Posts tagged: Belgium
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
Just off the Grand Place and not far from the iconic Brussels “Manneken-Pis” (little man, peeing) fountain, the Hotel Amigo sits tucked into the corner of Rue de la Violette. And just a block or two up the Rue de la Violette, is one of my favorite treasure hunting spots.
Episode (one of seven sister stores in Europe) is a long, narrow shop filled with second-hand clothing, big bins of vintage scarves, purses, accessories and luggage. The music is loud and the clientele tends to be young and academic. And every time I’m there I find something wonderful.
On my last trip to Brussels I had a couple of hours to myself and set out immediately up the hill to shop. After a few minutes I decided that while the people-watching was fun, I wouldn’t be bringing home anything fantastic this time. I poked around in the bin of scarves but everything seemed to be polyester, not the vintage silk I’d found in the past. I’d scored a beautiful worn leather satchel last time but this time the luggage was all standard roll-aboard bags. Nothing I couldn’t leave without.
Finally, turning to leave, I stopped to take one last look at a rack near the door. There were so many items squeezed onto the rack it was difficult to get a good look at anything one in particular, but something caught my eye. It was a short jacket in a fine, vibrant, orange wool and I tugged and pulled and finally got it out of the crush of garments on the rack.
As soon as I pulled it out, I laughed. I wouldn’t be going home empty-handed. I had my treasure.
The short, aviator-style jacket was mint-condition vintage Versace, in a color that has become trendy again. Originally, it was probably part of a suit, but wearing both pieces would be a bit too orangy for me. The jacket was my size and, at 25 Euro, it was a still deal.
Back in my hotel room, I folded it into one of the compression bags I always carry in my luggage to help me squeeze in “just one more thing” and now it’s hanging in my closet.
I haven’t worn the jacket yet, but with three daughters who shop my closet whenever they’re looking for something a bit different, I know it will have its day on the town sooner or later.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
When it is time to dress the table for dinner I open the old oak armoire that serves as my linen and china closet and take out the one of the bundles of napkins, table runners and tablecloths I've collected from all over the world.
Folded and tied with ribbon and stacked in the armoire, the old textiles are more than just pieces of cloth to cover the table or place under the centerpiece. The natural textures and hues, from snowy whilte to soft vanilla to almost burlap-brown, are pleasing to the eye and to the touch. A few pieces are monogrammed, stitched with the initials of the woman who owned them first. Some are sewn with fine stitches and edged in delicate lace. Others are more crudely made, finished with heavy crochet. Some are not decorated at all, simply hemmed lengths of fabric.
Before I select a piece I run my fingers over the folds and, in my mind, draw a map of the world, connecting one place to another with a trail of purchases. The short piece of very old linen I found in a bin in a Paris shop. The table runner picked up for a song in Biloxi, Mississippi. The woven second-hand souvenirs of trips to Belgium and Germany. The linen tea towel from a thift store in San Antonio. The Irish linen napkins purchased from an antiques shop in Birmingham, Alabama
These fabrics bring out the hausfrau in me. If the tulips dust them with pollen, or the wine spills or coffee cups leave rings, I shrug. These small sins almost always disappear in the wash. And on the first hot day of summer I soak them in hot water and hang them out to dry and bleach in the sun before bundling them again, tying each stack with a length of white ribbon.
I am not naturally tidy. I have to work at it. When I open the cabinet I almost always find a jumble of china and crystal and odds and ends that weren't put away properly. Perhaps it is an indication of how much I love these old, worn fabrics, but I take the time and enjoy the ritual of folding and stacking them for the next use. It gives me the opportunity to admire the handiwork of another woman, the beauty of natural things. And each piece reminds me of the place it was discovered and tucked into my suitcase before coming home with me.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance journalist based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Home Planet , Treasure Hunting and CAMera: Travel and Photo blogs, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country.
CAM is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
We all have our own way of traveling. Some want to hop on a bus and then hop off at the next big attraction. Others like to explore on their own. Some prefer to watch the world at every new place from the comfort of a sidewalk cafe, cappuccino on the table in front of them.
I go for all of the above. But one way I visit any new place is to try to keep one eye open for a secondhand store. A place the locals go for odds and ends. And it always surprises me how often those quirky little places are right in the middle of things.
I was just in Belgium, spending a few days in Brussels, and one afternoon as I was making my way back to the hotel after having walked through the Gallery and across the Grand-Place, I noticed a little shop at the end of one of the narrow streets. It was full of students and young adults.
I walked in and discovered it was a vintage clothing store. There were the usual racks of 70s sweaters and glittery evening gowns but I spotted several wool jackets hanging near the front door. They were vintage military jackets made of heavy wool and they were beautifully tailored, nipped in at the waist and subtly ornamented with red-trimmed epaulets, looking more like a designer piece than surplus. I tried one on and it fit as though it had been made for me. Sold.
At the back of the store there was a big pile of luggage, duffles and carry-on bags. Just what a student would need to get home after a long semester. Most were vinyl or fabric, but tucked under a big plaid bag I could see the edge of what turned out to be a buttery leather satchel. I pulled it out and took a closer look. It had obviously been used but it was in good condition. There were a few marks but no scratches or tears. There was a luggage tag and in it was the name and address of the physician who’d carried it. Sold again.
Treasure hunters know that there is a vibe that goes out when you find something really good. Suddenly, people were coming over to look over my shoulder, admiring the bag. A few followed me, waiting to see if I would put it down, ready to grab it if I did.
My last find was a beautiful silk scarf, my favorite travel souvenir. I have dozens of them and wear one every day.
I paid for my finds, 60 euros for a vintage wool jacket, gorgeous leather satchel and beautiful silk scarf, and walked back to the hotel.
I filled the satchel with all the Belgian chocolate I was bringing home to my family and carried it aboard each plane. It was heavier and not as easy to maneuver as my usual Swiss Gear rolling bag, but it had a certain style. And every time I look at it I’ll be reminded of one happy hour in a funky little shop in a grand old European city.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review and is a contributing editor at Spokane Metro Magazine. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org