Don’t be afraid to check with the locals to help you find something you need abroad. It’s one of the best ways to get a real feel for a place and pick up useful recommendations. In my quest, for black hair products in Avignon, I checked with one of the employees at my hotel who I thought might be black or part black about whether she knew of any hair salons in the area. She told me at first that she wasn’t sure where I might find it because she had a personal hairdresser, but as she thought, she remembered the location of what I assumed, must be a black salon. (The day before, I asked a hurried black French woman on the street who didn’t have time to go into details with me, though I thought she had mentioned a street that sounded like Carterre or something similar.) The woman at the hotel pored over a map for a few minutes, then pointed me in the direction of Place Carnot, and ultimately, Rue de La Carreterie, a small street where I later found that small quantities of things Africaine could be found. (I found this to be true in Italy as well–when I found black hair supplies it was often on a street where several similar shops and African grocery items or fabrics could also be purchased.)
Look for the signs below for Place Carnot and Rue de la Carreterie and you’ll be heading in the right direction!
After a few wrong turns and a conversation in broken French with a confused but pleasant salon employee in Place Carnot, I finally bumped into an African woman on the street who I asked if there was a coiffure close by. She asked in French if I was looking for an African salon and I said yes. I was relieved when she announced amiably that I was on the correct street and the salon was only a few blocks away.
Encouraged that I was headed in the right direction, I pressed on until I noticed the sign for the shop below from across the street: La Boutique De Josephine. And while I haven’t been able to find the word in the dictionary, I have a feeling that it’s the “defrissage” advertised in the window that I was looking for.
BULLSEYE: La Boutique de Josephine, 33 Rue de la Carreterie, Avignon, France
Once inside the shop, I met the exhausted, but amiable Josephine whose small salon appears below. As you can see, her work station is small, but serviceable. Josephine braids hair and gives relaxers and she had both lye and no lye relaxers in stock. While our conversation was a little frustrating, both because she could not quite understand who I was, what I was saying and what I wanted !), she also failed to understand that, in fact, my own hair was quite ready for a relaxer. (In addition to searching for information for the site, I’d also hoped to get my hair done!) After a few rounds of “Pour quois vous” and realizing that my eurail train would be leaving in a few short hours, I opted not to get my hair done at Josephine’s salon, though it did appear to be the only actual salon on the street, and seemed to be known and used by black women in the area. If you’re in Avignon and need a salon, I’d suggest at least checking it out. If your French is better than mine, you may not have any difficulty explaining the service you want.
Pictures from Boutique de Josephine:
A bit farther down the street from Josephine’s salon is a black hair supply shop called Look Metisse where they specialize in braids and hair weaves and also sell extensions. I walked in to find a French woman chatting comfortably while a black stylist attached her extensions.