To travel to France, and specificially Provence, to visit the daily markets and peruse the artisanal offerings and gaze upon the oodles of straw baskets available seemingly at every market you come across is to perhaps forget how hard some of these simple Provençal finds can be once we leave the terra firma of France and other parts of Europe.
While we cannot visit whenever the desire to stroll through such quintessential everyday moments in France arise, there are destinations online to visit and be assured what you are purchasing is from France and is exactly what you would find upon such occasions.
Today, I want to introduce you to the owner and creator of Olive and Branch, Pam Plançon. Founder of the online boutique, it is designed for the discerning customers who are seeking French and European made products. Traveling regularly to France to find treasures to make available on their online shop such as the French Market Basket seen above, or the beautiful square olive oil soaps below, today I have hand-selected a few items that captured my attention and would also like to introduce you to Pam and how Olive & Branch came to be.
In a detailed Q & A, take a moment to escape to France with Pam has she answered many questions about Olive & Branch, her love for France, how to find the treasures at a brocante, her customers’ favorite item in the shop and much, much more. Have a look below at our conversation, and be sure to take a look at her online boutique as TSLL readers will receive 15% off their first order withe promo code TSLL at checkout.
1. Olive & Branch was founded in 2004. For readers who are just being introduced to you and your online boutique, what can they expect to find when they visit?
We hope our visitors feel as if they are strolling through a French marché. You can find lavender products, baskets and beautiful tea towels, gorgeous pottery, savon de Marseille and sometimes, if you’re lucky amazing olive oil…..just like you find in a weekly market in France.
2. When did you first fall in love with France?
My love affair with France has been long…since my first visit to Paris right after college (I won’t tell you how long ago that was! J). My grandfather was born in Northeast France, and I feel as if I have arrive “home” when I step foot there – whether it be in Provence, Paris or Brittany. I love the light, the language and the way of a life.
3. When you visit/stay in France how do you design your days?
It really depends on where I am. I always try to start my day early and follow the schedule of the area. I try to get my work done in the morning so I can enjoy lunch with friends or family and then pick up work later in the afternoon. Always end the day with an apero with friends.
Most importantly, I always try to see or do something I haven’t done before. Whether I am in Paris or when we had our home in Provence I make an effort to see a new village, check out a new small art exhibit, or new museum, park or walk in a new area, sometimes I will visit a new vineyard or olive oil producer. Always trying to get a new experience in familiar places.
4. For travelers who have never journeyed outside of Paris, what would you say to encourage them to explore the countryside?I love Paris but the countryside of France is not to be missed. So I say Go! Rent a car and drive to the small villages and towns. Visit the markets of the region for fresh produce and try all the local specialties. Stop at small wine producers or muscat or pineau producers and try it all. Don’t be shy – it all starts with a friendly Bonjour!
5. How has your lifestyle been influenced by the French culture?I am a complete Francophile – just ask anyone who knows me! I love to learn the language (I don’t know if I will ever master it – which is OK), I have always tried to shop like the French – fresh local produce, in season, from specialized shops. Never one for large department stores or grocery stores, I like to shop local, eat local and support local community businesses.
6. Where do you find the items in your boutique? I find them all over France, but a lot of my shop’s products are from Provence – a region where I had a house for several years. I also hit the antique stores and flea markets or brocantes and vide–greniers when I can.
7. What is one of your favorite items in your boutique at the moment? Always the guinea hens. They are the essence of my boutique and the first product imported for the shop. They are hand-made in Provence. They are beautifully crafted and adorable alone but really shine when they are in a little “flock”.
8. When you step into your kitchen this fall, what will you most look forward to cooking/baking? Ha! I just stepped out of the kitchen where I literally just threw together a tarte aux pommes (we will see how it comes out!) I love to cook and bake so it is easy for me to spend my whole day in the kitchen. I love to use my new found enameled cast iron tagine (from France of course). Everything I make in it from roasted chicken, to paella, to boeuf bourguignontastes amazing!
9. What is one misconception about the French culture you would like to dispel? That the French are rude. In all my years going to France I have never really encountered that. The people are warm, welcoming and lovely.
10. Where do you call home and when will you return to France? Home at the moment is London, UK. After living in rural Massachusetts for many years, my husband and I decided to give the big city a try. I have to say I love living in London, and I especially love being so close to France. When I first came to London, I formed a book club – with like-minded Francophiles. We are headed to Paris for our next book club meeting, My Part Time Paris Life by Lisa Anselmo. If you are in Paris and want to join us – just send me a message and I can provide more details!
11. When you visit a French food market, describe your approach, what you bring, what you look for, etc.
I always bring my French market basket and extra bags because I always fill it and then some. I look for what is in season and what is the freshest. Then I hunt down the cheese monger
12. Do you visit brocante markets, and if so, what is your approach – what are you looking for? I do – I love a good flea market. My advice is to dig through those buckets and boxes that look like junk – that is where you can find some real hidden gems…oh, and always bargain for a better price!
13. What are you future plans for your online boutique business? To continue to provide beautiful French product to my customers and share a little part of the my adopted country with others.
Rapid Fire Questions:
11. Coffee or tea? Both! Anytime.
12. Favorite varietal/vineyard to acquire wine? If you find yourself in les Alpilles, Provence – visit Domaine de Valdition a favorite vineyard of mine in Orgon
13. What is your aperitif style? Champagne – always!
14. What life advice do you follow (i.e. life mantra)? Don’t worry – it will all work out. And I always told my kids – if you did your best today then you did your best, that’s all you can do.
15. What are you currently reading? Books for my book club – My Part Time Paris Life and Hotel Splendid
16. What are you currently listening to? I spend a lot of my time now while working out, listening to podcasts – I’m addicted to David Ridgen’s Someone Knows Something by Canadian Broadcasting
17. Favorite activity to partake in during the fall season? I lived for a very long time in apple country Massachusetts – so of course apple picking, eating apple cider donuts, decorating my house in fall abundance and baking lots of apple pies!
I want to thank Pam for her thoughtful questions, which after reading has piqued my appetite for a glass of champagne and a nibble on tarte aux pomme.