Winding down the cobbled streets of Angoulême lies a hidden gem - Le Boudoir de Marguerite. It looks like the sort of shop that only stocks a size 8 and you may need a small mortgage to purchase anything. The clothes are très chic and very French. I never ventured inside, I just admired the colourful window displays from afar - how wrong was I?
The first time I visited the shop was by sheer fluke. I was dog walking with my friend Jackie (Mrs Fit) and our fox terriers H and Jackpott. We had parked down the bottom of an extremely steep hill by the River and I huffed and puffed up the incredibly steep steps to the remparts of the city. We strolled through the café lined courtyards and she said 'let's pop in here'. I was mortified! Donning scruffy dog walking clothes and trainers (very unchic) with a bright red face, we entered the shop. Actually, to be truthful, I hovered outside and got dragged in!!!!
Inside were beautiful clothes, designer shoes and vintage handbags. Not expensive at all but second hand or pre-loved.
There were new things to buy too. Soft leather gloves and beautiful hats draped over rustic wooden tables. Antique display cabinets bursting with exquisite pieces of French jewellery. A tall armoire housed fragrant silver wardrobe pom poms, French perfumes and twinkling trinkets. Designer silk scarves and necklaces flowed out of an open pine box. Nestled by the door was a bijou changing closet with ornate gilded mirrors and a comfy chair for the mari . A selection of newspapers to leisurely peruse - before he digs deep!
I was hooked. The owner Véronique was so welcoming even with my dog. It did help that Jackie is an avid shopper and a very good customer. Véronique didn't seem to mind our 'casual look' and Jackie promptly bought some chic mid heeled, black zipped suede boots and a soft pink bobble hat. H just sat quietly by the racks but Jackpott (still in training) charged around the shop sniffing the shoes and pestering the other customers. He lifted his leg onto a fur coat so I quickly whisked him outside to relieve himself in the street - French style!
It took a while until I plucked up courage to enter the shop again. This time with grammar school husband in tow and myself dressed to the nines. Véronique remembered me immediately and what a welcome. It was Christmas time and we were offered a glass of bubbly whilst I chose some exquisite gifts and a cashmere scarf for myself. Result!!
I am now - a sort of regular. If anyone (femme ou homme) needs to buy a gift which is, well, a little bit different, you can always find something wonderful here. There is always a fantastic welcome from Véronique and it is just impossible to leave without a purchase.
No thank you.
How do you like to shop?
I am delighted to be featured on Shelley Wilson’s popular blog Motivatemenow
You can read the interview HERE
Motivation has always fascinated me as it often evades me and featured highly in my previous teaching career.
‘Motivation is the key to success’ so they say!!
When I was a child in the sixties, milk arrived in bottles straight onto the doorstep. The milkman collected those bottles each day and they were recycled. This was long before recycling became fashionable. We used to reuse lots of things. Wool, curtains, fabric from clothes and buttons. Collars were turned on shirts, socks darned - I could go on. Furniture was painted, chairs recovered and fixed. Nothing went to waste. Clothes were handed down through families and then passed on down the street to somebody else. Plastic was a new material for modern furniture and picnic plates.
In France plastic carrier bags were banned over 15 years ago. If you shop in the supermarket you need to buy or reuse a large Eco bag. If you forget to take them, you have to buy more, or put your groceries into the car and bag them up when you get home. I was always forgetting my Eco bags at first. Now they live happily in the boot of my car for when they are needed, and this is the best bit - when you shop at any other shop you get a beautiful cardboard carrier bag with the shop's name on it. If it's a gift, bows and brightly coloured trailing ribbons tinker over the edge of the beautifully wrapped parcel. What a treat!!!
In the UK you have to shove your shopping into your handbag/shopping bag, or carry your purchases out like a shop lifter, grinning confidently at the CCTV cameras as you pass. Your new crisp white shirt is sitting next to your overripe nectarines from Sainsbury's!!! The shop then charges you 5p for each plastic bag you use and informs you that the money will be going to a charity of their choice! We are encouraged to have petrol cars, electric cars, electric trains, use less hairspray, recycle the HUGE amount of packaging the supermarkets impose on us on a daily basis. Yet plastic carrier bags and bottles are everywhere. Even France sells milk in plastic containers.
But where does all the recycling go? How does the plastic end up in the sea? Are they really recycling the plastic? Are they washing out the bottles and reusing them for milk or are they being turned into something more useful? We don't really know what happens to our recycling or do we?
In France in the depth of the Limousin is the most amazing place called Peyrat le Chateau. History steeps back to the days of Richard the Lionheart. On the 14th of July, Bastille day, the village has the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen. I asked the Mayor (Maire) one day where the money came from to pay for it and he informed me that it was paid for by local recycling. The display was a way to pay back the people for all of their hard work. In our village the amount received for recycling shows up on our annual village accounts and is reused locally.
