Expat Magazine

Expat Delight: Funky French Stuff

By Miss Footloose @missfootloose

Body BuilderDear reader, by now you must know I am a sucker for funky foreign stuff, and living in France, I have the fabulous opportunity to visit the twice-yearly antique market in a town not far from my village. (I wrote another blog post about that market a couple of years ago.)

It’s a kick to see some of the treasures displayed along the streets, to imagine who might have once owned or coveted these things, and if perhaps these people were a bit soft in the head and in need of a spot of therapy.

Then again, who am I to judge? Does owning this creepy body builder carving say anything about the original owner — or the artist who created it — other than that he or she loved well-oiled muscular bodies? You tell me.

One should not judge the taste of others, so I will not. Look at these godawful chairs. Wouldn’t they cheer up a gloomy room, and what’s wrong with that?

Red chairs
(No, they are not toy chairs. They’re full size!) Of course the painting behind the chairs would help to brighten things up as well.

But if these chairs do not fit your sophisticated sense of style, what about this one:

Poppy Chair

Who doesn’t like poppies?

The market has the “normal” sort of junk as well, the knickknacks and trinkets from yesteryear, the dishes and glasses and vases. This time I was particularly charmed by the collection of art meant to be displayed on the mantelpiece, the coffee table or perhaps the home altar. Here a few for your entertainment and possible coveting:

Mom an Dad on the mantelpiece

Who are these lovely people? Mom and Dad? So much nicer than a photo, don’t you think?

A Far Away Uncle?

Might this be a rich distant relative who traveled the world?

And below, who would this lovely damsel be?


Someone’s talented daughter?

It’s not only the flotsam and jetsam of the good old days that’s fun to look at. People-watching is a kick as well.

Lovely colors

I want a coat like hers, and the guts to wear it. I so admire people with a unique style. Me, I’m so boring.

Mystery objects tickle my fancy — thingamabobs and doodads and doohickeys. Small ones, big ones, skinny ones. Any idea what these sticks might be?

Oyster sticks

Antique French Oyster Sticks

I had no clue what these were, so I asked the vendor: They’re oyster sticks, so there you have it. He explained that in the Mediterranean oyster beds, oysters were grown in the hollows. Or something like that. Nowadays they use other techniques. Google it if you care.

It occurred to me later how cool it would be to have an arrangement of 5 or 7 of these sticks displayed on a wall. Très artistique! Sadly, I thought of it too late. Maybe next time.

And when it comes to artistically re-purposing old or antique items, think of what you could do with these:

Chinese cabinet doors
Doors from an antique Chinese cabinet.

I fell in love with these before I realized what they were: doors. I knew instantly what I wanted to do with them: Hang them on a big wall like a painting, a piece of art. So did I buy them? No. The dealer wanted hundreds of euros/dollars for them. Even bargaining would not have gone down far enough for me, even though my prince said if you want them get them. But no, I have my limits, you know. So I sighed and took a picture instead.

Next I saw this contraption, and had no idea what it was. A torture device? An agricultural gizmo?

Mystery boards with stones

It was huge. No vendor was in sight to ask what this thing was, so I am still wandering around in the dark desert of unknowing. The wooden boards have slits in them and into the slits bits of stone have been inserted. What could you do with this? Make a really big dining table out of it by adding legs and covering it with a sheet of glass. Any other ideas?

Are you a hoarder or a manic collector of one thing or another? I wish you would have been here! I saw a stack of Marie Claire magazines from 1940, I kid you not. Boxes and boxes of antique post cards, of old buttons, of all sorts of junk treasures.

As usual, there was a plethora of bed linens available — linen, white, monogrammed. Some people wax lyrical about these, how cool they are to sleep under, how lovely to look at. All I see is the ironing they require and I run. I did stop to admire this piece of embroidery and took a picture. For a quiet moment I meditated over all the hours a dreamy girl – now long dead – must have spent making it to add to her trousseau.

Antique embroidery

In my mind’s eye I could see her sitting in a chair wearing a prim little dress stitching away while dreaming of love and marriage. I didn’t inspect the piece for a label to see if perhaps it was made in China, because I did not want to have my romantic scenario busted.

I should stop here. You’ve seen enough old stuff, me thinks. Except maybe just one more:

Mystery Carving
Mystery carving. Head stuck in rock?

Please tell me if you know what this might be. Surely someone can shed some light…

Did I buy something? Yes! A loaf of country bread from the baker who was selling his wares to the hungry shopping masses. The bread was not antique: It was still warm. So it goes.

* * *

Make my day and tell me something about your experiences with antique markets, with collecting stuff, with not collecting stuff.

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