Mr French and I do not have curtains in our living room. He finds this terribly odd, but it does not bother me one bit. We look out over a garden, the building across the street is full of nuns and with kids in the house we keep the private moments, private.
His mother also finds this incredibly odd. But not too odd, because the last time she came to visit she loved being waited on hand and foot by lil’ ol’ moi so very much that she stopped taking her medication and got ill just so that she could stay longer in my lap of luxury. Regardless, she now refuses to ever come visit again, unless we get curtains. Which strikes me as a very good argument for living without them.
But Mr French wants curtains and he has vetoed the lovely, linen IKEA ones I have had for the last 20 years, so I head to one of my favorite places in Paris, the Marché St Pierre at the foot of the Sacre Coeur Basilica.
I arrived on a rain day, which provided a bit of atmosphere as I made my way up the narrow, meandering cobbled streets. Umbrellas dotted the scene as I hopped around, avoiding murky puddles. The Marché isn’t really a marché at all, but a store on 4 or 5 floors that has been selling just about every kind of fabric you can image since 1920.
The magasin draws one of the most eclectic crowds you can imagine; African ladies in their brightly patterned batiks (which, in an odd twist of history, traditionally come from Amsterdam) sift through bargain bins elbow to elbow with funky clad fashion design students. Bourgeois women are there for home furnishing, or school projects standing in line behind men in suits. We’re all there for fabric and it feels like you’ve entered an exclusive private club when you enter the neon-lit, dusky space. Social barriers melt away as strangers start talking, then joking with one another, the entire exchange made possible by a mutual appreciation for fabric. And while it feels exclusive, the prices are anything but, this being the best place to come for affordable fabrics.
The store drew other fabrics shops to the area. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, Reine across the street most certainly will. Almost all the other, smaller shops have fold with the arrival of cheap foreign fashion and they have been replaced by costume shops selling some great fashions for the local trade; hookers and show girls and just maybe bourgeois Moms who are in the area looking for curtain fabric and decide that this may be fun excuse to send the kids away for the weekend and to actually need those curtains after all.