Monday, March 24, 2014

The Ghosts of Aunts Past

Confession here...

I have been a little short on project completion lately.  I have a few things started but somehow this long, cold, SNOWY, winter has worn me down and I just don't have anything quite ready to share.

So, I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite pieces from my home.  Most are family pieces or have a story attached, all speak to my decor style - accessorize with vintage, decorate with classic.

First up, this pair of end tables.  These were my great, great Aunt Dean's and spent most of their life in Cranston RI.  Aunt Dean was 99 1/2 when she died...she lived a very full life.  She was married 3 times but didn't have any children so when she passed away my Grandmother inherited her belongings.  

This chair was also Aunt Dean's but it came from her cottage in Maine.  I spent summers with my Great-Grandmother on Sennebec Pond in Union and Aunt Dean's cottage was next to my grandmothers so we spent a lot of time with her.  She had the best attic at the cottage that my brother & I spent most rainy days hiding out exploring all of the goodies in her attic...old furniture, very old golf clubs, was great!

My Great Uncle Scotty sitting in the chair.  This photo is fom the late 1960's/early 1970's
Reupholstered and sitting in my living room...this chair always gets compliments from my guests

The chair was reupholstered & spent close to 20 years in my grandparents guest apartment suite.  I loved sitting in it, having my morning coffee and taking in the view of the coast of Maine...they had such a spectacular view that spanned the coast from Camden to Castine.

This piece I scored at an estate sale a couple of years ago (you can read about it here).  The house was just MAGNIFICENT...and I found this piece hiding in a room on the 3rd floor way in the back.  It was the 2nd day of the sale so much of the furniture had already been sold.  It took some charming to get some help to bring it down the stairs & load it in my car.  It's a Lane cedar chest so I think it's a piece that was really intended for a bedroom but it's just perfect for my dining room.

My Great-Aunt Hilda lived right up the road from Aunt Dean & my Great-Grandmother's cottages.  She had traveled the world and lived in many places over the course of her life.  When I was a kid she had moved back to Appleton Maine and was living in the house she grew up in...a house that was significantly larger & more modern than the cabin she grew up in but it was still the same house in it's core.  She had also been married 3 times and did not have any children so again my grandmother lucked out with some beautiful pieces.  Many many years after Aunt Hilda had passed away I randomly found a picture on the wall of an antique shop of Aunt Hilda and shared that story here.

Behind this lady (who is not my Aunt) a Sheraton Desk is peaking the right is my Grandmother, to the left is my Grandfather.  This was taken in Aunt Hilda's house in the early 1960's
Today it sits in another corner of my living room.  It's so great to have the
extra storage
Looking from my dining room into my living room you can get a better view of my mixing old with more modern
comfortable pieces that make for a livable space
Another one of my favorite pieces from my grandmother was this french influenced mirror.  She had this hanging in her home for so many years & I always loved it but I'm not entirely sure where she got it.  Likely some fun hidden antique store.

And here are 3 of the lovely ladies who lived with some of my favorite things for many many years.  Aunt Hilda is on the left, my Great-Grandmother is in the center and Aunt Dean is on the right.
I love that in so many corners of my home their spirits live on.  Not only do they bring familial comfort to my home but they also bring a uniqueness that speaks to my personal style.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Joyeux Noel from the South of France - Part 4, Isle Le Sorge

My next day in France I headed out to see some of the antique markets Provence is known for. First stop, a small market in Avignon.  There was a small market that was just a short walk from my hotel sounded perfect to me.  I headed out with walking directions in hand - no GPS since I had not had the foresight to enable my cellphone with international service before I left the states.  I really didn't think I would need it, and I really didn't necessarily need it...but it sure would have come in handy in several instances.

Well, the walk over turned out to be such a pleasant way to start a day.  It was early, so quiet and really gave me some time to appreciate my surroundings and the just utter beauty in the architectural detail of even the most ordinary of buildings 

Given this is not tourist season in Avignon the market definitely reflected that.  It was small and more of a flea market than an "antiques" market.  

Avignon Sunday Market
So after a quick perusal, I headed to what I was told was one of the more beautiful towns in the area that was supposed to have a spectacular market - Isle le Sorge.  Ok, riding through the beautiful French countryside to get to this market..not a bad gig at all.   I think there were a few Frenchmen cursing the Sunday driver though.

Isle le Sorge is built on a river so the market follows the path of the river with stalls along its length.  It was a spectacularly beautiful day and I don't think I could have planned for a better way to spend it.  

Isle Le Sorge France

There was everything from rotisserie chicken to French linen & pottery to antique silver and furniture at this market.

Lesson learned from this can charge a whole lot more when your silver is nicely polished :)

This man was making basket bags while folks watched.  Just beautiful.
Not a disappointment...

My final day in France I traveled back to Nice returned my rental car and hopped a train to Eze.  Several of my friends had rave reviews about Eze and it really was spectacular.

Eze France
I had such a wonderful visit.  Now I just need to learn to speak a little French before my next visit.  

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Joyeux Noel from the South of France - Part 3, Avignon

After my thoroughly enjoyable day in Grasse, I headed toward the dark. Probably not the best plan in my rental car not having a clue where or what I was driving to but it all turned out just fine.  

Arriving in Avignon

Avignon is a little tricky with it's extremely narrow one lane roads and once I arrived in my hotel I found there wasn't any parking.... anywhere...crap.  So I did what any good Mass-hole (that's a technical term by the way) would do...I parked illegally for a few minutes and hopped into the hotel to find out where to go to park.
Hotel de l'Horloge in Avignon...I would definitely stay here again.  It was quiet, lovely and perfectly situated

My hotel was just around the corner from Palais des Papes in the old part of Avignon (although I am not convinced there is anything in Avignon that is not ancient) and within the wall that surrounds the oldest part of the city.  Sometimes it's a crap shoot picking hotels online site unseen but I definitely go lucky on this trip...the hotel was perfect.  Couldn't have asked for a better location, clean well furnished room and lovely staff.  

