Simply Sam Trading - Antiques.Brocante.Gifts

We stock a variety of vintage, antique and hand-crafted items. Available on our web store or select antiques and beautiful 'proudly South African' hand-made Gift items on sale or to view at VinLee Art Gallery Hilton College Road, Natal Midlands. Hilton off-ramp, N3, Kwazulu Natal

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So as I board for England

Paris is full of beautiful elements, the architecture, design, food, fashion, vibrancy, it was electric, but all that said couldn't easily live there and my beautiful country Hamlet in South Africa will be admired with rose tinted spectacles again on my return.

Our apartment was wonderful and functional and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a convenient place to stay (details to follow).

The landscape as I flew between France and England was almost identical with glorious rolling fields of yellow rapeseed that look like magical masses of a mustard coloured painting. Contrasted with the typical hints of grey cloud synonymous with England, and rays of sunshine peaking through , it was at its prettiest.

It's Summer time here, but I have to say that our Winter in the Natal Midlands is warmer than it's been here so far, it's been seriously chilly.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Stranded at Charlie in Paris

I thought it quite appropriate that as I'm leaving Paris for England I receive an email thanking me for the message I sent to the Queen congratulating her on her Diamond Jubilee which, I'm told, "We will ensure it is added to our manuscript and presented to Her Majesty to celebrate this very special occasion".

Life throws its curve balls and today it was my turn when I missed my flight to the UK by minutes. Rules are rules it seems, and there was no budging. It gets worse ... I was then told to issue another ticket (for 8 hours later) will cost the same price as the ticket from South Africa. My husband looked decidedly frantic, as his plane was about to leave. Eh bien, telle est la vie.

My only consolation is that I am in the business lounge with a full buffet at my disposal, because at this stage the only thing I have eaten is a Laduree Macaroon - the rest of which are, by now, all squashed.

Well what a funny end to a perfectly wonderful trip to Paris.

Brocantes and more Brocantes ...

We were virtually the last to leave the early morning Brocante with some vendors packing away even as early as 12.30. A pair of wooden shoe lasts were still waiting for me right at the end, and were acquired for a couple of Euros less. There was stunning embroidered, monochrome, linen but the costs were exorbitant by South African standards. I found some dainty tea serviettes and embroidered overlays. Luckily, because the bug had now bitten, the market we had started first thing in the morning at St Pauls, ended only at 7pm, so we decided to go back en route to the Eiffel Tower. We'd bought a days worth of Metro tickets, which turned out to be a blessing, getting us to the various places that much quicker.

The sun shone on our last day in Paris. Sitting in the park at the Eiffel Tower, with this world renowned icon in front of us, was a momentous end to what has been an amazing trip. Surprising there are only approximately 2.million people living permanently in Paris, but this number is doubled monthly by the number of international visitors.

Modigliani, Catacombs and walking in the rain

It poured down today, our first day where we were out in the rain, so we put off the Brocante until later, in favour of a Modigliani exhibit at Pinacothèque de Paris. I have an original copy of a Modigliani done by Paula who lives in Nottingham Road. It is oil on canvas and my favourite painting.
I was in awe standing in front of original Modigliani art and even Maurice Utrillo. I have a beautiful chromolithograph at Simply Sam of a Utrillo, and I've always loved both artists.

We waltzed through the Parisian rues visiting antique shop after antique shop, on our way to the Catacombs, obviously in one of the most upmarket areas of Paris judging by the prices. Baroque, Retro, designer - all stunningly beautiful shops that put some of our best South African shops to shame. Though when you think most of the items originate from Europe, you would expect nothing less. Who can afford to purchase in this area is another story, the prices were exhorbitant
Walking back from the Catacombs, we stumbled upon a Monastary shop, more so because we are Catholic, else we may never have found it. There was an unbelievable choice of beautiful linen, but even the Nuns know their stuff, and the prices were not cheap. I managed to find a beautiful square table cloth with twelve matching serviettes, so dainty, perfect for a tea party.

Next we found a vintage book shop and I was thrilled to find three Retro titles that are quite rare to find - this was a good end to a day of shopping before the big Brocantes tomorrow.

