Sunday, May 15, 2011

From shabby chic to the French Riviera in one day

Les Boys are off to their annual YMCA Adventure Guide camp-out for the weekend.  They have been building memories for the last five years with their friends (dads and sons, and dads and daughters pairs.) This year, they did things in style and flew to Orcas Island, one of Washington’s San Juan islands. I can’t imagine how much fun the gang had, sitting in the small float plane, planning an evening cook-out on the beach, games in the forest, (including a spin on the giant swing,) a skit in front of the whole camp on Saturday evening. Sleeping on the beach in door-free cabins in the chilly Northwest spring weather is only part of the fun.

This is what les Boys must have seen from the airplane  

What’s a poor girl to do in an empty house? The weather looked decent on Saturday morning when I woke up. I decided to go on a field trip. A student of mine, Kimhad mentioned on her blog that she was planning to attend a vintage flea market in Snohomish, WA. Kim loves old things, and as she travels in the area in search of treasures, she takes amazing photos of her favorite finds. I am a firm believer teachers learn from their students, and I decided to follow her lead.

Besides, Snohomish, WA is just a 30-minute drive away from my house. I know next to nothing about local flea markets alors, pourquoi pas? At 9:00am sharp, ignoring the pleading look of Hailey the yellow dog who had hoped for a morning walk, I took off.

It is unusual for me to drive inland. People who do this on weekends around here are usually headed for the ski slopes, one hour’s drive away. The ski season is over so traffic was light on Highway 9 as I crossed the Snohomish county line.  It is not what one would call a scenic drive. Flat land. Fields. Farms. Small towns that seem to exist only on the map or on a road sign. Nurseries. Gas stations. Espresso stands. A lot of espresso stands. I would not be surprised to find out the Northwest is the U.S.’s espresso stand capital (and if it was, they would probably call it “the World’s espresso stand Capital.”)  I stopped counting at 10. You might say locals have an addiction to caffeine. Starbucks was born in Seattle after all. It’s an understandable addiction. One needs caffeine if embarking daily on such uneventful drives in (predictably) drab weather. 

Snohomish area captured by a local artist (minus espresso stands)

Finally, I saw the “Welcome to Snohomish” sign, crossed the bridge over the Snohomish river, and looked for the flea market building. There was a $5 admission charge to visit the “ 2nd Saturdayz Market.”

I realize this is a traveling show and they have to rent the building, but how do you justify paying $5 to look at old things that you are expecting to buy? When in Rome, do as the locals do. I went in. It was still early and there weren’t a lot of people there. I saw hundreds of vintage objects, in the shabby chic style, a trend made popular by the likes of English-born Rachel Ashwell. Shabby meets chic. What a concept. Junk from yesteryear [shabby], tweaked and improved by the artist with soft, feminine colors and materials,  antique pinks, linen, flowers, ribbons and lace [chic]. It’s bohemian, nostalgic, different, and it is all très mignon (cute). The artist ladies all look mignonnes too, sporting hand-made jewelry, feminine vintage clothes (layers, lots of layers, often topped by a frilly apron), quirky accessories. Everyone was having a good time, chatting and admiring each other’s work. I did not buy anything (I don’t do aprons, and my hair is too short to put vintage silk flowers in it) but I enjoyed my morning visit to the Shabby Chic world.

A perfect gift for a saloon owner or
for a former Moulin Rouge dancer?

There is more to Snohomish, WA than flea markets but truth be told, Snohomish is often referred to as "the Antique Capital of the Northwest." As you walk downtown, on or around 1st street, you will find beaucoup d'antique stores and galleries. There are old fashioned ones, selling vintage housewares and furniture from the early to mid 20th century. Last year, Junior and Le Husband had a fabulous afternoon looking for old cameras and came home with treasures (the non-functioning, rusty type.) Said treasures have been collecting dust in le Den since.

There are also trendy boutiques, catering to the shabby chic crowd, gardeners, city folk in search of a country vibe, and tourists of course. Weekends get busy in Snohomish, and the upcoming Antique and Arts Faire will likely attract thousands of visitors.

I must confess I have a favorite address downtown. It is a small boutique named JoyWorks, on 1st street. Going inside is like embarking on a treasure hunt. On the main floor, customers peruse the cramped but well-stocked clothing section organized by color, as they look for the perfect accessory, pair of shoes, handbag, scarf, hat. It feels like digging through your best friend’s closet. This time, I found a scarf, a white T-shirt with a small lace trim, and a summer top “Made in Paris.” – What were the odds, n’est-ce-pas? All affordably priced, bien sûr.

