Summer is winding down, and French Metro is gearing up...for our latest arrivals from France. Harrison and Renee spent three weeks in June in France hunting for treasures to bring back to our shop in Fayetteville. From the southern regions of Provence and Languedoc to the northern provinces of Normandy and Brittany, we flew, we drove, we walked, and ended our travels with three days in Paris. Arriving soon are four hundred more antique arrivals so stay tuned!
It’s June, and June at French Metro means it’s time to go back to France! Harrison and Renee will be hunting for treasures for the next three weeks, and Terry will be manning the shop in Fayetteville. So follow us along on Facebook as we post about our journey. Or stop in to see what Terry’s up to on Dickson Street.
Our latest arrivals from France are all about spring! We love to garden, and this shipment shows it--stone columns from a French manor house garden, a nineteenth century stone garden fountain, aged stone planters and urns, garden benches, and a magnificent statue of Saint Michael the Archangel fighting the dragon and giving his blessing.
Our doors have re-opened with our latest treasures. We will have our first sampling online soon, but in the meantime, come see what's new (or rather, old) at French Metro and pause in our tulip garden blazing in glory with 2000 tulips in bloom!
The French Metro Team slipped off to France this January without a word! Our new shipment arrives Thursday, March 22nd, with all of our unique finds from our winter trip. We will be closed this week while we unpack but will re-open our doors at 10:00 am Monday, March 26th.
Our September buying trip was a twenty-five day trek through countless villages in four different regions of France: Normandy, Brittany, la Touraine, and l'Ile de France. Every region of France is unique with its own traditions and culinary specialties,
its own architecture,
and of course, its own charm.
Each French village has its unique personality that gives its inhabitants a sense of belonging--one that's been passed down through the generations. They all share in common familiar destinations that are part of the fabric of everyday life:
The nearby farm...
The local castle...
The weekly market...
The public park...
as well as the central church and the bustling cafes.
Our container from France has just arrived, and our doors are closed starting Friday, November 24th while we unpack! From the villages of France to your own homes, the journey these treasures make in finding their place in the next generation is always such a mysterious one. We at French Metro look forward to showing you our latest finds when we re-open our doors on Friday, December 1st at 10:00 am.
If you’ve ever been to Paris, then you may be familiar with the street and metro stop Oberkampf in the 11th arrondissement. This metro stop is named for the eighteenth century fabric manufacturer Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf (1738-1815), the founder of Toile de Jouy, a well-known pattern in wallpapers, fabrics, and other decorative arts.
Hired from Switzerland in 1758 to work in Paris as a colorist and engraver for the cotton manufacturer Sieur Cottin, Oberkampf set out on his own a year later choosing the small town of Jouy-en-Josas to set up his manufactory, a short distance from the promise of Versailles’s clientele, yet close enough to Paris for the masses. Specializing in the highly valued (and formerly banned) Indian cottons, or indiennes as they were called in France, he sought perfection in his innovations with dyes and designs. He created more than 30,000 different designs, ranging from simple floral motifs, to Egyptian styles, as well as displays of eighteenth century French country life. In 1787, Louis XVI had Oberkampf knighted due to his influential designs of the genre scenes of French country living that were so dear to his wife Marie Antoinette. The later cashmere shawls worn by Josephine de Beauharnais were reproduced on Jouy cottons with their paisley and palmette motifs, the latter inspired by her husband’s Egyptian campaign at the end of the 18th century.
By the year 1800 he had revolutionized the printing process, changing from the traditional wood block and copper plate methods for monochromes and designs to the mechanized process of the copper roller. Further decorations continued to be presented to him for his famous prints that had for many years dominated French fashion. In 1806 he was decorated by Napoleon himself on the site of his manufactory with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.
His monochrome scenes often can be read like a history book and, like all art, create a window into the different styles and fashions of the day. Included in his different commemorative prints, in particular, are scenes of the first ever hot air balloons, the American Independence, and moments from the French Revolution that include the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.
Further exceptional motifs also include scenes from Greek mythology, chinoiseries, the Fables of La Fontaine, the monuments of Paris, Rome, and Egypt, and even popular operas of the time. Known throughout Europe in his day, Oberkampf was a man ahead of his time. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf died in 1815, the year the Empire of Napoleon collapsed. His son Émile attempted to keep the company alive during the change of regime as best he could. Unfortunately, by 1843 the reputed style of Toile de Jouy had waned and the decline in its desirability had faded. The manufactory closed its doors that same year. However, the lasting effect of his designs and prints would be imitated for generations to come.
Take a look at our very own exceptional Toile viewable on our website:
Built in the fourteenth century, the Pont de Valentré, a bridge spanning the river Lot in Cahors, Southern France, is one that for centuries has been shrouded in mystery and superstition. Originally constructed as a defensive bridge against English invasion during the Hundred Years War, the bridge took seventy years to be built! This may seem somewhat ridiculous considering that the average full-sized castle at the time took between two to ten years to build. In comes the superstition and mystery! Legend has it that the master builder of the time, frustrated with the slow pace of the building project and the eager demands of the local lord to have it completed, signed a pact with the Devil. Agreeing to use his vast power and skills to accelerate the building process, the Devil promised the builder that his bridge would be completed soon if the builder would forfeit his soul upon the bridge’s completion.
After seeing the bridge completed on time, the builder regretted his decision for fear of his immortal soul. Issuing one final order, the builder commanded the Devil to fetch water for his exhausted workmen, however, instead of handing over a proper pail or bucket, the builder tricked the Devil by giving him a sieve. The Devil then went to collect water for the builder knowing that upon his return, the builder’s soul would belong to him. Nevertheless, the Devil realized that he had been tricked by the builder since he was unable to complete the final task with the sieve. Boiling with rage, the Devil vowed that the bridge must therefore never be completed and according to local folklore commanded a demon each night to loosen the final stone of the central tower of the bridge (known as the Devil’s Tower) in order to stay true to the pact. In return, the bridge had to be repaired each day.
