French Living 2: Collections and Recollections

my first piece of Quimper
Since I can not be in France right now, I have been looking at some of my French purchases and wondering how I might use them more often. In 1987, I made my first extended visit to France. I had
just separated from my first husband and was working in a small public library where one of my jobs was to sort mail and to affix suitable posters to a noticeboard.

My attention was instantly caught by a scene of sunflowers and market umbrellas. Remember that this was a time when French décor items were not everywhere and as the mother of an 11 year-old, I certainly did not own such things! I had just received a cash settlement and I decided at that moment to enrol in French classes in the little village of Montaigut-le-Blanc in the Auvergne.

The centre on Montaigut was owned by an artist, Paul Deggan and his French wife, Babette, who spent summers in France and who lived in North Vancouver in the winter. You can read about the Deggans and how they restored houses in Paul's book. The experience was one that altered my life. I became a woman who could decide to travel alone and who became increasingly comfortable in la belle France. Madame Là-Bas definitely has Auvergnant origins!

side plates from my first adventure
When I left Montaigut, I spent some time in Paris and in a window, I saw the Quimper pattern for the first time. I was in love! I purchased, at what seemed to me, great expense, the fish platter and four side plates. They are signed and painted by hand. I carried the china back to Canada and it arrived in one piece. How lucky is that!

condiment dish

I do not have a lot of pieces of Quimper but each piece tells a story of a place or an adventure. Sometimes, when I am travelling and find a brocant, I look for a hidden treasure. Quimper does not seem popular in the North-West but I have found a piece of two.

I also found The Quimper Inn, my favourite bed and breakfast in Port Townsend, Washington. Ron and Sue, who own the Inn are also francophiles and Quimper collectors. Staying at the Inn is like visiting with friends.

Two years ago, when I was in Paris, there was a vide-grenier (empty your attic) sale near my apartment. Voilà, the condiment dish. Le monsieur wrapped it for me and it arrived home safely to join the others.

With the Internet, I could order other pieces of Quimper but I will not. My collection is not just a collection of dishes but a collection of memories and experiences. When I am an older lady, I might not be able to travel as much but I will always be able to look at my first pieces of Quimper and remember the inexperienced young woman stepping out alone for the first time!

in front of our door in Montaigut-le-Blanc


  1. I love collecting memories along with stuff. We like to pick up a piece of art or something useful from the places we visit - a ceramic plate from Mexico, a watercolour from Saltspring Island, a set of napkins from Provence - these things bring back memories just as your Quimper does. It's beautiful.

  2. Isn't it wonderful how a piece of art can evoke a feeling and a life experience? I have a couple of prints from Saltspring that I just love. The memories will be there forever.

  3. Madame I've seen those pieces of French crockery but I didn't know the name of them. They are lovely aren't they.

  4. I only know that they are painted be Henriot, an artist from Quimper in Britanny. I fell in love with the crockery at first sight.

  5. Madame, do you have any advice or information for a 60-ish woman who would like to improve her French by studying in France, perhaps for a month? How did you find your teachers? I'm guessing they are no longer teaching; but maybe I'm wrong? Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. For conversation, I really enjoyed Isabelle Dupond ( If you want more grammar, try l'Alliance française or the Catholic University de Paris. Both offer weekly programs.

  6. Even more connections! A transformative visit for me was one Paul and I made to the Auvergne, doing a walking circuit of 140 kms over a week, with French friends we'd "met" through correspondence. We visted them again last year, more than 20 years after than that earlier randonnée. . . .

  7. The Puy-de-Dôme region where we walked was rugged and very scenic. The post-master in Montaigut had made these rough maps of the area and we walked for hours every day. I have not been back but would love to visit again one day. There really are a lot of connections, aren't there?


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