And finally….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFields adjacent to the market had become vast parking lots and crowds queued at the portable ticket kiosk. I wanted to find the woman who sold an exquisite collection of ribbons, pharmacy bottles, curiosities, tiny pill tins, small music cards from marching bands, bundles of wicks, old parchment, fragments of fabric – all in a palette of faded pinks and blues, off whites and greys. Her stall was as intriguing and full of treasures as on my previous visit.

A Napoleon III garden bench with metal frame and wooden slats required a passage to England with me, as did a chestnut kitchen table and a 19th century armchair. An array of small items too – frontons, pewter platters, linens, a baby’s quilt – white with little sprays of flowers and filled with lambswool, jugs, oil paintings of river scenes and ofcherry trees in blossom all followed suit. A strapping volunteer from the local football team came round with a large porter’s trolley to collect up my purchases and help me load. I was happy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI could have stopped several times on the drive to Saumur, lured by yet another brocante, but I wanted to get to the chateau at Saumur (the symbolic goal for this trip). A high ceilinged hotel with grand winding staircase close to the river offered a comfortable bed for the night. Sylvie was parked outside where I could keep an eye on her from my tiny balcony.

It didn’t matter that the chateau was already closed by the time I got there – what was important was not to be whizzing past it, but to be able to take the time to gaze. With a chilled glass of Saumur Champigny I sat out on a brasserie terrace near the chateau and watched the light change over the marvellous panorama and river below. I wandered down into the old white stone town with grand 18th century residences at every turn, for dinner under leafy trees in the Place St Pierre. Tomorrow I would drive back to Le Havre and home. Altogether a most satisfying end to this trip.

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