Antique or Vintage; Retro or Collectable?

Antique or Vintage; Retro or Collectable?

Whether hunting through Antique Shops and Car Boot Sales in Britain, Brocantes, Vide-Greniers and Trocs in France or simply surfing listings on the internet for that perfect item or piece, understanding what is meant by terms such as ‘Antique’, ‘Vintage’, ‘Retro’ and ‘Collectable’, will help you choose the right piece for you!

french vide grenier

  • Antique is a term used to describe any collectable item which is at least 100 years old and which has become desirable and/or collectable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, use, emotional connection and/or other unique features.
  • Vintage is a word originally used to describe well ‘seasoned’ wine and comes from the French word ‘Vin’ (pronounced ‘Va’). The word ‘Vintage’ is however, now used to describe any collectable or desirable item of more than 20 years of age (or more properly, more than 50 years of age) but which is less than 100 years old. Most commonly, people associate items from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s as being ‘Vintage’. As with antique items, a vintage item may become collectable and/or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, use, emotional connection and/or other unique features and can refer to anything from cars and furniture to wine and anything in between. Where there is uncertainty, overlap or a lack of definitive proof of a year of production, an item may be described as ‘Vintage Antique’ or ‘Antique Vintage’.
  • Vintage Style, Antique Style or Reproduction, are terms used to describe new items which have been made to look as if they come from an earlier time.
  • Retro is another frequently used term, but it is in many ways, meaningless and there is no agreed definition. It may be used to describe anything which looks out of style for the current time and is often used to describe items created at some time in the past (largely between the 1970’s and the 1990’s) but may equally refer to a new item, created with reference to earlier designs and created to look as if it has come from a past time.
  • Collectables is a term which is used to describe any item, Antique, Vintage, Retro or new, which has become popular and desirable due to its age, beauty, rarity, limited edition, condition, use, emotional connection, and/or other unique features.
  • Provenance is a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality. For antiques this can increase their value but always be careful when being shown any documents as unscrupulous sellers have been known to try to increase an items value by using fake provenance.

We hope you have fun searching for that special item for your home and don’t forget to check out our website for lots of great items we have selected on our trips to France.

15 things you never knew about living in rural France in the winter

Having just returned from another great trip to France, we have put together a light-hearted list of Fifteen things you might not know about owning a Second Home and living in rural France in the Winter:

  1. In rural, mountainous areas like ours, temperatures regularly get down to -10° or below, winter snow is guaranteed and weather conditions can stay like this for weeks on end.
  2. No matter how much you drain down your water system and lag your pipes, it is apparently, much harder to stop your water meter from freezing and cracking! And without it you have no water!20170127_110648-002
  3. It can (and does) get cold enough and for long enough inside empty, unheated properties in rural France in winter, for the water in a toilet cistern and bowl (as well as connecting pipes) to freeze solid, rendering the toilet unusable until defrosted (which takes a surprisingly long time, especially when you have no water (cracked water inlet meter) to heat and pour down it)) and then unusable again when it has defrosted, as the expansion of the water during the freezing process has cracked the bowl, which then leaks profusely!20170127_085915-002
  4. It takes a week or more to fully heat a house which has been standing empty for a couple of months in rural France in winter – and that means sleeping with all your clothes on, and with 3 duvets, a blanket and an electric heater on just to stave of hyperthermia until it does!
  5. 10 Steres (m3) of wood may be necessary to heat a house in rural France but it takes 2 people and an entire day to get it out of the snow and stack it!
  6. 20170127_112448You can’t put a wood burner flu up a chimney that has a bee hive in it!
  7. You cannot have your electric heaters on at the same time as your ‘ballon d’eau chaude’ (hot water tank) and a cooker – and don’t even try a kettle, microwave and hairdryer at the same time!
  8. When you have no matches to light your wood-burner and the shops are closed, neighbours who don’t speak English and struggle to understand your pigeon French, are still happy to lend you matches and help light your fire for you.
  9. No matter how low the temperatures get in France, or how icy it becomes, or how much snow falls, the roads (even in the most remote rural areas) are gritted and clear!
  10. Confit duck (canard) and dauphinoise potatoes (very typical dishes in this area of France) come in tins in France so no matter how cold it gets or whether you have a freezer or not, you can always eat fantastic French cuisine – They cook in half an hour, are absolutely delicious and don’t taste like tinned food at all – puts baked beans to shame! And you can buy banana juice here too – yummy!
  11. It takes a surprising long time, in such low temperatures, to get any work done, including house renovations and decoration – even in just one room! Still, 1 down, 7 to go, plus the hallway, stairs and landings of course, not to mention the ‘grenier’ (attic) or the outside!
  12. It might be freezing but in rural France, high in the hills of the Correze, over-looking the beautiful ski resort of Le Mont Dore in the Massif central, with the sun shining and reflecting off the snow peaked mountains, the views really are truly stunning!

20170131_144023    13. In mountainous areas like ours, temperatures can not only go from -12° to -9° but can also go from -9° right up           to +12° in less than a week!

14. It doesn’t matter how cold it gets, or how much work there is to do, it’s always fantastic to stay and work in                   France and to catch up with your neighbours and practice your French!

15. No matter how cold it is or what the trials and tribulations, you will always be sad to leave and always itching               to get back!

A Trip to France: Part 4

Following our earlier trials on our trip to France ( see our earlier posts) and never ones to ‘waste’ our time and not wanting the whole day be a write-off, we decided that we still had time left to visit a troc and brocante (second-hand, antique and vintage shop) in Limoges which didn’t shut until 7:30pm. Off we set, happy that the electricity had been sorted and that we still had time to visit one of the shops we had wanted to go to: not only do we use our regular visits to France to buy stock for our on-line shop but we also hoped to buy a couple of armoires and bedside cabinets for our house.

