Monday, 10 August 2009

Tombées du Camion, Paris

Image from

I am quite tortured sometimes. Not by my work right now, but by my yearnings for various things. It makes me feel materialistic, greedy, fickle; and I hate materialism. But I like stuff: blue and white china, vintage tins and little boxes, scary-looking old toys that don't really work, chemists' bottles, bowls, jugs, chairs, woollen blankets, stripy bedlinen, more shoes, glass domes, vintage clocks... the list goes on. My house is not big enough for all the stuff I would like to fill it with.

I end up buying nothing, even if we walk into a shop full of the most gorgeous things. We went into one such place in Southwold last weekend. I picked up lovely old linens, a pretty ointment tin, a vintage sign - but did I buy any of them? Not I! I never do - I don't want a cluttered house and I hate wasting money on things I don't need. But I just get this nagging feeling sometimes when I wave goodbye to whatever has caught my eye that maybe I'm going to spend my whole life being thrifty and denying my whims and end up a bitter old hag with an empty house and nothing around me that I really like. Maybe if I just tossed those horrid chairs into the tip and forced myself to find ones I really did like, my life would somehow be fuller and much more charming. I would sit my guests on my lovely new (old) chairs without wincing at the sight of them! B****cks?!? I can't decide.

All this brings me to the point of this post. When we were in Paris in March this year, I came across the most amazing shop near Montmartre. It was freezing cold and I'd been outdoors all day - I was walking alone around Paris, getting to know the city above ground, marching between arrondissements with an explorer's fervour. So I was striding down Rue Joseph de Maistre towards the hilltop of Montmartre in order to see the city spread below in the spring sunshine when I passed the most curious shop display. I was instantly drawn to it when I spotted a crate of old chemists' glassware on its doorstep. I peeked in through the door and at first thought it was some kind of weird doll boutique or a goth-like jewellery store, but I went in despite myself.

Words cannot describe this place. It is at turns magical, creepy, dark, beautiful, both bright and sombre - it is a tiny shop crammed with weird vintage dolls' heads, 1970s masks, wooden toys, vintage ephemera and cards of buttons. There are weird things to make jewellery from, vintage sewing spools, little tins and paper fish. It is delightful, curious and quite bewitching. I could have spent hours in there (drooling a little), only it's so small that they would probably think I was mad. The shop is called Tombées du Camion, at no. 17 Rue Joseph de Maistre - check out their beautiful website here, where you can order stuff via e-mail. I wanted to buy the most lovely little wooden pull-along toy from the 1940s for €28 which was shaped like a little bird, with most of the paint worn off. They had at least a dozen of them ferretted away underneath another display. I didn't buy one and my heart aches a little bit for them now.

There is a set of photographs here on Flickr (where some of the images above are taken from - the others are from their official site).

Oh yeah, and if you happen to be in that area and want some great salad, head for Le Relais Gascon (surprisingly for Montmartre, this place is full of Parisians, not tourists), just down the road from here. You get the most enormous bowls of salad there topped with to-die-for fried potato slices smothered in garlic and parsley. The fact that you end up stinking of garlic for the whole night (garlic always repeats on me and wakes me up :-)!) is NOT a valid reason for not eating there. But don't bother with anything but the salad.

I've been away in London today seeing friends, and have just this evening been called away to London again tomorrow to work on a little job that I haven't (yet) got a clue about :-) Whoop! So I'll be back hopefully on Wednesday.


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  2. Hello Karen - I like your blog! I work in the film industry as a decorator, so I actually DO buy a lot of things. every time I move house I sell a bunch of things and then I start again... I can recommend this, as you get a chance to see if you actually want to live with an object. have a look at bits of my collection:

  3. Hi Lily - thanks for your comment! I just had a look at your lovely blog - your finds are truly amazing.

    And that sounds like the PERFECT junk collector's attitude. You're right. I should try it. I spend far too much time walking sadly away from things.

  4. oh, and what a wonderful job you have. Sounds like great fun!