The Catacombs were something else, reputedly the largest in the world. Millions of bodies were exhumed and moved here, to their final resting place. To see hundreds of bones and skulls, stacked neatly, and some even displayed in 'designed' arches and semi circles is wierd, if not a little disconcerting. It took me a while to get used to the idea that I would be stuck thirty metres underground for the two hours that it takes to walk to the exit, but it was well worth the experience. One comes out of there realising how insignificant we really are.

In Paris space is at a premium and this we realised as we exited ghe Catacombs, and spotted a car in the street, literally packed to the rafters with 'stuff'. Probably the cheapest storage you'll find in this costly city.

Last night we ate, and drank, at Chez Chatelier as promised. At 9.45pm, people were still queuing and we managed to get in just before closing. It was a hive of activity as waiters and Garçons buzzed busily around more than a hundred patrons.
At 50 Euros for a four course a la carte menu with a bottle of house wine for two people, this was extremely reasonable by Parisians standards and a must do for anyone visiting Paris on a budget.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Churches and Cathedrals

There is simply no such thing as an ordinary church in Paris. Every one is exquisite. From the huge domed architecture to the magnificent biblical oil paintings and stained glass windows - one could spend a month touring these magnificant monuments and still not see them all. One cannot help but be in awe as you wander around and gaze the ornate chandeliers, candelabras, cherubs and gargoyles. The statuettes of saints and carved crucifix of Christ. Huge carved ornamental doors and entrances, pulpits and confessionals. The beauty of these buildings is quite astounding.
Being Catholic, these churches hold specific significance and that was why this evening, having Mass at St Paul's Cathedral, in French, was just wonderful. Significant even more ax this was our last evening in Paris and what better way to end our trip, than with thanks.

Eiffel Tower - oui merci

Paris - the romantic city and could it get more romantic than this. It's our last day and were sitting in the sun with the majestic icon before us, anticipating a walk to the top. We've just met a beautiful young lady, who was woken in Holland by her friends at 6am this morning, only to discover, four hours later, she is to celebrate her 'kitchen tea' (hen party) in Paris, starting with a picnic at the Eiffel tower. She has to approach men and ask them to write their phone number on her apron - just in case her marriage doesn't work out. Here she is photographed with my husband.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Another day in Paris

In the street below our apartment a Madame is serenading the patrons at the street cafes, with the lilt that is so very French, to the applause of the Parisians.

We're sitting with all the windows open, with temperatures soaring. It's been a stunning, 'summers' day and it seems everyone is outside at street cafes & restaurants. When we arrived in Paris everyone was still dressed in Winter apparel and it seems over night the next season is upon us. Jasmine is in the air and the mood is exhilarating.

So what to russle up for supper when your ingredients consist of pesto, olives, creme fraiche, rice and tomatoes? Pesto Rissotto with creamy tomato & olive sauce. Perfectly accompanied by chicory salad, grated Compote cheese, fresh baguette (which I stupidly bought and carried for an hour, then passed at least a zillion Boulangeries on the way), and a good glass of red - but of course.

Another stunning day with perfect weather and a whole range of Ateliers with wares to blow your mind. I hope the photos I've taken will give you some idea. Paris is so full of creativity and customary skills that have been pasted down through families. To give you an idea, we went to see a leather book binder, a restorer of vintage maps & posters, a maker of musical trinket boxes (some of which take one year to complete and 3000 Euros to purchase), a Milliner with hats that would put the Queen Mother's to shame, hand-made Ostrich lamp shades etc etc. All wonderfully inspiring and amazing.

Many of the Brocante shops we visited late afternoon as some only open after lunch and close after seven. Very convenient for a bit of late night shopping. I came across more lovely linen, beautiful vintage clothing and bags, but very little furniture.

We still didn't get to the Musee D'orsay or the Catacombs, but we'll try tomorrow in between the Brocantes. There is just so much to see and I want to take in as much as possible before we leave and all the best Brocante are at the weekend.

