The Story of My China Cupboard

At heart, I’m a minimalist. I crave empty rooms with tastefully chosen furniture, the perfect paintings, and golden accoutrements. I think it would be the height of luxury to live in a beautiful white box, but I’m not quite there in my life, yet. The urge is present in me, so it will inevitably happen, but that day is not today. I don’t think many people know that about me since I’m forever bemoaning not having everything I want. I mean, I’ve already titled my autobiography, All I Want Is All There Is (And Then Some), but that’s a story for a different time. Though I do have an insatiable longing and craving for possessions, I am very thoughtful about my purchases. The things I own have become a sort of highly-curated museum exhibit to my interests. (Lord, have I ever sounded more pompous? Of course I have; you remember those florid posts I wrote back when I was sitting pretty in five-star hotels around the world! I still reflect on my blog about my night at the Chateau Marmont — it was life changing!)

Anyway, even though I am particular about what I own, I do have my obsessive collections. Only a few, thankfully. I’m no hoarder: I remorselessly buy big, dusty books about Egyptological matters — I love them with all my heart, and I can never resist highly discounted clothing from nice stores. I’m like Mama June when it comes to clothes shopping. I don’t buy anything full price. But the main collection is dishes. Like most collectors, I can’t rightly recall where the passion began, but it quickly became a very important part of my person.

Now, I have three floor to ceiling cupboards stuffed to bursting with china from all around the world. It comes to me in a myriad variety of ways, and I adore every bit that earns a spot on my shelves. I say that someday I’ll publish a cookbook and the massive collection will be terribly useful when the photographs are being taken. But that’s just my excuse! I am coming to a point in my life, though, where I realize that I will be moving on at some point, and I can’t carry a mountain of china with me. No, that difficult day of rummaging through gold-rimmed butter pat plates, delicate Limoges porcelain, and antique espresso sets is coming up. I dread it.

I’ll always take my very favorite pieces along with me wherever I go in this world, but that collection will be a greatly diminished version of the monstrosity I’ve assembled. So, I have decided to preserve my collection forever in a collection of blog posts. Let’s go…

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Most visitors to Paris ignore the suburbs and they’re all so preoccupied with trying to be classy (when they fail to realize that class is something you are inherently born with) that they refuse to rummage through garbage. Honestly, I can sympathize, but I don’t consider myself the average tourist. I consider Paris my hometown, so I’m willing to do a few things. The last time I was in my beloved city, I stayed in a suburb called Clichy, which I absolutely adore. I’d happily live there. It’s fifteen minutes from town and it’s so much cheaper!

Anyway, my sister and I were walking home from the Métro one afternoon after meandering through the Louvre and eating all the food in the world, when my eye spotted a glint of gold. I’m tuned to these things. I saw this plate sitting under a speaker on top of a bin.

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I didn’t pick it up right away. It was broad daylight, after all! But the thought of the monogram haunted my thoughts, so I dashed back to the heap of garbage I had spotted it in before the trucks came by to collect it. Looking left and right, I clutched the worn, slightly chipped plate to my bosom and dashed back up to my apartment. It’s beautiful, one of my favorite pieces in the collection.

The back shows the place where it was from, and the next time I’m in Paris, I am going to go there and see what’s happening on the Rue de la Paix…if I have to do some window shopping…so be it. (Holla at the Funny Face reference.)

IMG_5051I have so many questions. Why was this gorgeous thing tossed out? What does the monogram stand for? Certainly not Marie Antoinette!

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Growing up, I was absolutely obsessed with the 70’s film from Disney entitled Bedknobs & Broomsticks. It was all about the sassiest, most liberated woman in the history of fictional sorcery. Well, at the time, I suppose. Looking back on Angela Lansbury as Eglantine Price, I am stunned by just how remarkable her character is. I mean, she single handedly took on the Nazis! She was an exceptional piece of work. The film has a fabulous musical number that takes place on Portobello Road in London.

And now before we keep going, let’s all reflect on the magical night that I met DAME ANGELA LANSBURY:

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I still get weepy thinking of that.

But back to my overstuffed cupboards. My family, though long removed from any United Kingdom familial connections, are devoted fans of the royal family. So, back in 2011 when Prince William and Catherine Middleton were getting married, my mother and I weren’t going to miss it, so we hopped on a plane and spent a few days in London, watching the festivities and having a gloriously good time. While we were there, we went to Portobello Road Market and I found this stunning bowl:

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That same day, I found some amazing Art Deco plates, but I passed them up, since I was going to Paris the next week and needed to save a bit of money. I regret that decision every day. But, every time I eat out of this bowl, I remember that lovely trip and can’t get that damned song out of my head.