Please please please will somebody of extreme importance stop the use of plastic carrier bags and bottles. It's not very Eco you know!!!!!
What do you think?
Next time a much lighter subject. Shopping - French style!!!
Now that my children have flown the nest and I live in France there has been a huge gap in my life. I longed to have a dog. I decided to give a rescue dog a good home. I was initially looking for a Jack Russell like I used to have when I lived with my parents. (Many many years ago).
Grammar school husband was not at all keen. He had never had a dog before, He reluctantly agreed, but set two conditions. He didn't want to travel back to the UK with a dog (we once saw a large Dalmatian on a
Brittany Ferry sat in what used to be the back seat of a BMW spitting out seat lining.) And the dog would not be allowed upstairs. I agreed.
The next week we visited the SPA in Mornac to view a Jack Russell which had just arrived. My husband didn't look keen and paced around with his hands in his pocket. The dog nearly bit his hand off and it didn't like the look of me. My husband literally ran to the car with a relieved look on his face. We were interrupted by my dear friend Jackie Butler who happens to be a dog walker there. I told her the Jack Russell wasn't for us and she asked if I'd seen the fox terrier she walks. I hadn't. My husband looked defeated, started walking like a monkey and followed us back in.
Up a very small alley that I had missed, there was a scruffy ball of fur, his coat was so long you couldn't see his eyes. We took him for a walk and he was just irresistible. He even liked grammar school husband. A match!
We picked him up the next week and took him straight to the poof parlour. When he came out we didn't recognise him, he went from brown to white. His eyes were like marbles and he looked so adorable. I'm sure he was smiling.
It hasn't been all plain sailing. He's escaped twice. Used our breakfast room as a urinal. Peed on the pile of Living Magazines at The Bar in Gourville. He ate the tin of Christmas cheese biscuits my husband was looking forward to. He jumped down from the Bongo seat and nearly strangled himself with his seat belt. He had a Dirty Dancing moment when a dog attacked him in the village. My friend Steve Day lifted him high up into the air to stop Jackpott being bitten thus putting himself in danger. There are others too numerous to mention.
Jackpott was abandoned the week before Christmas 2016. He was in the rescue home for five months before we adopted him. He's so affectionate and loves people and children, you can't imagine him living in a cage with just one walk a week. He has his own dog nest in most of the rooms of the house and has a comfortable life.
There were 3 small presents for him under the Christmas tree this year, his ears pricked up when we all opened our presents on Christmas day. He was delighted with his tartan dicky bow, dog chocolates and meaty chews (which smelt disgusting). He had a boudin noir (black pudding) for lunch and slept all afternoon.
Merry Christmas Jackpott and have a wonderful 2018 chez nous.
I opened the rickety door, which nearly fell off - the brambles stretched over the top of my head. I shut it quickly.
We knew there was a garden through the old barn at the back of the house, it was on the ground plans when we viewed the house. We peeped over the wall by the lane and were shocked at what we saw. Overgrown trees, one twisted like a snake around the 100 year old rusty gate and well established ivy all over the tumbling stone walls. One massive tree was precariously leaning towards the top of the barn roof, it was like a scene from Great Expectations!
David et Sebastien from the village (these two can do anything) offered to clear the area when we visited the UK - It took four men three days. On our return I excitedly ran across the yard and prised open the door. There was a beautiful walled garden with a small patio, but it had been terribly neglected.
Piles of Charentais stones and mounds of brambles and grass lay on the floor. There were large rectangular stones lying everywhere and I spookily thought that they were gravestones. David rolled his eyes and said non. There were a few established fruit trees and a beautiful persimmon tree with bright orange fruits hanging like Christmas baubles.
Over the next two years we cleared the debris, removed the dead trees, and carried the stones into the barn. The fence adjoining our neighbour's garden was almost to the ground. It had posts missing and a big hole in it where Jackpott escaped on a regular basis. We've just put up a new fence and covered it with Jasmine, honeysuckle and old fashioned roses like my grandmother used to have. One day it will smell like the inside of Liberty's perfume department or maybe that of Galeries Lafayette.
This year I reached breaking point with it all (my back too!) - but now for the nice bit. Daffodils and snowdrops are under the trees (well I am Welsh). A huge white Pom Pom plant (hydrangea) is in the middle of the lawn. Earthenware pots full of purple petunias are around the patio area and almond, fig, pomegranate, red cherry and nectarine trees have been painstakingly planted. This garden is going to be my Sainsbury's fruit and nut aisle!!
By the edge of the stone wall there are raspberries, gooseberries and a tubby rhubarb plant. My Dad says not to cut the rhubarb for at least a year - it's the law! So I've put it to bed with some compost for the winter and look forward to eating it next year!
