Shopping Excursion: Charnay, France in the Beaujolais 1 comment

February 15, 2017, posted by Michelle – Le Monsieur and I went to the southern part of the Beaujolais region this past weekend on an antique hunting trip. It’s only about a 30 minute drive north of Lyon and there are a few roadside antique shops that I had been wanting to visit. I’ll get to that in a minute but for now I have a little histoire.

This particular part of the Beaujolais, apart from being known for wine, is also known for the golden limestone (pierres dorées) that was used to construct some of the oldest buildings in the 30 or so villages found here. The warm color of the stones reflects the sunlight, bathing the facades in an array of deep, rich hues. It’s obvious to see why this area is nicknamed “Little Tuscany’.

We stopped in Charnay, a village that was presumably founded in the 2nd century by a Roman legionnaire. The Counts of Forez and Lyon ruled the village until 1175 when ownership passed to the Archbishop of Lyon. Throughout the following centuries possession of the village passed from one aristocratic family to the next. In 1650 the Du Lieu family built the Mansarde Castle (pictured above) which the town of Charnay bought in 1948. It houses the City Hall today.

Construction of the church here started in 1150 and incorporates both Romanesque and Gothic styles. The fort next to the church was built between the 12th and 13th centuries. The narrow streets are lined with houses built in the 19th century using the beautiful pierres dorées, golden stones. It’s one of many pretty, well preserved pierres dorées villages in the southern Beaujolais.

Now back to the antiquing…We stopped at three antique shops that were jam packed from floor to ceiling with everything and anything old. In one place there were so many rows of furniture  that it was impossible to see anything beyond the first row. Finally, I came to a cleared out section of pottery, old plates and majolica. There were also five or six very old painted wooden carousel horses and piles of old wooden doors. That’s what’s so fun about these places, you never know what you’ll come across.

I ended up finding an interesting piece of white clay pottery called a bojito. These jugs were used in Spain in the 19th and early 20th centuries for keeping drinking water cool. This one came from a pottery in Agost, Spain called La Nava where they are still made in the traditional way.

We’ll being going back to the southern Beaujolais again soon because we also discovered several lots full of old windows, doors, stone architectural details and such. It would be fun digging through those things to see what we can find. But the beauty of this region dotted with vineyards and pierres dorées villages is reason enough to return. My photos don’t really show how pretty the stones here are since we were there at dusk. Visit the Beaujolais Pierres Dorées website to see more photos that showcase the pierres dorées of the villages and castles here.

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Shopping Excursion: Vide Grenier and Farmers Market 1 comment

September 25, 2016, posted by Michelle – Bonjour! I’ve been looking forward to the annual Saint Georges Vide Grenier (empty attic, aka garage sale) for weeks. Today was the day and I arrived right after it started early this’s a pleasure just walking around the Saint Georges quarter. It’s part of Vieux Lyon, Lyon’s Old City, which is a large neighborhood comprising three districts of intact medieval and Renaissance-era buildings. So, I found myself in an architecturally rare and unique neighborhood on a sunny Fall day doing what I love to do…buying interesting and beautiful things for GDFC (and a few things just for me).

Among our purchases was a single, delicate cordial glass (possibly Moser) that was too beautiful to pass up. It could hold a single small flower or become part of a group of other ornate glassware. We also found a cute nutcracker in the shape of a walnut (about the size of a coconut) and a heavy metal rooster that would ruffle feathers wherever you chose to put it. Afterwards I headed to the Saint Antoine farmers market and bought a bunch of sunflowers and ornamental cabbage for a centerpiece. A perfect day.







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Shopping Excursion: Côte d’Azur & Provence 1 comment

Rue du safranier

July 14, 2016, posted by Michelle – It’s Bastille Day here in France so it seems appropriate to write about my latest French shopping excursion for GDFC. I ventured down to the South of France and visited brocantes and shops in Antibes, Valbonne, Juan-les-Pins, St. Tropez and Aix-en-Provence.

Grimaldi Tower and brocante, Antibes, France wm

The beauty of this part of France is breathtaking. The rocky coastline where the foothills of the Alps meet the deep blue Mediterranean sea is dotted with majestic parasol pines. And in what the French call the “arrière-pays” (the countryside) fields of lavender and sunflowers stretch on forever across the dry, hilly landscape and the steady chirping sound of the cicadas complete the Provençal mood.