We got about half way there when we got stopped by the Gendarmes as the road (the only one from here to Limoges) was closed due to an over-turned lorry which had shed its load on one of bendy hills. We were diverted and travelled along country roads for several miles before ending up back on the same road but thankfully the other side of the incident. We eventually made it to Limoges only to get stuck in the tail end of the ‘rush hour’ traffic. We eventually made it to the troc by 6.55pm and so, as the shop is huge and crammed full of furniture and accessories, didn’t hold out much hope of success of finding anything much but ‘hey’ we thought it’s still worth a look.

Although we didn’t have time to cover much of the troc (and didn’t even make it up to the first floor) we did find two beautiful armoires. The shop was about to close but the owners were very kind and stayed open late whilst we helped get the armoires out to our van to pack. They very kindly told us that we could take as long as we needed to pack the van but they had to shut up and leave as they were expected at home for tea. No problem. We’ve dealt with armoires many times and knew how to un-bolt and stack them – they are beautifully made objects and very cleverly designed, the original flat pack furniture – albeit from the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Century. The large 19th century one unbolted and we stacked it in the van, the smaller, single armoire didn’t un-bolt but was small enough to fit in as it was. We blanketed and tied everything in and got back in to the van to go home.

We belted up, turned the key and … nothing. We tried again: nothing – absolutely dead. So here we were again, stuck in the middle of an empty car park in a now empty industrial area in the middle of France, with no phone signal and no way to ask for help. Why us? In desperation Clive got out and wiggled a few wires and tried again – nothing. He’s quite good with cars and all things mechanical but our van, like most vehicles these days is more about electrics and computerised components than mechanics. Still, not deterred, he tried again, got back in the cab and tried the ignition again! Phew – it turned over. We never have found out what went wrong and luckily we didn’t have any more problems with it. Thank heavens.

As it was now late evening, we decided to leave the armoires in the van until the morning, so when we got home, we had dinner and a very large glass of wine and went to bed! The visit wasn’t a complete disaster and thankfully, from then on things definitely improved. We managed to strip and skim two of our bedrooms, stain and seal the new floor in our dining room (which had had to be replaced due to rot!) finished treating some remaining timbers to protect against woodworm and do some remedial work on our barn roof as well as visiting a selection of other trocs and brocantes, where we bought a whole host of fab items for our shop. We also had drinks with neighbours and friends, explored a local lake and are still in awe of the beauty of the scenery there and the kindness and generosity of the people we have met. We also, with the help of our good friend Beatrice, met with French artisans to confirm the installation of our heating system and septic tank, which were due to be put in whilst we were back in England. As we write this the septic tank is now fully installed, signed off and operational and the heating is well on its way, so we are really looking forward to seeing (and feeling) that when we return to France again at the end of the month. And despite everything that happened on our last trip, we can’t wait!

A Trip to France: Part 3

After the problems of our first few days (see A Trip to France: Part1 and Part 2) we were hoping to get on with some renovations. But we had no electricity!

As one of the first renovations to the house we had all the electrics updated, including a new consumer unit and master circuit breaker. These went via a rather vintage looking fuse box owned by EDF. The former installed by our electrician, the latter by EDF, which they seal so that no-one can tamper with it.  In France, the maximum power per household can be less than in England and so the number of appliances you can have on at any one time is also less there.


Our first thought then, was that with the ballon, the cooker, the fridge-freezer, the kettle and the electric radiators on, we had probably over-loaded the system and tripped a switch on the circuit breaker. Easily fixed: un-plug something and flick the switch back on! But no! None of the switches had tripped. Is it the main fuse then we wondered? Well if it was, there was nothing that either we, or anyone else, however well qualified, would be able to do about it; only EDF could put it right as the mains fuse was sealed!

We phoned the English speaking helpline at EDF. A very polite and helpful man went through a few details with us and asked us to check with the neighbours that they still had power, in case there was a power cut to the area (we did, they did and there wasn’t) and so he informed us that it was probably an external problem and that EDF would have to come out to fix it – if it was a problem of this kind there would be no charge as, since as everything was sealed by EDF, it was obviously their responsibility. Excellent. No problem. Could he arrange that then please. Sadly not. No, that would have been too easy. We had to phone another number (non-English speaking) and (since we probably wouldn’t understand the instructions and options available), we should press 1, and then press 2 and then press 1 again and then ask if anyone “Parle Anglais”.

By now, we were hungry, couldn’t open the fridge or freezer (so as to maintain their temperatures) had no lighting and crucially no source of heat (we weren’t about to make matters worse by trying the fire lighting debacle again) and so there we were, in deepest rural France; cold, hungry and thirsty, in the dark and without possessing enough French Language skills to deal with the situation and by now, our neighbours were all (yes all) out for the day or at work, or had returned to their winter retreats in Paris and Lyons. To say we wondered why we were here or at what point we ever thought that this would be a good idea, would be an under-statement.

In desperation we called Steve our English electrician who lives not far away in a neighbouring town. Not that there was anything he could do but he might be able to offer some advice: ‘Un-plug everything and then plug them back in again one at a time to see if anything comes back on’ he told us and said he was on his way. Steve arrived, checked everything for us and confirmed that it was almost certainly an external fault or the fuse. But he didn’t speak much French either. His son did however so there then ensued much to-ing and fro-ing with Steve, his son and EDF but eventually two very nice men from EDF duly came out to fix the problem.It was now 5pm. EDF arrived, agreed it was ‘le fusible’, unsealed it, replaced it, resealed it and announced ‘c’est fini!’