Trying on the new scarf

Downstairs is home decor and gift Heaven. Everything is tastefully arranged by theme, and the owner makes the most of the space. There is something for everyone. Illustration:

A display for gardeners

A display for poulet (chicken) lovers

A display for dog lovers

More dogs, just because...

My favorite section. Quelle surprise!

I would not dream to go to Snohomish and skip my visit to JoyWorks. It is an unabashedly cheerful and entertaining little place. Give it a try next time.

Let's step outside in the street. Snohomish offers more than shopping. Several restaurants support local farms and serve tasty, organic food. I savored a fresh and delicious lunch chez Grilla Bites, the all-organic café. Other places offer more traditional fare, such as the Oxford Saloon, established in 1910, at 913 1st street.

Later on, I was not surprised to find a trendy cupcake place, Simply Sweet Cupcakes

Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will make the most of the Snohomish river trail where pedestrians, cyclists and dogs coexist peacefully. When the sun came out in the afternoon, I could not resist going down a few steps to take a short walk there, a cappuccino in hand (let’s not mention this to the yellow dog, ok?)

Finally, visitors interested in old places will focus on the historical district. Snohomish is listed both on the state and national registries of Historic places. The 1960s and 1970s were challenging times for the town, and over the next twenty years, it was developed for tourism. Old houses in the Queen Anne style (built in the late 1890s), were restored and are showcased in a popular annual Historic Home tour run by the Snohomish Historical Society .

Allen House, 1886

After a few hours spent exploring Snohomish and its pedestrian-friendly downtown I walked back to my car. [Note to Woodinville: Watch and learn. Pedestrian-friendly town. Quality boutiques. Attractive restaurant selection.]

Au revoir, lively Snohomish!

Tonks (le Car) and I headed back home in the sun and I had a thought for les Boys who (I hoped) were living wild and most excellent adventures in the woods on Orcas Island.

I was on a mission because les Girls were coming chez moi for a movie night around 6:00pm and I still had to get things ready for the evening. Finally, dinner was cooked (Mediterranean pasta gratin and oven-baked berries for dessert); wine was chilled; movies were pre-selected.

After my guests arrived, the sun had been replaced by ominous grey skies and chillier temperatures. I learned a long time ago that Seattle does not do spring very well. This year, it seems Seattle does not do spring at all. By 8:00pm, before the movie started, the deck looked like this:

We watched a classic: To Catch a Thief. Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Alfred Hitchcock. The glorious Côte d’Azur (a.k.a. the French Riviera.) Les Girls kept Ooohh-ing and Ahhh-ing about Grace Kelly’s outfits during the movie. Forget Shabby Chic. Grace was one elegant lady. 

Girlfriends, good food and wine, sunny weather French Riviera style, and the ultimate romantic caper: A perfect way to wrap up the day.

A bientôt.

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  1. What a gorgeous day you had for exploring Snohomish! It is such a cute town with fabulous old homes. I found a couple of props at the sale and at a couple of shops in town.
    A Mercredi!

  2. Delightful blog, I thoroughly enjoyed your day in Snohomish. I must do it also and be sure to go to JoyWorks.

  3. Kim-- So happy you found treasures in Snohomish (I had no doubt you would ;-)
    Cherie--- Merci! Joyworks is a wonderful little place, in a wonderful little town. It's worth driving inland sometimes ;-)

  4. I love Snohomish I always find treasures there. Great blog, oh btw we counted the coffee shops just in Woodinville one time (about 10 ears ago) and there were 13!!!! Crazy Seattlites!!!

  5. Merci Kim. It's a miracle these espresso stands make any money at all, being so close to each other!

  6. I loved your day in Snohomish, dear French Girl! It made me want to pack the car and go right away. JoyWorks will be first on my list. I am ashamed to say I have never set foot there yet, I only did "Provence Shabby" so far, so now, I get to do Snohomish too!!!
    If you look out the window just now, there is a ray of hope for what's left of our Spring. Vite, vite...

  7. Francoise, "Provence shabby" sounds really good too. Ah, the flea markets you must enjoy over there, near your Provencal village [insert sigh]

  8. What a great story! I think incorporating all of the photos is an excellent touch! Your blog is wonderful. Keep it up!


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