Buying a bed in France. Surely, a simple, straight-forward task. A matter of selecting a bed, arranging delivery and setting it up in the bedroom of the house in Verteuil. Well, experience has now told us that nothing is necessarily as simple as it may sound in this lovely country.
Knowing that it may take some time to arrange delivery of some of the larger items that our house in Verteuil would need, and due to the fact that we were only in Verteuil for a total of three weeks to set the house up, we knew purchasing a bed was high on the list of “things to do”.
Lesson number one … Interestingly, the size of beds and mattresses are not described as “single”, “double”, “queen” or “king” sized in France. They are simply purchased according to their measurements. In our case we wanted a bed that was “180cm x 200cm”. The same goes for sheet and doona/bedspread sizing. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but articulating a single word in French to numerous shop assistants such as “single” or “double” (these two are easy as they are the same word in either English or French), or perhaps “reine” or “roi” (forget the horrors of the french “r” for the moment!) is a lot less intimidating than saying a multitude of times that you are looking for a bed that is “cent quatre-vingt par deux cent centimetres”!!
Day 3, the first business day of our stay, saw us buy a mattress in Ruffec. Ruffec is a town, about the size of Laidley (Queensland) and 7 km from Vertueil. We arranged it to be delivered the following week. Easy! Confidence growing….
The mattress was delivered as anticipated. The bedroom is on the third level of the little terrace house, the second level accessed by a little staircase that does a dog-leg on itself and changes direction as it rises. As we discovered this does not leave a lot of room for a queen size (sorry, a cent quatre-vingt par deux cent centimetres) mattress to fit. After a lot of huffing and squeezing, pushing and shoving, it popped up onto the second level like a champagne cork blowing.
Next, the actual bed. A quick stocktake of all the stores in Ruffec that we thought may sell bed-frames was undertaken, and despite our simple tastes, nothing in the style we were after could be found in Ruffec.
We eventually found a bed in the catalogue of a popular store in France called “Maison du Monde”. There is a store in Angoulême, the regional city closest to Verteuil, only 35 minutes or so away. So, a trip to Angoulême was in order, the first of many to look for, procure, arrange delivery of, and in some cases – return, many of the items that it takes to set up a tiny house in the French country-side. Like a number of other items, delivery couldn’t be organized during the time we were still in Verteuil, but fortunately the couple who will be looking after the house while we are in Australia and who will also be welcoming guests to the house, Allan and Lynn, were able to assist with all deliveries.
A week or so later Allan asked us when the “lattes” were arriving. “Excuse-moi?”
Apparently, in France, when buying a bed it is not just a matter of buying a mattress and bed frame. The bed ensemble would just not be complete (and quite useless) without a third essential component. The “lattes”, sometimes referred to as “le sommier” is a wooden frame with slats that fits inside the bed frame and supports the mattress. Why it is sold separately is beyond me, except it is perhaps due to the fact that you can buy lattes with varying degrees of firmness (the slats are taut and are constructed with a little “give” in them). Of course there are beds in Australia that have slats. However, these slats are rolled up and in my experience, without exception come with the bed frame.
This is a great example how one’s cultural background and experience, even in silly little details like this, can lead us to take things for granted and end in little bemusing surprises. So, off to Ruffec to find where to buy a set of lattes, and then arrange to get these to the house.
So, mattress delivered, lattes delivered, bed frame due to be delivered in a couple of weeks time with Allan set to rendez-vous with the delivery guys who have agreed to contact him half an hour prior to arrival on a set day. Weeks after arriving back in Australia we received an email from Allan saying that the delivery guys had arrived without notice and as no one was at the house, they left. On contacting Maison du Monde a couple of days later, the self-described “big boss-lady” (but that’s another story), said that unfortunately the bed had been sold (hmmmm….), and it would take another month to have another to be redelivered. That would be fine except for the fact that we had friends due to arrive to stay ….
Wendy, a friend from our gym and her husband Mark were due to stay in Verteuil for two weeks as part of a month long trip to Europe to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Milestone wedding anniversary and no bed! Just saying!!
Allan’s solution was to borrow a bed from Kathryn and Kevin, who have a lovely stone house in Mouton, a little hamlet about 12 km from Verteuil. After the ok from Kathryn and Kevin (my aunty and uncle), Allan and his son retrieved their bed. Not an easy exercise as Kathryn and Kevin’s staircase must be narrower than ours – the bed had to be lowered out through their bedroom window on the second floor!
So, the foreign bed was ensconced in our house in Verteuil in time for Wendy and Marks’s visit. As a happy ending to this tale, our bed was delivered 3 months after purchase and set up nicely in its place. At the time of writing, it remains unslept in – hopefully ready for our first guests in 2016.
Jim lives in Brisbane, Australia, works at The University of Queensland, and enjoys visiting, reading and learning about France.