I visited this mysterious bridge this summer on a road trip around France. So much superstition surrounds the bridge. Having fallen into disrepair in the nineteenth century, architect Paul Gout, in 1879, had the bridge restored and for good measure had the final stone of the central tower carved into a demon with arms wrapped around the stone.
The updated legend has it that when the Devil comes to check upon his sabotage, the sculpted demon confuses the Devil and fools him into thinking that the stone gargoyle is one of his demons tasked with dismantling the bridge. Truly a well spun tale, this medieval bridge is a site worth visiting in Cahors, France!
We are following the progress of our shipment as it makes its way to Fayetteville. This particular shipment is taking quite a long journey with lots of stops. The ship departed on October 22nd from the port of Le Havre on the French coast, headed up the English Channel to stop at Rotterdam, Holland then on to Bremerhaven, Germany. Next it headed back down the Channel and across the Atlantic to stop at Charleston, South Carolina. Finally a stop in the Bahamas and then on to Houston. Arrival in Houston is November 17th and then we wait while it gets through US Customs before it gets trucked to our loading dock on Dickson Street. It’ll be like Christmas for us here around Thanksgiving time.
There are many beautiful French farm tables this shipment along with some gorgeous nineteenth century oil paintings, a collection of antique French signs, gilt wood mirrors of all sizes, two iron fireplace backs, a few French industrial pieces, and some Art Deco furniture that took our breath away.
Our one-of-a-kind accessories on the way include an enormous brass telescope on a tripod and a pair of very large copper port and starboard ship lanterns, an exquisite toile porcelain of Paris pedestal sink, a gorgeous marquetry box signed by a renown French cabinet maker, a Moet et Chandon silver plate hotel champagne bucket…I could go on. We will send out our email when our ship’s come in. Until then, merci et à bientôt!
It's time for another buying trip! We skipped the hot weather in France this summer, and we are headed across the pond next week. September in France is a fabulous month. The kids are back in school, the tourists are gone, and the weather is fantastic! It is also grape harvest season so a detour to one of the wine regions may be in order as well. This trip I will have a different traveling companion. For the last ten years, my son Alexander has been my constant traveling companion on our buying trips to France, but he is off to new adventures in Ecuador as a foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department. We are so proud of him!
Terry, my life companion for the past thirty-seven years, will be making this next buying trip with me. Although the two of us have traveled thousands of kilometers together through France, both for pleasure and for business, he has often been the one to stay home holding down the fort (meaning home, job, shop, and children). We are excited to be working in France together again.
We will be in France from September 5th to the 28th. Let us know if you have anything on your wish list and follow us on Facebook as we post about our latest adventures.
Now's the time to take advantage of our complimentary custom shopping service too. Complete your detailed wish list below, and we'll email you photos of pieces we find in France that could meet your needs. Plus, all custom purchases qualify for a 10% discount. You will have your own custom shopper in France.
I was born into a family that did not hold dining traditions dear. We were six kids, an overwhelmed mother, and a father who travelled during the week and was only home for dinner on the weekends. The love was there, and dinner was important, but dinner finery, not so much. But kids grow up and discover new ways of doing things, and so did I. When I started my own family, I discovered a lovely French tradition that I embraced as my own. When a baby is born in France, one of the traditional baby gifts is a silver napkin ring. The initials or name of the child is engraved on the silver treasure, and the napkin ring is customarily used at mealtimes throughout his or her family life. A cloth napkin rolled into a napkin ring is as much a part of the table setting as is a knife, fork, or spoon. When the meal is over, one’s napkin is folded back into the napkin ring for the following day. After a few meals, the cloth napkins are exchanged for fresh ones. When my first child Alexander was born, a dear friend with whom I had studied French all throughout high school, college, and abroad in Dijon sent my baby Alexander a silver napkin ring from France with his very long first name engraved on it. I was delighted with such a gift. Three years later, Elliot was born, and a second napkin ring arrived from France. By then, I realized my husband and I needed our own to complete the table so on our first trip to France together, we chose two Christofle silver napkin rings and had them engraved. On went the tradition and the children. Two more babies, Harrison and Camille, and two more napkin rings. There was never a thought that it wasn’t normal to have children setting the table every night with silver napkin rings and cloth napkins next to their plates. It was so taken for granted that one of the children saw his first paper napkin at age five at a neighbor’s dinner table, and asked me what he was supposed to do with it at the end of the meal. He’d never heard of throwing away a napkin!
Some may think the tradition is a bit formal, but we continue to add to our collection. We brought back one for our Brazilian exchange student when it became apparent she would always be part of our family. And our daughter-in-law Cynthia observed the tradition early on before she married our son. She decided she wanted to form napkin rings out of vintage silver forks and spoons for each of their wedding dinner guests, and Elliot stamped each guest’s initials on them. Here was a girl after my own heart!
Of course, I soon sought out a very special antique silver napkin ring in France for my new daughter! And soon after I found a second one for Chef Elliot to use at family meal, one with cooks in the kitchen all around it. It even had an E on it!
Traditions in a family are connecting points, and this tradition is a cherished one of ours, one that started with a French custom and took root in our own family history. We are fortunate that six of the seven of us live in the same neighborhood. We gather for family meal every Sunday, one that chef Elliot now prepares for us, and we are still setting the table with our silver napkin rings.