The only thing I would have liked on this trip, which seems like its not yet available, is a Google Map App, that allows you to plot multiple places which would send out a reminder as you walk. I had to revert to the old method of paging through a map and brochure which means, more often than not, putting your feet up at a street cafe, and at five Euros a beer or cafe creme, can be lovely, but all adds up. In fact as we sat sipping our little Espresso today a couple of Gypsy children put a piece of dirty old newspaper right over my breakfast to try and take the 50 Euros I'd put down to pay the bill. One just has to be vigilant as the poverty is quite horrendous.

I'm sure the App will be available soon, but try as we may, we found nothing that worked.

The 15 Euros we spent on an 'un-limited' data card was money well spent, as this allowed us to switch on Google Maps, once we knew where we wanted to go, and to 'whatsapp' our children as we went. We could even send them pics as as when they were taken, all for free.

Eating has been mainly 'on the go' at Bolangeries and Patisseries, and fresh fruit from the local grocer. Its 'Printemps' and the strawberries are irrestistible. Tomorrow we'll try 'Restaurant chez Chartier' just down the road from Rue Montmartre, where we are staying. It is, we're told, an unpretentious French Brasserie dating from 1890 ( just my kinda place) and has reputedly only had four owners since 1896.

It's 10pm, just getting dark, and the night is still young, but my poor feet can't walk another step. So until tomorrow Bonne Nuit ...

More pic



Some of my favourites

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ateliers & French Linen

Inspiration was how i'd describe today. My day has burst at the seams with creativity and my cup is definitely full. Wow. We spent the day trawling the Ateliers and found some seriously creative people. My head is buzzing with ideas. Artists, up cyclers, re-done vintage clothing, ceramicists, recycled industrial anything, etc etc ... I tried on a gorgeous leather coat, which had been silk screened - it was just so unique, but way out of my price range. Can you believe it, for something that is second hand. But it was a piece of originality. As we walked I spotted various trade marks of the infamous street artist (that should read graffiti artist) 'Space Invader' al la 'exit through the gift shop'. A Paris blog suggests doing a tour specifically to spot street art, so we did a bit of a combo of our own and what fun when you come across a little something. After today I cannot wait to put my 'up cycling' ideas into action. I came across a set of twelve vintage Napkins that I couldn't resist. If you're a lover of a blue & white scheme, these are for you. Hand made & linen. We grabbed a seeded baguette whilst we walked the streets, had a glass of wine on Rue Monteguile, bought roasted red peppers, courgette balls, & Dolmades for supper, before going off at 8pm to walk the Champs Élysées. We missed 'Musee d'Orsay today, but there's always tomorrow ...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Paris Design Expo

We're on the under ground on our way to a Design Expo. A Busker is playing the Clarinet right next to me - perfect. So many people use cycling as their main mode of transport and I can see why. The underground is so dirty with beggars on every corner, each with man's best friend. The Parisians really do love their dogs. The poverty here is noticeable every where, contrasted with the designer boutiques, it is very sad, the other side of life in Paris We just walked to a Vide Grenier, specifically selling 1950's items, which I love. The sellers were far too sophisticated to catch a bargain, so we leave empty handed as prices are high. Then onto a Paris Design Expo to see the latest in home fashions. I don't think I've ever attended something quite so huge. It was way too big to take everything in, but we found some interesting ideas and French Marseille soap for Simply Sam. Because it stays light until 10pm, we made the most of the beautiful evening with a walk to see the majesty of the Sacre Coeur in all it's glory. Paris would not be Paris without a gentle stroll around Monmarte. As contrived as it is, I can still sit there and imagine Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec walking through the cobbled streets. So we walked for nearly ten hours today. It's 10.45pm. We've only just eaten supper. A simple meal of 'Nids Larges Pates d'Alsace' (pasta nests). with the most delicious Creme Fraiche and Pesto. A 2008 Chateau la Voie and cheese platter to compliment the main, and let me not forget the Cote D'or chocolate and cafe Creme to finish. What a lovely end to the day. It's almost midnight. How on earth will I wake up early tomorrow...