It had taken less than 10 minutes to put right what it had taken 9 hours to sort out! Thank you to Steve and his family though – or we’d have had to wait until our good neighbour Pierre (who speaks good English) came home from work later that night and would then have had to wait until the next day to sort it out.

So, we’d had the breakdown in the van, the 24 hour journey from England, the fire and smoke catastrophe, the lorry crash and the power cut to deal with but at least everything was sorted now. Nothing else would go wrong. Or would it?…….


A Trip to France: Part 2

Following our problems actually getting to France  (See A Trip to France: Part 1), we hoped that our next few days would be a little less stressfull.

After 24 hours of travelling, we finally arrived, in the dark and cold, at our house in France. We plugged in a couple of electric oil portable radiators which we had brought with us from England to take the edge off the cold and went to bed.

We woke up at midday and after a pot noodle (very sophisticated) and a lovely hot shower from the ballon, a hot water heater which we had had installed a couple of months earlier, we started our day. We went to introduce our selves to two of our neighbours whom we had not yet met.  Like all of the French people we have met, they were very kind and welcoming and invited us into their home – a beautifully restored traditional Longere. Odette, we learnt, speaks hardly any English and Maurice speaks a little. We had home made cassis cordial and freshly baked cake and spent a lovely hour or so ‘learning’ about each other. It’s amazing how much you can understand and make yourself understood, even when none of you know much of the others’ language. We learned that they were now retired but had been a Geo-physicist and Physics teacher. They had 2 daughters and a son and grandchildren. “J’ai quatre-vingt-cinq ans” said Odette. We thought we had mis-understood, “You’re 85 years old?” we asked. “Oui” she said and wrote it down to be sure. “Moi Aussi” said Maurice; They only looked as if they were in their 60s! What lovely people. Let’s hope that the healthy French country air helps us to be as active and look as young as they are when we’re their age! As we left they went back to cutting back their hedge, before packing up to return to their family home in Lyon for the winter.

The rest of the day was spent cleaning and preparing to decorate. We continued to strip off the flowery wall paper that adorns every surface in traditional French fashion, including doors, cupboards, beams and ceilings – Lovely!


It was a cold day and a couple of small electric radiators was not enough to keep us warm and is also very expensive, so we left one in the bathroom and one in the bedroom and decided to heat the ‘Cuisine’, our large kitchen diner, by lighting the cantou – a massive, inglenook fire. The chimney was clear – we knew this as we could see straight up it to the sky! And we’ve had open fires and log burners all our lives so were confident that this was the way forward – It lit easily with the dry wood stored in the barn and some coal we’d brought with us.


Then it all started to go horribly wrong: When we first bought the house we removed all of the old (very heavy and very flowery) curtains and drapes from the house (it was amazing how much lighter that made it) and amongst the removals was an awful, heavy, dusty curtain around the fire place – I mean why? Fire hazard or what? The fire place looked so much better and was really attractive! Why would anyone put curtains around a fire? … The fire we had lit was now billowing copious amounts of acrid smoke into the room. We had to open the doors and windows and as a result, ended up not only smelling like we’d been to a bonfire night celebration, but also, colder than when we had started. It turns out (much to the amusement of our new neighbours) that the ugly curtain was in fact a vital part of the fire design and was there to ‘catch’ the smoke and channel it up the chimney, not into the room – Lesson learnt! We decided to stick with the electric heaters after that. Thank goodness we are having wood burning stoves and a central heating back boiler and pump installed by a local artisan.

We were woken up the following morning at 7am to a noise that can only be described as alarming in the extreme. It sounded as if a huge industrial tractor was making its way across our front garden. We looked out, after unfolding the shutters, to see a massive articulated lorry, ‘camion’ (clearly lost – our tiny mountain roads are not suitable for such vehicles) trying to turn a corner. In the time it took us to get down stairs, the lorry had literally ploughed up one side of our road and the entrance to our garden, crashed into our neighbours’ wall and was driving off up the tiny road out of the hamlet – Unbelievable!! After levelling the road and assessing the damage to the longere wall (thankfully not too bad and not structural) we went in to put the kettle on. Or not: No electricity.

Find out what had happened in our next instalment, coming soon.

A trip to France: Part 1

Last week we planned to go to our house in France and get some decorating done. We were also due to meet our estate agent, who had become a friend, and she would help translate when we discussed our new heating and septic tank with local artisans.

Our trip didn’t quite go to plan when the day before we were due to leave and after filling the van with all the items we wanted to take with us, a warning message came up on the dash indicating a problem with the ABS system. We might be able to live with that if we drove carefully! However, within a few minutes a new warning came up indicating a problem with the gearbox and we found we were limited to just 4 of the 6 gears!


What should we do? We could hardly drive 750 miles limited to 50 miles per hour. The nearest Iveco dealer was over an hour away and closed on Sundays. We had already booked our Eurotunnel tickets for Monday afternoon and didn’t have much flexibility in our timings. All we could do was try to get to the garage as early as possible in the morning, hope it wasn’t a major problem and still get to the train on time.

Fortunately the garage was en route anyway and so we set off at 6:30am with our fingers crossed for no more problems to occur on the way. We arrived at the garage, parked the van alongside those from Tesco and other large companies waiting for their own service or repair and headed in to the reception. This didn’t look like your normal garage, it had carpet, white walls and comfy seating! Help, we said to the man on reception. We are supposed to be going to France and our van has a problem, can you fix it quick?

