Chamalière is a commune in the Puy de Dome department of the Auvergne region of France. This is where we found 'Papy's Buffet' and this is it's story.
The Breton style is named after Brittany in the north of France. The label tells us that it was shipped to the town of Brest in Brittany, by train using PV, or 'Petite Vitesse', slow speed. Brest is a port town so it is possible this buffet, along with other household items were shipped by boat to the south of France. We found it in the Auvergne region. It is impossible to give exact dates for manufacture but it probably dates from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and the label indicates it was sent from the town Auray to Brest to be shipped out in 1940, during the second world war. Why? This was a time when Germany was invading and occupying Northern France. We believe the family was moving to the safer South.
His name was Mr Bernard but we knew him as Papy from his advertisement. A jovial gentleman of indeterminate age. On that warm summer August day we had taken a hire truck because we had a few pick ups arranged, this was our last of the day and to get to his apartment we had to back the truck over the pavement to the side door of his building. He lived in a small apartment on the first floor with a lovely view onto the tree lined street. His mother had lived in the apartment but, recently, she had passed away and he was living there while clearing it before the lease ran out. He had a beautiful baby grand piano, old, French made, sitting in the corner, but they had brought it in by the window and we simply had to say no to it because of logistics. But I still see that piano in the corner, all the time, and wonder what happened to it. The buffet was BIG, came apart into two. We took the top section off and proceeded to take it to the lift to get downstairs, it wouldn't fit! That left the stairs. For such a modern building the concrete spiral staircase was very reminiscent of a castle. I dashed ahead to open the doors, taking off one shoe to wedge the outside auto door ajar and I walked/hopped to the truck to get the moving cloths ready, Papy looked at my bare foot, smiled, and said "smart". Now for the bottom half of the buffet, I don't know how much it weighed, but as I watched Papy and Ian carefully, step by step, pausing every few steps, shifting the weight to ease the strain on each arm, I was extremely grateful for Papy's French Chivalry and insistence that he carry one end. Thank goodness we had hired a truck with a tail lift!
After our bonding experience of the traumatic trip down the stairs we looked at each other and realised we could not just hop in the truck and disappear. Papy asked if we'd like a refreshment and we gladly accepted, not just to quench the thirst but also to spend a little more time with this delightful man. So we sat, as I gazed at that piano, and shared a cold beer chatting about how the youth of today will someday regret not wanting to keep the treasures of yesterday............