A Wanderful Life

Around The World and Around The Neighbourhood Travel Adventures

Marvelous Metis and Lovely Linen From France

We must have lived in a golden bubble during our time in France. I found the most amazing bargains on items that are soon to find a home in our ‘new’ 1950 house in Australia.

I had learned about metis by doing a bit of research after seeing vintage bed linens on sale for stunningly low prices in some rural communities in France. And when you use the phrase bed linen, that refers to the time when sheets and pillow cases were actually made of long wearing linen. In many cases the linen sheets in a household were passed down from one generation to another because the fabric was so dense and sturdy that it practically never wore out. It might have had a mend or two after 30-50 years, but it was still intact. And nowadays, interior designers just love to re-purpose metis and vintage linen into drapes or upholstery because the pieces are always huge size-wise compared to today’s bedding.

Linen is warm in the winter and cool in the summer because it’s a natural fibre and it breathes just as pure cotton does. Metis is a 35% cotton and 65% linen blend and is equally valued by people who appreciate fine bed linens. Just try checking the prices nowadays on Ebay for vintage metis or linen sheets from France!

On several occasions, I found packages of linen or metis sheets that were listed in estate sales and they were — wait for it — pre-World War II pieces that still had the original ribbons around them. The pieces of fabric were simply huge and all they needed was a long (long!) soak in several consecutive containers of gently soapy water to remove the yellowing of age and bring them back to a pale cream hue.
 

Vintage French bed linens from the 1940s soaking

Vintage French bed linens from the 1940s soaking


 
The seller of one batch, the owner of an estate sale company, said she had opened up a massive linen press in a large country house and found stacks and stacks of never used bed linens that had been purchased and stockpiled before the war began. What a treasure horde that was!

Just before we departed from our lovely hometown of St. Girons, we visited a depot vente (a vast second hand goods dealer in a former mill) and trolled through table after table of bedding sheets that were crisp white 100% linen. Mark and I filled our arms with the best of them and I purchased them for a fragment of what they sell for in boutiques or online.
 

Vintage French bed linens packed to return home to Australia

Vintage French bed linens packed to return home to Australia


 

More than 2 large boxes of these vintage linens came back with us from France to grace our new home and remind us of a place that seared its beauty into our hearts. I’ll make sure to take pictures once they are unpacked and in place on one of the beds.

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27/01/2014 at 1:19 PM Comments (0)

And So It Begins

 
And so it begins — the gathering up process prior to construction.

We’re serial renovators since every single house that we have ever owned has been a project. So that probably explains why Mark was not keen for us to buy a brand new house. And truthfully, I don’t mind the idea of taking a run-down property and completely transforming it. We’ve worked together for years running a restoration business both in Australia and on the road in Europe, so none of this is a drama.

We paid a visit to a tile warehouse the other day to pick up the tiles that I had purchased online for the kitchen backsplash. Here’s the vast space below and a sheet of the lovely glass mosaics we’ll be using. I particularly like the way the light will bounce off of them since every little rectangle has been imprinted with the texture of a hessian sack fabric in all sorts of different angles.

 

Tile warehouse

Tile warehouse


 
Sheet of glass mosaic tiles

Sheet of glass mosaic tiles


 

Once we got them back to our current (for a few more months only!) residence, Mark placed them on a vintage table that we have sitting beneath a window. I put the paint charts next to them (yes — that’s our ‘old friend’ the Dulux dog on that chart) and right behind it sits the new vintage themed Bush radio that I got for my birthday. That radio is going to be sitting on the kitchen counter and it certainly does go nicely with the colour scheme we’ve chosen.

 

The new kitchen colour scheme.

The new kitchen colour scheme.


 
The new retro Bush radio will fit right into our kitchen colour scheme!

The new retro Bush radio will fit right into our kitchen colour scheme!


 

Bye for now!

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26/01/2014 at 6:46 PM Comments (4)

Settling In, Settling Down, But Not Settling For

It was bound to happen after several years of travelling from country to country over a 3 year period. We were going to want to settle down, buy a house again, and settle in. That doesn’t mean that travel and travel writing or photography is off the radar, but it does mean that we’ll have a stable base to work from. And neither of us feels like we are settling for less than something wonderful!