When he said, “I’ve only got one technician available and he’s busy” our hearts sank. We’d have to go home and replan our trip. ” Wait there” he said, pointing to the comfy chairs.

We sat down and waited. We’d read that all Iveco dealers had to meet certain timimgs with regard to diagnostics and repairs as most of their customers were businesses where the time their vehicles were off the road meant money was being lost. 15 minutes was the target for an initial review with 2 hours to provide a full estimate of what the problem was and how it would be fixed.

We could see our parked van through the reception windows and willed for someone to come and look at it. As the 15 minutes ticked by we eventually saw a mechanic head towards the van and drive it around to the workshop. He’ll just just reset something and we’ll be on our way we prayed.

Just 10 minutes later the receptionist called us over. “The problem was with the rear brakes. There is a sensor that tracks the wheel speed and passes this on to the gearbox. If it is just the sensor it will be quick but it could be the brake disc. We will know more once we take the wheel off”.

Back to the comfy chairs, we sat and waited.  There’s not much to look at in a reception area and the only magazines were ‘Commercial Motor’ and Iveco sales literature, hardly good reading for early on a Monday morning. At least we might still make the Eurotunnel terminal on time.

The receptionist had a visit from the technician, we waited with bated breath for news. “It’s the brake disc” he said. “We have all the parts available and should be able to get it repaired by 10:30 and have you on your way”.  Hooray we thought, but how much would it cost? We were shown the approximate price and asked if we wanted the work to go ahead. Why do they ask that? What were we going to say? ” No thanks, we’ll do without brakes and a gearbox!”. Our trip to France was getting more expensive.

We told the receptionist we would nip to the Sainsbury store nearby for some breakfast and be back by 10:30. As we walked to the store we debated whether we would make our train and decided we should reschedule it for a few hours later. “No problem” said the lady at Eurotunnel, ” that will be an extra £118 please. Would you like to make it Flexi for an extra £6?” We had only paid £98 for the original ticket but we were over a barrel. If we didn’t get the Flexi ticket and had any more delays we could end up paying 3 times the amount! ” Make it Flexi” we said.

Relieved that at least we had sorted out the ticket we used the delay to enjoy a nice cooked breakfast in the Sainsbury cafe. As the clock ticked on to 10:00 we decided to pick up some snacks and a newspaper from the store and head back to the garage.

We sat back in the chairs, which didn’t feel quite as comfy now, and waited.  At about 10:45 we saw our van driving past the window and started packing up our things ready to leave. When it went back past and towards the workshop our hearts sank. We waited some more. The van went passed again. And back to the workshop.

The receptionist called us over, “the brakes have been fixed, it was the cogs on the disc that had corroded” he showed us the old disc. ” However, there still appears to be a problem. The diagnostics show that the van thinks it is doing 12mph when it is stationary! The technician is just working throught the electrics to check for a loose connection. Shouldn’t be long”.

We saw the van go back and forward a few times and we tried to work out what time we might end up in France. We knew we had a 10 hour drive on the other side so it was likely to be midnight before we got to our house in the Limousin.

Eventually the technician drove the van round to the front of reception, got out and came and handed us the keys. It had been a poor connection on the new sensor apparently. The old adage that if there is a problem look at what has been changed should have been followed here and we might not have been delayed quite so long.

We held our breath as the receptionist explained the costs on the invoice. He had given us a discount as we were nice people and hadn’t charged for the time spent diagnosing the final problem. It still came to nearly £600.

It was now midday,  thanks to the Guest dealership we could restart our trip to France with the knowledge that our brakes were new but that it had cost us 4 hours and £720! Just another 700 miles and approx. 15 hours of driving to go.

Catch up with what happens next in our next blog installment!