The gravestones turned out to be the tops of an ancient stone wall, but we were three short!!!! Monsieur Guy (our wonderful 82 year old neighbour whose champagne order has increased with his supplier since we have moved in) had three spare in his garden - what a coincidence! He said to come and collect them, but grammar school husband and myself couldn't pick them up! Once again David et Sebastien came to the rescue with their van, a smile, a piece of rope and two pieces of wood! The stones are now patiently waiting to be put back on the wall when we rebuild it next year - Result!!!
An elderly lady in a shabby blue overall cycled past yesterday and peeped over the wall. 'Oh my' she said, 'I haven't been down this lane for a such long time and now there is a wonderful garden here again' - Praise indeed!
Must dash, I'm off to the jardiniere to get my final tree - a walnut. Grammar school husband can plant it and I can stand and watch!!!!
Next time we'll be meeting Jackpott the rescue dog.
See you then.
It took just two hours to get to Paris by train from our quiet backwater of south west France. It sped through fields and chequered countryside and stopped once at Poitiers. We arrived just in time for an allongee at a nearby cafe and carefully planned our day. We had both been to Paris before with our darlings and decided to stick to just one district. We headed by Metro to the Champs-Elysées to hit the museums and the shops. Culture and credit card vulture in one hit - a perfect combination.
We visited the Grand Palais Museum first, an impressive building with a huge glass dome at the top. Apparently the Germans parked their tanks under it in the last war. What a cheek! There was a huge queue outside and we nestled at the back and snaked our way to the main door to view an Irving Penn Exhibition.
He was a Vogue photographer in his time and there were many striking black and white photographs of famous people and models. Audrey Hepburn looked delicious as per normal, and I smiled when I viewed a very young Richard Burton. Was so nice to have a little bit of Wales on show in this chic City.
There was the usual room full of French nudity and original copies of books and magazines lay in pristine glass cases. A video of the photographer in action was on a high wall at the top of a sweeping staircase. It was all very enlightening!
Lunch time beckoned and we rushed over the road to the Petit Palais, its sister museum. This building was even more impressive. Huge ornate gold gates at the front, beautifully painted vaulted ceilings inside.
The most incredible feeling of space. An exotic courtyard sat in the middle of the building with a very smart restaurant. We queued and feasted on salmon, mashed sweet potato and salade des fruits. My halo almost fell off in my plate!!!
We then viewed amazing paintings by artists we had never heard of. Oh Les Anglais!!!! 17th Century furniture that would not have been out of place in Versailles and cabinets of dainty Staffordshire pottery made for the French market, well before we were born.
All cultured out we headed for the main street in Champs-Elysées. It's uphill to the Arc de Triomphe so it was necessaire to switch to my emergency shoes in my large chocolate brown handbag (flat fold up ballet pumps, yes really!). We refuelled with peach Kirs in George's Bar and luckily we got the HOT waiter!!! Voila!!
A young woman in a black velvet dress and donning high heels, sped past us on the pavement on an electric bike. She was being chased by a young man with a video recorder. As she rushed past we viewed the back of her dress which was backless and braless. She looked so gorgeous. Only in Paris!! Now fully motivated I put my heels back on and soldiered on. Most of the shops were quite uninviting with bouncers on the doors, the biggest queue being outside the sport shirt shop. (Try saying that after two Kirs!!).
We headed back to Montparnasse tired and hungry (with crippling feet). A leisurely champagne for me and a cocktail for Debs - fuel, then we sped off down the side streets to where the Parisians eat. We decided on a small Middle Eastern snack shop selling fresh falafel in a homemade flatbread with crunchy salad. It's not very French I know but it's difficult to find falafel where we live!! A gooey baklava and sugary mint tea followed. The halo slipped off!!!!!
We rushed to get our train, which then meandered noisily through the cool dark night and took us both safely home. A very successful day and our next trip is already planned (flea markets and not so touristy shopping) but I must remember to wear sensible shoes - or hire an electric bike!!
Next week I will be back to earth in the garden. (Excuse the pun!).
See you then.
They always say you should start at the beginning. But in the beginning I was living in a 100 year old house that needed renovating, was unpacking 200 boxes and trying to make a home.
I had nowhere to write, my head was on overload and my life was in turmoil. The move to France was exciting but also traumatic. Nearly three years later I am finally back in the chair, surrounded by my books and ideas - and my blog is now ready to go. My rescue dog Jackpott sits by my desk - he's my greatest critic!!!!
This blog has been sitting on the shelf for twelve months, I've never done anything like this before so please bear with me as I find my way.
We will be living a French life together along with its ups and downs. I'll be recapping stories from the last three years, giving you delicious French recipes with fresh produce from the potager. I'm a virgin gardener, so we've all lots to learn. I'll be recommending inspiring books, blogs and we'll be listening to fascinating guest writers.
Next week I'm off to Paris for a day with my new bestie, I'll let you know how I get on.
See you then.
I'm just a Welsh girl living in France- with an uncontrollable writing habit!!!!!
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