Antibes is on the coast and is, so far, my favorite place in France not only because of the beautiful seaside but also for the interesting sights and things to do: the Provençal farmers market, the art market, Port Vauban (the largest marina on the Mediterranean), Fort Carré (a 16th century fortress), the Picasso Museum (in a former castle of the Royal Family of Monaco), the lovely architecture of the old city and shops and markets of all kinds. What’s not to love?

Antibes, France, Brocante and Vielle Ville wm

On Saturdays there are a couple of brocantes (flea markets) in Antibes’ old city where you can browse to your heart’s content. I came across lots of vintage tableware and artwork there.

Antibes seaside and brocante wm

I also tracked down some signed original watercolors (below left) and unusual prints in a shop on a little hidden side street.

Antibes and aquarelles wm

And, of course, I picked up several packages of lavender for myself including some edible lavender which, the package said, can be used in ice cream and other desserts.


The shopping in the other cities was just as much fun and each place seemed to be more beautiful than the last. I can’t wait for the next trip!

cap antibes and port wm







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The Park in Bloom

climbing roses peach

May 24, 2016, posted by Michelle – Things are blooming in Lyon’s Parc de la Tête d’Or near our neighborhood. Since this is the time of year that the park looks its most gorgeous, I couldn’t help but assemble some photos to post. This park has a wide variety of plants and trees, a beautiful lake, a few greenhouses and several rose gardens. I also took photos of some of the beautiful homes that overlook the park.

Pink Roses wm


RED wm

Wildflower Pond wm

lake wm

Desert Palm wm

Maisons wm

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Rose Garden by the River 1 comment

white roses

May 16, 2016, posted by Michelle – Bonjour everyone! I am posting a collection of photos from the beautiful rose garden (Roseraie de Saint Clair) in the park by my apartment. There are 150 varieties of domestic and wild roses in this garden that sits idyllically on the banks of the Rhône river. We’d also like to dedicate this post to our grandmother (1912 – 2010) whose birthday was May 16th.

rose collage

primrose path

first third

roses by the rhone

in bloom last third

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The Green Way

pathMay 8, 2016, posted by Michelle – La Voie Verte (The Green Way) is a long trail that cuts a straight line through the highest point of Caluire et Cuire, a small suburb of Lyon where I live. It’s a peaceful pathway built on an old rail line where people run, bike, walk their dogs and just enjoy nature. Midway along the trail is a very well maintained collection of mini gardens that reflects the horticultural history of the area. There’s also a small vistor’s center with an interactive display and a refreshment stand inviting you to linger a bit 3Val Foron, located in the heart of Caluire, is one of only two remaining urban vineyards in greater Lyon. It was cultivated by Christian Brothers monks over 150 years ago and produces about 2,500 bottles of a Gamay – Pinot Noir blend annually. So, in the Voie Verte garden there’s a small terraced grouping of vines honoring Caluire’s wine making history. If you’d like to see the Val Foron vineyard and some of the dedicated volunteers who tend it and make the wine CLICK HERE (then scroll down the page a bit to get to the video) to watch a short report from August 2015.

wild vinesAfter WWI, community gardens became wildly popular as families could grow their own fruits and vegetables, including some local varieties like black turnips and cardoons. But Caluire  also has a long history of growing flowers and vegetables commercially. Up until the 19th century, wagons from Caluire brought vegetables as well as peonies, fuschias and petunias to Lyon’s large open air markets daily.

trioLastly, many religious institutions owned vast parcels of land in Caluire over the centuries. One type of garden found within these agricultural domains was called a “priest’s garden”. Usually laid out in the form of a cross, they grew flowers destined for chapels and churches, medicinal plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables. The mini gardens are a mini lesson in the history of Caluire!

P.S. – I couldn’t help myself from also taking a few photos of some of the houses, draped as they were in wisteria and roses, along one small part of the green way…


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Flowers in Paris 1 comment

February 22, 2016, posted by Michelle – We suppose it’s inexcusable that we let Valentine’s Day come and go without posting about roses. Will you excuse us anyway? Maybe some photos of flowers from last week’s trip to Paris will help. Flowers at kiosks and in front of shops spill out onto the sidewalks making an already breathtakingly beautiful city all the more so. Enjoy!