Learn all you need to know about France

79 Fascinating Facts About . . . France

Thanks to

Th Eiffel Tower

Th Eiffel Tower

      1. France’s formal name is La République Française (French Republic).j
      2. The name “France” comes from the Latin Francia, which means “land or kingdom of the Franks.”h
      3. France is the largest country by size in Europe at 248,573 m2 (643,801 km2), and that figure includes the islands of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Réunion Island.j
      4. France’s highest point, also the highest point in Europe, is Mont Blanc at 15,771 feet (4,807 m) high.j
      5. France is divided into 22 metropolitan regions, and its five overseas regions calledDom-Toms.j
      6. With at least 75 million foreign tourists per year, France is the most visited country in the world and maintains the third-largest income in the world from tourism.i
      7. France celebrates July 14th as its Fête Nationale(Independence Day), which is the founding of its current Constitutional Monarchy, or the First Republic. The celebration actually commemorates the storming of the Bastille Prison on July 14, 1789, which sparked the French Revolutionary War.j
      8. France’s flag has three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), white, and red. Known as Le Drapeau Tricolore (French Tricolors), the origin of the flag dates to 1790 and the French Revolution when the “ancient French color” of white was combined with the blue and red colors of the Paris militia.j
      9. The French government gives medals, La Médaille de La Famille Française (Medal of the French Family), to citizens who have successfully raised several children with dignity.a
      10. There is only one stop sign in the entire French city of Paris.l
      11. In the Savoie region of France, there is a small town named Pussy.k
      12. One in five French people have reportedly suffered from depression, making it the most depressed country in the world.r
      13. Louis XIX was king of France for just 20 minutes.c
      14. French toast was originally called pain perdu (lost bread), and the first written mention of the dish comes from the court of Henry V of England. The Oxford English Dictionary mentions the first use of the name “French toast” was in 1660 in a book called the Accomplisht Cook.o
      15. The 2003 Durex Global Sex Study showed that the French are the people who have the most sex in a year.f
      16. France was the first modern country to legalize same-sex sexual activity in 1791.d
      17. In France, you can legally marry a deceased person.e
      18. Crayola is a French word that means “oily chalk.” Alice Binney, wife of Crayola founder Edward Binney, combined the worldcraie (chalk) with ola (a shortened form of the French oléagineux, meaning oily).m
      19. The Rainbow Warrior was a Greenpeace ship sent to disrupt French nuclear tests in the Pacific, and it was blown up while in harbor in New Zealand in 1985, killing one worker. A scandal ensued when it emerged that French secret services were involved in the attack.n
      20. Jean Dujardin is the first and only French actor to have ever won Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his role in “The Artist” in 2011 .q
      21. Since the end of World War II, France has been one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.u
      22. French (along with Spanish) women have the highest life expectancy in the whole of the European Union.u
      23. France’s greatest sporting moment came at the 1998 Soccer World Cup when the country hosted and won.u
      24. France’s most traditional ball games are pétanque and the similar, though more formal, boules, which has a 70-page rule book. Both are played by village men on a gravel or sandy pitch known as boulodrome, scratched out wherever a bit of flat or shady ground can be found. World championships are held for both sports.u
      25. France’s national anthem, “La Marsellaise,” was officially adopted in 1795. Originally known as “Le chant de guerre pour L’Armée du Rhin” (“War Song for the Army of the Rhine”), the National Guard of Marseille made the song famous by singing it while marching into Paris in 1792 during the French Revolutionary War.j
      26. French President Charles de Gaulle is included in theGuinness Book of World Records as surviving more assassination attempts—32—than anyone in the world.u
      27. France is the largest consumer of electricity from nuclear fuelsin the world.j
      28. The Bayeux Tapestry, created in the 1070s, shows the story of how William the Conqueror and his Norman forces conquered England in 1066. The Bayeux Tapestry is considered one of France’s national treasures.u
      29. In 1309, Pope Clement V moved the papal headquarters fromRome to Avignon, France, with Avignon’s third pope, Benoit XII, starting work on the resplendent Palais des Papes. The Holy See remained in the Provençal city until 1377.u
      30. In 1431, 17-year-old virginal French warrior Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) was burned at the stake in Rouen, France. Seven films have immortalized her life on the silver screen, including Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928); Victor Fleming’sJoan of Arc (1948), starring Ingrid Bergman; and Jeanne d’Arc (1999) by Luc Besson.u
      31. Leonardo da Vinci made Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise, France, his home from 1516 until his death in 1519.g
      32. Called Le Roi-Soleil (the Sun King), Louis XIV is credited for creating the first, nationalized French state. He also built the Palace of Versailles, 14 miles (23 km) south of Paris.u
      33. The French are the inventors of the first digital calculator, the hot air balloon, the parachute, Braille, margarine, Grand Prix racing, and the first public interactive computer.u
      34. French physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin invented what came to be known as the guillotine as a more humane method of execution. Highwayman Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was the first Frenchman to have his head sliced off on April 25, 1792, in Place de Grève on Paris’ Right Bank. During the Reign of Terror, at least 17,000 met their death by the guillotine. Convicted murderer Hamida Djandoubi in Marseille was the last person to be executed by guillotine in 1977—behind doors, because the last public French execution was in 1939. France abolished capital punishment in 1981.u
      35. Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the ruling French Directoire (Directory) in 1799 and, by referendum, declared himself First Consul for life. His birthday became a national holiday, and in 1804, Pope Pius VII crowned him emperor in Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral. Napoleon died in exile on the South Atlantic Island of St. Helena in 1821, but his remains were moved to Paris’ L’Èglise du Dôme—part of L’Hôtel national des Invalides, or Les Invalides—in 1840.u
      36. Despite the myth of the French Resistance during World War II, the underground movement never actually included more than 5% of the population; the other 95% either collaborated with the Nazis or did nothing.u
      37. With the exception of two world-war induced intervals, the Tour de France has never missed a year. The 1998 Tour de France was known as the “tour of shame,” fewer than 100 riders crossed the finish line after several teams were disqualified for doping.u
      38. French journalist and cyclist Henri Desgranges came up with the Tour de France in 1903 as a means of promoting his sports newspaper, L’Auto, today called L’Équipe.u
      39. Brittany-born biking legend Bernard Hinault, known as Le Blaireau (The Badger), won the Tour de France five times before retiring in 1986.u
      40. 17th-century French monk Dom Pierre Pérignon’s technique for making sparkling wine was more successful than his predecessors, in part because he put his product in strong, English-made bottles and capped them with corks brought from Spain.u
      41. The average person in France consumes 11.5 quarts (10.9 liters) of pure alcohol per year, compared to 8.7 quarts (8.2 liters) in the UK and 6.7 quarts (6.3 liters) in the U.S.u
      42. Originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under France’s Philip II, the Louvre Museum contains one of the world’s most important art collections and is one of the most important historic monuments in the world.i