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I have led a rather extraordinary life. Most people my age haven’t yachted down the Nile River, crawled through the Great Pyramid, chatted casually with famous ex-footballers, dined with voice actors in different nations, befriended German journalists, or have been treated like minor royalty in some of the nicest hotels in the world. But, for some reason, that’s the existence I have, and I shouldn’t complain too much. But, of course I shall. Complaining is one of my great hobbies.

My greatest passion in life is ancient Egypt. I haven’t the foggiest notion as to why, but the entire field grips me and fills me with a passion that I don’t feel for anything else but One Direction…well mainly Harry. Can you blame me? Look at him.

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Whatevs…haters gonna hate.

Anyway, Egypt is everything to me. I mean that with the entirety of my soul. If, when I die, I am not a fully trained Egyptologist working in some beautiful old museum, I will have lived my life incorrectly. I would happily dedicate every second of my existence to the study of crumbling temple walls and mummies. You’re supposed to find something you love, and it took me a considerable amount of searching, but I did find it.

[These plates are making me wax on in an autobiographical fashion that I never expected. Maybe my eventual autobiography will be a coffee table book with luxurious prints of my china and stories that go along with them. I rather like that idea.]

So, last year, I was blessed with the chance to go to Egypt, and I took it. I had the best time meeting a reincarnated Atlantean priestess, riding camels through the desert, celebrating Ramadan, wandering through Hatshepsut’s temple with my Egyptologist friends, chatting with the expat community in Luxor, and falling madly in love with the country and all its madness. When I was in Luxor, I stayed in the Winter Palace, one of the most famous hotels in the world. Everybody has stayed there. EVERYBODY. Movie stars and kings and billionaires and me. It was a triumph for my bragging rights.

I ordered delicious room service on the regular, and I had to have one of the plates:

IMG_5054So, I put hundreds of Egyptian pounds on my tray to cover the cost of the plate — more than the meal cost, by the way — and I slid it into my bag. I cherish this plate with a reverence most people save for family heirlooms. It represents so much to me. It’s literally the physical manifestation of dreams coming true.

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As I said, Paris is my hometown. It’s also my favorite place in the world. There is not a road I dislike. There’s not a moment I’d trade to be anywhere else. Even the lowest lows are exceptional because they are in Paris. I have been reading a lot lately about the haute couture fashion scene in the 70s, and one of the people being interviewed said something that resonated deeply with me. This isn’t the exact quote, but it’s along the same lines. “We stayed in the shabbiest hotel, with ancient wallpaper hanging from the crumbling plaster walls, but it didn’t matter. That wallpaper was the height of luxury because outside that hotel was Paris. It didn’t matter. It just didn’t matter because we had Paris.” I’m nearly weeping now.

I even love the McDonalds there. In their shops they sell some of the most delicious macarons in the city. I am not pulling your leg, reader. I would rather eat a McCafé macaron than one of those overrated pieces of mush that everybody raves about at Ladurée. The only place that really tops McCafé is Pierre Hermé — he is a god in the pastry world, and he truly can do no wrong in my eyes. He made a macaron with asparagus, jasmine, and hazelnut, and it was divine. DIVINE! Who would have thought?

Anyway, they serve pretty good espresso at McCafé in actual china and somehow one set slipped into my bag:

IMG_5056I’m not proud, but everybody stole mugs from the A&W before I was conceived. That doesn’t justify it, clearly, but I love that demitasse cup. I use it every damn day. And each time I do, I think of the Rue Saint-Honoré and the happiest of memories float through my mind.

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And now on to the last piece for this installment. I found this plate at my grandmother’s house after she died. It was under a bunch of very interesting documents and pictures in a box under a pile of Avon junk tucked deeply inside of a closet that I had never fully cleared out before.

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For several years, she lived in the south of France in the most beautiful village in the world, Villefranche-sur-mer. There are no words to describe it. Look at this:

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Can you imagine living there? Jealousy consumes me.

Anyway, she had moved on from France by the time Grace Kelly became part of the Monacan royal family. She was in some dreadful city in Germany, but she made a few rather sad journeys back through France — someday I’ll tell you that full story…in a book, probably — and I assume she picked it up then.

I love everything to do with my grandmother’s life in France, so I cherish the pictures and trinkets I have. And there’s just something so tantalizing about a commoner like Grace Kelly becoming a princess. I’d make a great prince. I’m not being facetious. I truly think I’d do a remarkable job, so if there are any princes out there who need a husband, let me know.

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That was lengthier and more personal than I ever thought, but I had such a good time writing this. I’ll surely do a hundred more. You wouldn’t believe how many plates I have.

 

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