The French Way

Socialised dogs, baguettes and people who arrive with their piano on a set of wheels who then sit and play in the middle of the Rue are just part and parcel of French life...
As I write i'm sitting at Cafe le Grille Montorguile on Rue Montorguile, sipping 'Leffe' - French beer. It's 7.30pm, still day light, a dog rests his head on the table next to me. People are streaming past on their way to who knows where. A man arrives, with his piano, pushed through the streets on a set of wheels, that he pushes away and proceeds to play, like a Maestro, literally in front of where we are seated. We're in Paris, would you expect anything less. Yesterday we had the privillege of listening to a pseudo Eva Peron. Could life get better than this.

Today we had a rest from scouring antiques. Instead we headed straight for the Louvre. En route we popped in at Astier de Villatte which is a stunning atelier known for their unusual ceramics, based mainly on the designs of vintage pottery. I couldn't help thinking of Mud, which I stock at Simply Sam Trading, and Mick Haige from our own Fort Nottingham. In fact I showed photos of Mick's stock to the assistant who wrote down Mick's web address. I'd gone there especially to treat myself to a ceramic playing card, until I saw they are made in Germany - just didn't feel right to be buying German when I'm in France. Instead I treated myself to a funky pair of reading glasses from - editeur d'objets a Paris.
The Louvre was stunning. Winding our way back we happened upon the red light district. I wondered why there were so many under dressed ladies. Surprisingly not all young and lovely.
Tomorrow first a vide Grenieder (which could take a while) and then Musee d'Orsay to view my favourite artist Modigliani.
The wine is flowing, and the music plays on. Time to enjoy the foie gras, and Moelleux au chocolat coulant creme anglais

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Brocante at 'the fleas' Porte de Clingancourt

A bottle of Cotes du Rhone, a cheese board and selection of olives, all French of course, to wind down what has been a most amazing start to our eight day trip in the romantic city.  Our first stop this morning was to the local Boulangerie for a baguette - goats cheese rounds with pesto and salad. We then walked ourselves senseless, with a fleeting visit to Notradame (with a promise to visit on a quieter day), enjoyed buskers on the bridge across the river Seine, peeked into stunning Ateliers along the way to our planned destination "La Puce". I'll be the first to admit that, with our Rand exchange rate, one can't easily find a bargain when buying in Paris, but what you do find is a huge range of once off 'magnifique' items. We happened upon a double story warehouse with a collection of object d'art that made me shake with delight. It was a true 'Alice in Wonderland' experience. A designer with an eye for the truly unusual had put these pieces together and I'm sure interior designers literally buy the whole concept. At another space the interior of an old plane was for sale. My mind boggled when I conjured up a design for a little boys play area ... There was so much to take in so a well earned stop to a restaurant for their  'plat du jour' was in order. This romantic interlude was interrupted later by a shocking incident when we witnessed a young couple being subjected to a bag snatching which involved a couple of 'hoodies' spraying tear gas, before making off with a hand bag, which we later learned contained  their passport.   After landing this morning at 6am we decided to make a leisurely path back 'home' for an early evening. We,ve realised our "little" 17th century apartment is probably worth R10.Mil and it is only 50sqm.  We spotted a 5sqm 'chamber' in the window of a local agent for R400,000 (the siza of my daughter's bedroom) - let us appreciate how really lucky we are in South Africa. Tomorrow we'll celebrate Mass at St Catherine a little chapel where the Virgin Mary appeared and many miracles have been granted since (We'll be asking for special graces for your cousin Missy and my Mum), before heading off to scout the Brocantes in search of that elusive bargain. It's now raining in Paris and life is just perfect ...

Friday, May 4, 2012

We have a plane to catch

... and so it was that the visa was granted in less than 48 hours and so we're off to board a plane for Paris. Bon voyage

The First Leg of our Journey ...

Life doesn't always go to plan, with some issues being worse than others. Like yesterday. I sneak out of the office to have breakfast with a friend. In passing we chat briefly about visas. On my return to the office I mention the conversation to my hubby. I see something is amiss by the look on his face which, by this stage, has gone ashen. My Shengen Visa he says. We fly in less than 48 hours and the man tells me he's forgotten his Visa - what? French Embassy is not answering their phone, not even their emergency line. Every avenue seems closed to us. We have paid for flights, accommodation ... but some where out there it seems God may answers our prayers...