      43. Paris was first settled in the 3rd century BC by a tribe of Celtic Gauls known as the Parisii on the Île de la Cité. The Romans later renamed the city Lutèce (Latin: Lutetia) before it became known as Paris.u
      44. Paris’ L’Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) was used from the Middle Ages to the 19th century as a place to stage celebrations, rebellions, public executions, and book burnings. Known as the Place de Grève (Strand Square) until 1830, it was, in centuries past, a favorite gathering place for the unemployed, which is why a strike is called une grèvein France to this day.u
      45. A bronze star set in the pavement across from the main entrance of Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris marks the exact location of Point Zero of all French roads.u
      46. Paris’ oldest bridge, ironically named Pont Neuf (New Bridge), has linked the western end of the Île de la Cité with both banks of the Seine River since 1607, when King Henri IV inaugurated it by crossing the bridge on a white stallion.u
      47. Named after its designer, Gustave Eiffel, France’s Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World Exposition. It was almost torn down in 1909 but was spared because it proved an ideal transmitter needed for the new science of radiotelegraphy. The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet (324 m) high, including the antenna at the top.i
      48. The bronze flame of liberty, a replica of the torch carried by the Statue of Liberty, is located at the Place d’Alma to commemorate the spot where, in August 1997, Princess Diana of Wales was killed in an automobile accident in the Paris underpass running along the Seine along with her companion, Dodi Al Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul.u
      49. Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery is the resting place of, among many others, Frédéric Chopin; Honoré de Balzac; Marcel Proust; actress Sarah Bernhardt; painters Pissarro, Seuret, Modigliani; 12th century lovers Peter Abelard and Héloïse d’Argenteuil; Oscar Wilde; and 1960s Doors front man Jim Morrison. It is the most visited graveyard in the world.u
      50. Outside of Stonehenge, France’s Carnac (in Brittany) has the world’s greatest concentration of megalithic sites. Predating Stonehenge by around 100 years, there are over 3,000 upright stones, most about thigh-high, dating from 5000–3500 B.C.u
      51. Louis XVI’s attempt to escape from Paris in 1791 ended at Sainte-Menehould, on the northwestern coast of France, when the soon-to-be beheaded monarch and Marie Antoinette were recognized by the postmaster, thanks to the king’s portrait painted on a bank note.u
      52. Natzweiler-Struthof, located 31 miles (50 km) southwest of Strasbourg, was the only concentration camp established by the Nazis on French soil.u
      53. Verdun, France, had a significant American military presence from the end of World War II until Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO’s integrated military command in 1966. In Cité Kennedy, a neighborhood 1.23 miles (2 km) east of the center that once housed American military families, the streets still bear names such as Av. d’Atlanta, Av. de Florida, Av. de Georgia, and Impasse de Louisiane.u
      54. In 1971, the astronauts of NASA’s Apollo 15 moon mission named one of the lunar craters they found “St. George,” in honor of the bottle of Nuits St. George consumed in Jules Verne’s science fiction epic From the Earth to the Moon (1865).u
      55. The moldy blue-green veins running through Roquefort cheese are, in fact, the seeds of microscopic mushrooms picked in the caves at Roquefort, France, then cultivated on leavened bread.u
      56. Chamonix’s Aiguille du Midi cable car climbs from the valley floor to a terrace beneath the Aiguille at 12,392 feet (3,777 m) in just 20 minutes. Swung into action in 1955, the Aiguille du Midi is known as Europe’s highest and scariest cable car ride.u
      57. A favorite of King Louis XV, Vacherin Mont d’Or is the only French cheese to be eaten with a spoon. Made only between August 15 and March 15, it derives its unique nutty taste from the spruce bark in which it is wrapped. Only 11 factories in the French Jura region are licensed to produce it.u
      58. The Viaduc de Millau, designed by British Architect Sir Norman Foster, carried a massive 4.43 million vehicles in 2005, its first year of operation. Rising to 1,125 feet (343 m) above the valley bottom, it ranks among the tallest road bridges in the world.u
      59. An unknown during his lifetime, Dutch Master Vincent Van Gogh painted most of his masterpieces in France (in the southern city of Arles and in Auvers-sur-Oise outside of Paris). On June 27, 1890, Van Gogh shot himself and died two days later at the age of 33. Less than a decade later, his talent would start to achieve worldwide recognition with paintings such as Starry Night and The Red Vines.u
      60. Europe’s largest canyon, the plunging Gorges du Verdon—also known as the Grand Canyon of Verdon—slices a 16-mile (25-km) swathe through Provence’s limestone plateau.u
      61. World War II’s D-Day landings, code named Operation Overlord, were the largest military operation in history. On the morning of June 6, 1944, 135,000 Allied troops, in an armada of over 6,000 boats, stormed ashore along 50 miles (80 km) of beaches north of Bayeux, code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. The landings on D-Day led to the Battle of Normandy, which ultimately led to the liberation of Europe from Nazi occupation.u
      62. Wine has been produced in France since the time of the Romans, and the Clos des Vignes du Maynes, on the outskirts of the Burgundian town of Cruzille, claims to be the oldest wine domaine in France. The word Maynes is dialect for “monk,” and the Maynes labels all bear the cherished crossed-key symbols of the Cluny abbots.u
      63. France’s national epic, Le Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland), was written in England at the dawn of the 12th century and discovered in its most complete form in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. It tells of the Battle of Roncevaux in A.D. 778. It is the oldest surviving work of French literature.b
      64. Gerbert d’Aurillac, a local shepherd from the Massif Central town of Aurillac, became the first French pope, Sylvester II, in A.D. 999. He introduced Arabic numerals to Western Europe.b
      65. Almost called the atome (atom), rather than the bikini, the scanty two-piece bathing suit was the 1946 creation of Cannes fashion designer Jacques Heim and French automotive engineer Louis Réard.u
      66. France was the fourth country to acquire atomic and nuclear weapons, testing its first A-bomb in the Algerian Sahara in 1960.n
      67. Coco Chanel, née Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, was the most successful female fashion design of the 1920s. She is the only French fashion designer listed in 1999’s TimeMagazine’s Most Influential People of the 20th century and is best known for her invention of the Little Black Dress, her Chanel No. 5 perfume, and her iconic company logo based on her initials.n
      68. La Comédie-Française (French Comedy) is the oldest professional national theater company in France, based since 1790 in a theatre originally built by Victor Louis, adjacent to the Palais Royal.n
      69. The oldest and, in theory, the most prestigious monolingual French dictionary is theDictionnaire de l’Academié française, first published in the 17th century, when the academy was founded as the official “guardian of the language.” The 9th edition has been appearing volume by volume since 1986, but it has not yet been completed.n
      70. The French created their own form of the Internet called the Minitel (or Minitel telematics system) in the 1980s, which made France a world leader in household telematics but ironically slowed France’s eventual acceptance of the Internet.n
      71. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) is a voluntary association founded by a group of French physicians in 1971 to provide medical assistance in international emergencies. It is now an important international aid agency and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.n
      72. Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin is considered the Father of the modern Olympic Games. His initiatives led to the creation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the organization of the first modern games in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Paris hosted the summer Olympics in 1900 and 1924. France also hosted the first winter Olympic Games at Chamonix in 1924 and again at Grenoble (1968) and Albertville (1988).n