We thought we had found home in the South of France, but as you have read in past posts, we were unwilling to commit ourselves to a country that wanted 60 percent (and climbing!) of our income in taxes and which would never provide a pension when we retired no matter how many years we had paid into the tax system in France.

Ah well — back to Australia we came after several years away and we landed in Melbourne 7 and 1/2 months ago. But no matter how much we love this city, it really isn’t quite what we are looking for long term. It’s bigger, busier, and noisier than what suits us — so we’ve been looking further afield. And we found it!

In exactly 7 weeks, we”ll be taking possession of our new house in the completely charming regional city of Ballarat — a little over an hour northwest of Melbourne. May I just say that working through the stacks of paperwork for a new mortgage were not my happiest moments, but I had a light-hearted attitude throughout the process because I was working towards our long-term goal. We got the pre-approval and then went looking for a house and what we found is a 1950 ranch house with 3 bedrooms and a huge lot that needs a LOT OF WORK in the months and years ahead. But what fun we are going to have as we transform it.

 

Front of our 1950 ranch house.

Front of our 1950 ranch house.


 

I’m putting this in print so that we can ALL remind Mark that he said this. I showed him a pristine and brand new house that he wouldn’t have needed to do a thing to other than fit out the garage with his racks of tools. But did he want that? No! He said that was too boring and he would prefer a fixer-upper that we could put our own stamp on. There you go — it has been documented!

There will be lots of posts in the coming months of various stages of renovation. And amidst all of those, I will sprinkle more travel posts and photo essays from Melbourne and regional Victoria and even some from Europe. If you plan to come to Australia, you mustn’t just stop at Sydney and forget about Melbourne or Victoria. It’s simply stunning over here.

Now you know why I’ve been posting rather sparsely lately. I’ve been slammed with paperwork and planning and house hunting. But we’re completely thrilled even with the prospect of years of work ahead to make it our ‘forever house.’

Bye for now!

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25/01/2014 at 7:00 PM Comments (0)

Toulouse Again And A Funny Street Sign

 

Falling under the ‘you couldn’t make that up’ category, here’s a photo of a street corner in Toulouse, France.

 

Street sign in Toulouse, France

Street sign in Toulouse, France


 

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13/12/2013 at 1:53 PM Comments (0)

Totally Terrific Toulouse — Part 2

Today’s highlights are a walk through the streets of the ‘Pink City’ of Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrenees. It was a cold and wintery 3 days there, so you’ll notice that there is very little in the way of blue skies!

Today’s post shows you a few glimpses of the Rue du Taur area with its charming pink brick buildings, narrow streets, wrought iron details, and medieval history.

The origins of the Rue du Taur are actually rather grim! This was the street where St Saturnin, first Bishop of Toulouse, was tied by the ankles to a charging bull and then dragged to his death at the instigation of the pagan priests who were headquartered at the site of the current Capitole plaza.

The basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) is the large cluster of buildings at the top of the Rue du Taur and it is all that remains of a formerly vast abbey complex.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site Basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) in Toulouse, France.

UNESCO World Heritage Site Basilica of St. Sernin (St. Saturnin) in Toulouse, France.


 

Shoppers on Rue du Saur in Toulouse, France.

Shoppers on Rue du Saur in Toulouse, France.


 

A slight curve in a narrow road filled with soft pink-coloured brick buildings in Toulouse, France.

A slight curve in a narrow road filled with soft pink-coloured brick buildings in Toulouse, France.


 

Man sitting on a bollard in front of the Notre Dame du Taur church entry reading a guidebook.

Man sitting on a bollard in front of the Notre Dame du Taur church entry reading a guidebook.

 

Clad in a full fur coat and fur hat, a woman bustles through the shopping district on Rue du Taur in Toulouse, France.

Clad in a full fur coat and fur hat, a woman bustles through the shopping district on Rue du Taur in Toulouse, France.


