En Mediterranée

20150113_17231220150114_124220A sunny morning in Castres and the café terraces in Place Jean Jaures were busy.  As we sat in the bright winter light I recognised Raffael from the market at Albi. We shook hands. He lived just outside Castres, he said, would we like to visit his house? He also added that he would be going to Montpellier.

The following afternoon we drove along a rushing mountain river and through wooded hillsides before turning down a track which led to a hamlet of modest stone houses with smoking chimneys. Raffael greeted us enthusiastically: come in, come in, will you take a coffee?

20150115_17050720150115_172825His house was charmingly styled, furnished with antiques and every day functional pieces of brocante. He sat us down in a small conservatory with a view over the valley while he disappeared into the kitchen. We then were given a tour of the property and ventured through an ancient doorway into his stone storage rooms, low ceilings and heavy beams. Squeezing between piled chairs and tables, peering and pointing, we passed out boxes of terracotta cheese strainers and glasses, canvases and frontons. A pretty painted desk emerged too. All this Raffael would bring to Montpellier. A serendipitous encounter.

Three weeks later I was back in France, standing on the balcony of a small hotel looking across a salt lagoon towards Sete.  Yacht rigging tapped gently in the harbour  below as I breathed in Mediterranean air drenched in the promise of Spring.  I’d chanced upon this charming village on the Etang de Thau, known for its oyster cultivation, and was delighted to be staying here.  On the agenda were a couple of other large markets as well as Montpellier, and a popular Saturday flea market.  20150207_093221

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