      73. Cross-dressing French secret agent Charles Genevieve d’Eon de Beaumont (1728-1810) was born in the town of Tonnerre and spent part of his life in England, where he wore the latest women’s fashions and spied for Louis XV. The local high school, Lycée de Chevalier d’Eon in Tonnerre, is named after him today.t
      74. Polish-born French physicist Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the first female professor at the Sorbonne. She made major discoveries in radioactivity and won two Nobel Prizes: the first in Physics (1903) with her husband Pierre Curie, the second in Chemistry (1911) after his death. She is the only woman entombed in the domed Panthéon, alongside such French legends as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, and Jean Moulin.n
      75. French postage stamps were introduced in 1849 with the first definitive stamp showing Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture.n
      76. Despite his great military conquests, Napoleon Bonaparte—who came from the town of Ajaccio on the French territory of Corsica—is considered Corsica’s second most famous son. The first is Christopher Columbus, who was born in the town of Calvi, which was under Genoese control at the time. France bought the island outright in 1768.h
      77. Frenchman Ferdinand de Lesseps is famous for engineering the Suez and Panama Canals.p
      78. For two weeks every May, the city of Cannes, France, hosts the world’s most important film festival.t
      79. Important Dates b,j,k,s,t,v
        Date Events
        30,000 B.C. Cave paintings found in the Vézêre Valley (Dordogne) trace back to Cro-Magnon man.
        1500-500 The Celtic Parisii tribe sets up camp on the Île de la Cité and name the settlement Lutetia (Lutèce).
        55-52 Julius Caesar launches his invasion of Britain from the Côte d’Opale in northern France; Gauls defeat the Romans at Gergovia.
        A.D. 455-470 The Franks invade and kick out the Romans; Alsace is overrun by the Allemanii (Germans).
        496 Clovis coverts to Christianity and is crowned the first French king near Saint Remy at Reims.
        600 The country is named France after the conquering Franks.
        732 Charles Martel defeats the Moors in Poitiers and stems the Muslim advance into Europe.
        768-814 Charlemagne rebuilds the Roman Empire and is crowned as the first Holy Roman Emperor.
        987 Five centuries of Merovingian and Carolingian rule end with the crowning of Hugh Capet and the Capetian dynasty is born.
        1066 The Duke of Normandy, William the Conqueror, and his Norman forces invade and occupy England.
        1306 The Holy See moves from Rome to Avignon in southern France; the Popes stay in southern France until 1377.
        1431 Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) is burned at the stake for heresy.
        1515 Louis I moves the royal court to the Loire Valley, where the first châteaux and royal hunting lodges are built.
        1539 The Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts makes French the official language of all legal documents.
        1598 Henri IV gives Protestants (Huguenots) freedom to practice their religion with the Edict of Nantes.
        1624-43 Louis XIII rules; Cardinal de Richelieu is his chief minister.
        1643 Louis XIV accedes to the throne; Cardinal Mazarin is his chief minister; Louis XIV moves the royal court to Paris and builds Versailles.
        1661-1715 The reign of Louis XIV.
        1667-82 Construction completed on the Canal du Midi, which joins the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
        1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
        1768 Genoa cedes Corsica to France.
        1775 Public coaches are permitted to use staging posts.
        1786 August 8th marks the first recorded ascent of Mont Blanc.
        1789 The Bastille falls on July 14th; feudal rights and privileges are abolished in August; revolution effects a national sale of Church property in November.
        1790 On January 15th, France is divided into 83 départements. Abbé Henri Grégoire’s “Report on the Necessity and Means of Exterminating Patois and Universalizing the French language” is published.
        1791 Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are arrested in Sainte-Menehould. In August, Jews are granted full citizenship.
        1793 Louis XVI is beheaded on January 21st. Marie Antoinette is executed on October 16th.
        1794 Robespierre is executed on July 28th.
        1795-1799 Reign of the Directoire.
        1799 On November 9, Napoleon achieves his coup d’état and establishes himself as First Consul of France.
        1801 First official census taken of the population of France.
        1804 Napoleon is crowned as Emperor.
        1814 Napoleon abdicates for the first time; monarchy is temporarily restored.
        1815 June 18th, Napoleon is defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.
        1828 On October 1st, the first railway in France from Saint-Étienne to Andrézieux begins. It opens to passengers in 1832, and horses are replaced by steam in 1844.
        1833 Guizet’s education law enacted, which maintains each commune (settlement) of 500 inhabitants or more must maintain an elementary school for boys (girls from 1836).
        1841 First complete geological map of France is completed.
        1848 February revolution occurs. Universal male suffrage is announced.
        1851 On December 2nd, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (Emperor Napoleon III) seizes control of France by coup d’état.
        1856 Mediterranean Sea is joined to the Atlantic by the Canal de Garonne.
        1858 The Virgin Mary appears to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes.
        1870 The Ligue du Midi is founded in Marseille. Proclamation of the Third Republic.
        1881-82 Jules Ferry Law is enacted, which gives free, compulsory, secular education for boys and girls from 6 to 13 years of age.
        1889 Universal Exhibition is held, along with the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower.
        1893 On January 13th, Zola publishes letter “J’accuse!” on the Dreyfus Affair.
        1900 On July 19th, the first Metro line in Paris opens.
        1903 From July 1st through 19th, the First Tour de France bicycle race (six stages, 1,518 miles) takes place.
        1909 Holy See officially orders the beatification of Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc).
        1914 On August 1st, France orders general mobilization of troops into World War I.
        1919 Treaty of Versailles signed; Germany officially surrenders.
        1940 Nazi Regime occupies France. Armistice is signed on June 17th.
        1940-44 The Vichy Regime is established on July 10, 1940, led by Marshal Petain.
        1944 French women are granted the right to vote.
        1945 Germany surrenders to Allied Forces at 2:41 a.m. on May 7th.
        1946 Fourth Republic declared.
        1955-62 Algerian War is fought.
        1957 Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community.
        1958 Fifth Republic declared.
        1962 Algerian independence proclaimed.
        1966 France leaves NATO’s structure.
        1986 Creation of the European Union.
        1992 France signs Maastricht Treaty on European Union
        1995 France attracts international condemnation by conducting a series of nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean.
        2001 Compulsory military service abolished.
        2002 The Euro replaces the Franc, which was first minted 1360.
        2005 France is selected to host the world’s first nuclear fusion reactor at Cadarache, near Marseille.
        2007 Nicolas Sarkozy is inaugurated as President and fulfills his promise to fill half his cabinet positions with women and brings in people from across the political divide.
        2011 Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Chairman of the International Monetary Fund and a strong candidate for president, is arrested in New York City on sexual assault charges.
        2012 Socialist François Hollande is elected president. France detains the last leader of the Basque military separatist group ETA.
        2014 Anne Hidalgo is elected as first female mayor of Paris.

