25 September 2013

On The Road To Paris

A seaside apartment complex
in Dieppe.  Beautiful iron balconies
and giant window shutters.
Ah, what’s not to love about Paris?  The leaves have just started to adopt their rich autumn colours, the evening air has a nip about it, but the days have been warm and pleasant.

This time we approached Paris via Dieppe, after a comfortable cross-Channel ferry crossing.  The New Haven to Dieppe ferry has a good lounge area, with great big chairs to relax in, so we reclined and snoozed and read and chatted away the four hour trip.  Dieppe is a charming port town, and at this time of year there are deep-pink to wine-red hydrangeas everywhere.  But as with so many others in France, the beach at Dieppe has little to recommend it unless you can make yourself comfy on a bed of pebbles.  Still, the bracing sea air is good for you, and we took several turns around the old town at the harbour.

We called in to see St Jacques Church, the largest in Dieppe, and found a lovely stained glass window depicting an angel, and at either side of the altar were larger than life sized beautifully carved wooden angels.  French angels always look different to the English versions, and I must say I prefer them.  Very much larger wings, for one thing, they always have better hair styles, and their gowns tend to the classical Greek style, which is flattering to any figure.

Angel window in  St Jacques
Church, in Dieppe.

We stayed at a beachfront hotel overnight in Dieppe and set off for Paris the next day, stopping along the way to visit Serge, who is a great supplier of unusual things for us, particularly ecclesiastical.  Beautiful old religious pieces always sell well, and Serge often comes up with pretty amazing things for us.  This time I came away with six cross roads crosses, ranging from about 1.5m tall and so heavy I can hardly lift it, to a dinky and very pretty little one that reaches to perhaps my thigh.  He said he’d never had so many cross roads crosses at one time, and he had kept them in a secret part of his yard especially to show us before anyone else got to see them.  How nice was that?

And because we are such good customers, I was shown part of his secret stash in his house, and from there I emerged with two large brass altar candle sticks from an old church in Normandy, c1840.  They’re about two feet tall, and have beautiful detailing.  I’ve seen the like in expensive Parisian shops before, but never at prices I could afford, so I was very happy to get a matching pair in beautiful condition.  With a big, fat, creamy wax candle on each, they will look stunning.

One of the wooden angels on either
side of the altar in St Jacques Church.
And vintage French copper – did someone say vintage French copper?  Serge had vintage French copper, and plenty of it.   On this trip we are looking only for certain pieces, such as extra-extra large or extra-extra tiny saucepans, frying pans of any size (because they’re so hard to get) and anything outside the usual.  So it was a big tick on that front.  And yay that Serge had a heap of glass pate pots.  People have been asking me to find more glass pate pots for a very, very long time, but I have searched in vain.  Now I have 28 to bring home, which should satisfy everyone – including me, because it’s about time I kept a couple of these charming glass pots for myself – especially when I know exactly how hard they are to find.

Ratting about through Serge’s barns is as close as I ever come to recreating the American television show American Pickers.  Normally, climbing around, over and through a bunch of heavy stuff that might collapse on you at any second, and may or may not reveal treasure, is not my preferred method of shopping.  But you have to just plunge into it at Serge’s place, and I always find great stuff so I make an exception to my No Clamouring Rule for him.  I do like to find unexpected treasure, but I don’t normally have to hunt to quite the extent that I’m expected to at Serge’s.  Still, it’s good fun and we usually emerge grubby but triumphant.  This time we were particularly happy with our haul.

This is the neat barn at Serge's.
Then onwards to Paris.  Approaching the city from the west is one of the nicest routes, I think.  Versailles is only 20km west of Paris, and the countryside is surprisingly thickly forested from there right to the very outskirts of the city.  You leave the forest, cross the Seine, get your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, and you know you’ve arrived.  And approaching from this direction means minimal time on the Peripherique – that infernally busy ring road around Paris – which has a lot to recommend it. 

Still, it’s always amazing to see how so much traffic can move so effectively in such close quarters on the Peripherique.  We saw a couple of fire engines approaching from the opposite direction, heading at high speed for an impenetrable wall of traffic.  Good luck getting through that any time soon, I commented, and then watched in amazement as cars magically found the room to part and the fire engines went thundering past.  And right behind them, the traffic reconverged into the impossibly narrow lanes, as if nothing had happened.  How did they do that?  Precise and courteous driving, that’s how.  Parisians tend to drive quite small cars, they all appear to know the exact dimensions of their cars and can manoeuvre accordingly, and they are (mostly) patient and courteous with each other in difficult driving conditions.  It’s pretty impressive, and something a few drivers in our neck of the woods could do with learning.

This is Serge's less neat barn.  You can get to
the other side, if you tread carefully.
A sneak peak at shopping in the Porte de Vanves
Markets in Paris on a fine autumn morning. 
More next Blog.
So having arrived safe and sound, we were well positioned for an early start at the Porte de Vanves Markets the next day.  As an aside, we have turned on the TV in France a few times now and even on Parisian TV we have yet to see a single bare bosom.  Pourquoi pas???  What has happened to the fine tradition of French costume dramas without the costumes, which we have come to expect on any channel at any time of the day?  Instead, we have seen rather a lot of advertisements showing damn fine, well chiselled young men in uniform, dashing about and shooting at anything that moves – it appears that the French Army (Armee de Terre) is in recruiting mode, if you’re interested.  No shortage of damn fine, well chiselled colleagues await you, apparently.
Next blog - shopping at the Porte de Vanves Markets.  Here's a spoiler:  Yay!




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