Collage Eiffel TowerCollage Notre DameCollage arc de triomphe

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Cooking Class: Calamari with Basmati Rice and Chorizo 1 comment

Squid with Basmati and Chorizo

December 18, 2015, posted by Michelle – It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to a cooking class but this week I found the time to go and a couple of friends even came along with me. The place I like to go to offers all kinds of classes but the one I like the most is the lunch time class. In the first half hour the chef explains the dish and how to prepare all the individual ingredients. We cut, chop or slice as directed and then take everything to the stove tops and ovens to cook it all. The meal is ready within 30 – 40 minutes and we eat together in a dining room just off the kitchen and talk about the dish. It’s interesting to hear everyone’s comments; how they like the meal, if they’d do something differently, if they wouldn’t change anything or if they’re likely to make the dish at home or for guests.

So, we made calamari with basmati rice and chorizo. When I first read the recipe I couldn’t imagine what those flavors would be like together. I have to say I loved it, as did my two friends, but the class was split 50/50, either people loved it or, ah, not so much. Though the three of us had eaten calamari before, none of us had ever made it at home and we were a little intimidated by it. To our surprise it’s super easy to work with and this recipe was simple to make though the flavors make it seem complex.

Calamari with Basmati Rice and Chorizo


1.5 cups basmati rice, rinsed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3.5 oz mild chorizo, diced
1.5 lbs calamari
1 bunch of chives, finely chopped
2 tbsp butter
Olive oil, salt, pepper


In a medium size sauce pan, sauté the onion in a little olive oil until translucent then add the rice. Stir in 3.5 cups of water and then cover with a lid. Cover and let the rice cook on medium heat until the water has evaporated. Then turn off the heat and let the rice further steam another 10 minutes. Stir in the diced chorizo, butter and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Rinse the calamari and pat it dry with paper towel. Cut off the tentacles and then cut them into pieces. Cut open the body then cut it into 1/2 inch strips. Sprinkle the chives over the calamari and drizzle it with olive oil. Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan until it just starts to smoke then put the calamari in.  Sauté the calamari and chives for about one minute. Put the rice/chorizo mixture on a plate and add a little of the calamari on top. Bon appétit!

Chef’s Tips/Info:

Rinse the rice to get rid of the starch. You want this rice to be non-sticky and rinsing it will do the trick.

Pat the calamari very lightly because it has a tendency to stick to the paper towel.

When chopping an onion, keep the root intact and you won’t cry.

Video on how to clean and cut a whole squid :


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Noël: Decorations from the Heart* 2 comments

December 11, 2015, posted by Michelle – Bonjour! I am spreading a little cheer from across the pond and hope you like this Christmas tree collection. These trees are part of the annual *Les Décos du Cœur event in Lyon and they are sponsored by companies throughout the region. People can participate in a drawing this weekend to win various prizes and the trees will be auctioned off on Sunday. The proceeds go to a charity that helps the elderly in need. Christmas Tree Collage

A few of these trees were decorated with a distinct French flair: the red, white and blue tree, the Olympique Lyonnais soccer team tree and the tree with macarons in transparent ornaments – that one was also topped with a chef’s toque in lieu of the traditional star.

toque macaron

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Silk Market in Lyon, France 1 comment

Silk at La Bourse, LyonNovember 22, 2015, posted by Michelle – Every November, Lyon hosts an annual Silk Market and we never miss this unique opportunity to shop for silk and items made of silk all in one place. For centuries Lyon was the capital of the silk trade and manufacturing in Europe and is still a reference for high quality silk. This is a showcase for all things silky, from subtle pocket squares to bold upholstery; there’s even a small silkworm exhibit.

Tassinari et ChatelAs if browsing through yards and yards of silk from manufacturers like Tassinari et Chatel, Veraseta and Denis et Fils wasn’t exciting enough, it’s held in one of the most beautiful buildings in town. Le Palais de la Bourse, built in 1860 in the center of downtown Lyon, was originally home to several different commercial enterprises, including silk brokers. The impressive architecture features arches, sculptures, gorgeous painted ceilings and grand staircases so it’s the perfect setting for showcasing sumptuous silk.

La Bourse inside

After sorting through bolts of silk, remnants, ribbons, scarves, ties, purses and pillows we came away with a few yards of silk (pictured below, left) from Tassinari et Chatel and plan on making some very special things.

Silk Kimono and Silk Items

Do you like wearing silk? Decorating with it? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Just click on the title of this post and the comment form will open at the bottom of the page.

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