received the invitation to “Chatou” that had been forwarded from our address in France to our new home stateside (sent to me because of my frequent purchases at the fair). What was my husband thinking moving me so far away from the best brocante in the world??? I’m not a huge antique shopper, but for the six years we lived in Paris, I would drop everything when Le Foire Nationale a la Brocante et au Jambon rolled into town.

My home IS Chatou … from the desk I’m sitting at writing this letter (a gorgeous Napoleon III bureau en noyer with black leather top) to the round, marble-topped coffee table where I sat my coffee cup this morning!

I still remember my first time. My friend Roxanne and I took the RER A train 10 miles from Paris Charles de Gaulle station to Chatou-Roissy. We followed the signs to the entrance arriving at a field (3.5 hectares to be exact) of green market tents. I remember thinking that the 40 francs (probably $6 at the time) charged was quite a sum to pay just to go spend more money on stuff I probably wouldn’t like. Well, I’m not sure if it was the smell of smoked ham in the air or the many vendors who answered my poorly-worded novice questions with kindness and smiles, but I fell in love with a 19th century buffet made from cherry wood and walked out feeling richer. Of course, my economist husband pointed out that spending 7,500 francs on it made us poorer, but luckily I couldn’t hear him over the sounds of the piece being delivered into our 16eme arrondissement apartment!

Over the years, I got quite adept at negotiating delivery in the purchase price. That came in handy when I bought a huge cherry wood armoire from the Restauration époque. I know that era isn’t very popular in the antique world, but I absolutely love the simple lines, light colored wood and tiny bronze empire cuffs. The currency had changed by then, so it cost 2,000 euros. Last month, I saw a similar one here in the USA priced at a whopping $10,000.

Of course, I haven’t always bought big stuff. One year I came away with only a silver champagne bucket that was about 50 euros. I hate polishing it, but the decorative lion heads on the side just look superb as they guard my tasty bottles! I also remember another purchase, a small bedside table from the that cost 250 euros. As my husband carried it up the escalator at Charles de Gaulle-Paris, the drawer fell out and bounced all the way down the moving staircase. Luckily no one was hurt (other than my husband’s ears as I yelled at him) and the additional dents just made it look even more authentic!

The last time I went to Chatou, I knew we were getting ready to move back to the USA . So, I scouted out four items I liked – two commodes, a round coffee table and rectangular side board. All four items were topped with black and gray St. Anne marble from the 19th and 20th centuries. I returned with my husband so that he could make the final selection, but instead of narrowing it down to one as anticipated, he negotiated with the vendor to sell us all four pieces for roughly 3,000 euros. I think I laughed for three straight days, but I guess that is proof I won’t be the only one of us that is going to miss shopping at Chatou.

Happy hunting to those of you lucky enough to attend this year! I envy you.

Best Wishes,
Lady Lotus (seen here visiting me in Amsterdam and shopping for vintage fur at Lady Days).

If you have a Chatou Shopping Success Story you’d like to share, please email (and include photos and prices if possible) to

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