 

Our journey down the Rue du Taur ends as the street opens up into the vast plaza in front of the the Capitole de Toulouse, a government and arts complex covering over 2 hectares (4.4 acres) right in the heart of Toulouse and rebuilt in the 1700s-1800s in the same spot as the original Roman Capitolium.

 

Rue du Taur terminates at the vast plaza containing the Capitole in Toulouse, France.

Rue du Taur terminates at the vast plaza containing the Capitole in Toulouse, France.

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The plaza in front of the Capitole building in Toulouse is frequently crowded with both tourists and local residents.

The plaza in front of the Capitole building in Toulouse is frequently crowded with both tourists and local residents.

 

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10/12/2013 at 10:55 AM Comments (0)

Totally Terrific Toulouse — Part 1

 
Stepping into the time machine a bit, here’s a bit of reporting on the lovely city of Toulouse in the Midi-Pyrenees of France. We spent several days there this year to celebrate my birthday and I thought I’d share some images from that trip over the next few posts.

The Musee des Augustins is housed in a large former Augustinian monastery built in 1309. The former home of 200 monks during the Middle Ages, this is a truly beautiful conversion of a set of buildings into museum space. Cloistered walkways surround a central courtyard and sweeping stairways take you to galleries on two levels. These contain architectural remnants dating back to medieval times, elegant sculpture, and several large rooms of paintings.

 

Entry to the Musee Des Augustins, the fine arts museum in Toulouse.

Entry to the Musee des Augustins, the fine arts museum in Toulouse.

 

Medieval tower of the former Augustinian monastery.

Medieval tower of the former Augustinian monastery.

 

The small but elegant courtyard garden of the Musee des Augustins.

The small but elegant courtyard garden of the Musee Des Augustins.

 

Cloistered walkways surround the garden courtyard.

Cloistered walkways surround the garden courtyard.

 

Historic gargoyles on display along the cloister walk.

Historic gargoyles on display along the cloister walk.

 

The wonderful collection of gargoyles seen above was salvaged from another convent/monastery from the 1300s, the Couvent des Cordeliers, prior to its destruction and preserved here in Toulouse. These gargoyles are now displayed on pedestals beneath the covered roofline of the cloister walkways.

Did you note the distinctly pinkish tones of the bricks that the monastery is constructed of? Toulouse has long been known as the ‘Pink City’ for just that reason.

Part 2 coming soon!

 

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09/12/2013 at 12:15 PM Comments (0)

Scaling Up and Going Grander

 

I’m scaling up size wise and going grander with the number of photos included. As a result, the next book will be a bigger and more expensive book. Print books can still be produced quite inexpensively but that is certainly NOT the case for colour photo print books unfortunately!

The book that I am currently editing is evolving into a much larger project than anticipated and I’ve made a few key decisions. As a result, it may or may not be ready for publication prior to Christmas. I’m hoping to be done by the end of this week, but if it ends up being a better product by waiting until after Christmas — then January it is!

The topic this time is France. I had planned to do three regional books on the North of France, the Midi-Pyrenees, and Paris. Now they’re going to all go into ONE LARGE book that has clearly defined sections. And I’ll be offering the print versions in 2 sizes — the small square size that I have used for the previous 3 books and a larger one (shape to be determined). There will of course be ebook formats for various types of tablets/e-readers/computers.

I recently became aware that I had over 18,000 images of France alone in my hard drive. Only a tiny percentage of them will make it into one of my books, but many will instead be placed into more travel articles or lodged with whatever agency I actually do continue to work with. And at some point in the future I plan to offer direct sales of prints. One step at a time though…

Interesting dilemma, eh? Far better to have too much to work with than too little. And for now, here’s one pic that didn’t go into the book. Enjoy!

 

Walking through the medieval walled city portion of Boulogne-sur-Mer in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France.

Walking through the medieval walled city portion of Boulogne-sur-Mer in the Pas-de-Calais region of northern France.


 

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05/12/2013 at 12:28 PM Comments (0)

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