My first day in Avignon it rained, and when I say it rained it wasn't a lite drizzle it was RAIN. So I did what any good woman would do..I pulled the umbrella out of my suitcase and shopped.  

Snapped this quick Tablescape shot at a fabulous shop in Avignon...Au Jardin De Provence

Avignon has many of the same shops we have in the states but many, many more we don't have.  It was so much fun to check out the trends in the windows as well as what all of the other French women were wearing.  Can you say studded/bedazzled/jeweled boots?  Love!

A little break from the americano & berry cobbler...oh my

With that out of my system the next day I put my tourist hat on and ventured over to Palais des Papes.  

Palais des Papes in Avignon France

In the middle 14th century amongst political unrest on Italy the newly instated French Pope moved the papacy to Avignon and started construction on this palace.

Exterior courtyard at Palais des Papes

It was fully constructed in roughly 20's impossible to believe as your walking through that it was constructed over such a short period.  

The Dining room at Palais des Papes...can you seriously imagine
setting a table in here?
Inner Courtyard at Palais des Papes

Also hard to believe the history your walking through as you think about all that. Must have occurred in the world during the lives of the 9 popes who lived an ruled here.  

Just outside of the Palais des Papes

To describe this palace as magnificent is a terrible understatement but it's the only word I have.  I spent the better part of my day meandering through the palace and grounds

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Joyeux Noel from the South of France - Part 2, Grasse

Next stop, a train to Nice where I was going to pick up a rental car to drive to Avignon.  

But before we leave Monaco I do want to share one story that pretty much typifies my experience in Monaco.  I was on the bus heading to the train station not really entirely sure how far the stop was.  The hotel concierge was kind enough to write down the stop so I knew what words I was looking for but I froze when trying to find the words to ask the bus driver so I figured I'd just bluff my way through it.  Well, a really lovely older lady dressed just impeccably came on the bus...not a hair out of place.  She must have noticed me looking at every stop so when the bus stopped at the Gare (train) stop she pointed for me to get off.  I'm sure such a small gesture of kindness to a stranger for her but such a big one for me....

Hoping a train from Monaco to Nice

Ok, so driving in France was a little daunting but I don't really think it occurred to me how daunting until I was actually sitting in the drivers seat of my mid sized Peugeot (the only one available with GPS)in the Hertz parking lot.  

Driving in a different city in the US is one thing but driving in Nice?  Well, after a short tiny panic attack I took a very deep breath, put the car in drive and prayed for the best as I backed out of the smallest of parking spots and turned my wheel as far to the right as it would go and held it there to avoid the walls of the very narrow steep spiral parking garage exit and headed out to the streets.

There were a few towns on the way to Avignon that I had planned to stop in if I had time/opportunity.  I didn't really plan it out with much detail,  just figured I would take it as I went but did have a rough plan.

My first stop was Grasse.  From what I could tell Grasse is really centered around the 3 perfumeries that are located there.  

Fragonard is the largest and was definitely on my to do list.  They offer tours and have large shops as well as a couple of museum exhibits in town.  

Making soap on the Fragonard Tour 

I ended up spending the rest of my day here enjoying the beauty of Grasse and meandering through the free museum exhibits.  

Shopping in Grasse

Grasse France

Such a charming town and I do love that they really do celebrate their perfume heritage. I definitely could have stayed a bit longer but I still had quite a bit to go to get to Avignon and dusk was approaching.  

To be up Avignon.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Joyeux Noel from the South of France - Part 1, Monaco

I don't know about you but while fully enjoyable I find the holidays a bit stressful each year.  I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist by nature so the pressure each year to have that Norman Rockwell Christmas just creeps in even with my best vows to rein it I each year.  So, after another perfectly imperfect holiday last year I vowed to change it up in 2013 to force a more relaxed holiday upon myself.

It all really started last Christmas as I was blog surfing and I stumbled upon some posts from Katy Elliott about a trip she & her husband had made to Provence.  It looked like just the perfect place to escape to.  The seeds were planted....I was going to France.  Nevermind that I didn't (and still don't) speak French and really new very little about the country...except of course that Paris is absolutely fabulous.

And....Audrey Hepburn famously said "Paris is always a good idea"...well, not for this trip.  I was hoping for a little warmer climate plus Paris at Christmas without a special someone by my side...not so much thank you. The warmer temps made Monaco, Nice & Avignon much more appealing.

So, flights booked I headed off to Nice on Christmas Day and after a fairly uneventful 10 hrs hopped a bus to Monaco for my first night.  

Waiting for a bust to take me to Monaco.  Couldn't have been any
easier...just step outside of the airport & wait.
Ok, so not knowing much about Monaco except its only about 1 square mile in its entirety I only planned to stay one day before heading to Avignon so I tried to make the most of my limited time and first thing in the morning headed out for a walk to see the beach/boardwalk.

The boats were just breathtaking...and beyond anything I had ever expected existed in swank

Then headed off to see just where Prince Rainier & Princess Grace lived out their days.

Approaching the Princes's quite a hike (yes those
buildings down by the water were the same from the photo
above) if you're going to walk it...but oh so worth it.
It was just beautiful and I found the people extremely warm to an American who could barely utter bonjour without feeling like I was somehow butchering it. 

The Prince's Palace..fairly unassuming for a palace I thought

Only planning on one day was really a mistake, oh my gosh I love Monaco!  I really didn't get to see all I wanted to but trust me I will be back!