— Posted June 5, 2014


a Applin, Richard and Joseph Montchamp. 2003. Dictionary of Contemporary France. Chicago IL: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.

b Ardagh, John. 1985. The Penguin Guide to France. New York, NY: Viking Penguin.

c Baycroft, Timothy. 2008. France (Inventing the Nation). London, UK: Hodder Education.

d Crompton, Louis. 2003. Homosexuality and Civilization. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

e Davies, Lizzie. “French Woman Marries Dead Partner.” The Guardian. November 17, 2009. Accessed June 10, 2014.

f Durex Corporation. 2003. “Durex Global Sex Survey.” Accessed June 10, 2014.

g Fenwick, Hubert. 1975. Châteaux of France. London, UK: Robert Hale & Co.

h “France.” Online Etmology Dictionary. March 2014. Accessed March 17, 2014.

i France. 2012. Eyewitness Travel. New York, NY: DK Publishing.

j “France” (The World Factbook). Central Intelligence Agency. Updated March 6, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2014.

k “France’s Top Ten X-Rated Place Names.” The Local: France Edition. June 10, 2014. Accessed June 10, 2014.

l Hebden, Nicole. “Paris Has Only One Stop Sign: Police.” The Local: French Edition. October 4, 2012. Accessed June 10, 2014.

m “History.” Updated 2014. Accessed June 10, 2014.

n Kelly, Michael. 2001. French Culture and Society: The Essentials. London, UK: Arnold Publishers.

o Koerner, Brendan. “Is French Toast Really French?” September 16, 2003. Accessed June 10, 2014.

p Pybus, Victoria. 1998. Live and Work in France. 3rd ed. Oxford, UK: Vacation Work.

q Reid, Tim. “Jean Dujardin wins Best Actor Oscar for ‘The Artist’.” February 27, 2012.

r Renick, Oliver. “France, U.S. Have Highest Rates of Depression in the World, Study Suggests.” July 25, 2011. Bloomberg News. Accessed June 10, 2014.

s Robb, Graham. 2007. The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War. New York, NY: W.W. Norton and Company.

t Room, Adrian. 2004. Placenames of France. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company.

u Williams, Nicola. 2007. Lonely Planet: France. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet Publications.

v Williams, Vanessa. “Socialist Candidate Is Elected First Female Mayor of Paris.” The Washington Post. March 30, 2014. Accessed April 1, 2014.

Welcome to our Blog

Welcome to our Blog.  We recently bought a property in France, in the Correze region, and will be spending the next year or so renovating our house and barns. We will share some of the excitement, problems and pleasures with you in this blog. As we also run a furniture and interiors shop ‘’ we thought it was only fitting that we should start one that focused on French style and would allow us to share items we found during our trips around French brocante and vide-greniers (sales and attic clearances).  At The French Barn was born and you have already found it, so do keep visiting to see what’s new in our house and in our shop See you soon, Clive and Fran.

August 2016

The house just after renovation has started.

The inspiration for our shop

The inspiration for our shop