Driving south

Another summer trip, this time travelling down into the Massif Central and staying with Francoise, the chatelaine who had become a friend since I stayed at her little chateau near Le Puy.

From the ferry I drove to St Pierre sur Dives for the monthly Sunday market held in the 18th century market hall with its steep slate roof. At 8am forty or so dealers were setting out their wares beneath the ancient beams. There was a lot of dark wood furniture on display and prices were high. My spirits lifted though when I came to a woman unpacking boxes of beautifully worked linen sheets, and we had a pleasant exchange as she wrapped up several lovely sheets for me. I didn’t stay long there, and as heavy rain set in I raced across the market place, clutching my bag of linens. On through the gloomy morning towards Orbec, noticing too late a sign for a vide grenier at a village with the evocative name Vieux Fumé (Old Smoke). I regretted not turning back…..

At Orbec La Fete du Camembert had begun and although it had been listed as a Vide Grenier, the event was nothing to do with Brocante and everything to do with Camembert! Even at 10am people stood in the main street offering slices of baguette with camembert to taste. The streets were still wet from rain, the rotisseries were started to smoke, and there was a genial, light hearted feel in the air. I decided I might just as well enjoy this interlude, and from a café terrace watched the parade of vintage tractors, the moustached and bereted drivers chugging by, waving and shaking hands with onlookers, having a fine time.

SHOPThere was, at least, one antique shop in the town. I had met Thierry before, and there he was, still dark eyed and exotic, opening up his shop. The orange taffetta curtain was still there and the atmosphere of crowded, faded 18th century pomp with rich portraits, candelabra, fabrics and glowing fruit wood furniture. I bought a delicate pair of ormolu lamps, some wire work baskets and a small oil painting – the visit had not been totally in vain. As I walked back to Sylvie I spotted a stone plaque over the gateway to the Hotel de Croisy which informed me that Debussy had composed “Jardin sous la pluie” (Garden in the rain) here.

On down small roads to Verneuil sur Avre for a Foire a Tout that happened to be on my route. Threatening skies got stall holders rushing for their plastic sheeting and I overheard one woman comment sarcastically, “Voila, c’est ca, trois gouttes d’eau et tout le monde a peur!” (“So typical, three drops of rain and everyone takes fright!”) Amongst the plastic toys and old records, the market yielded some nice white ceramics and enamel ware.

I continued across plains of harvested crops and on the horizon stood the great cathedral of Chartres. By now the day was hot, hot, hot. I was sticky and grubby and glad to drive on south of Orleans to my chambre d’hote for the night. Teddy, the owner, had once been in the trade and told me I should stop at a little town near Clermont Ferrand where, in his time, there had been ten antiquaires. The Restaurant La Brocante (all the furnishings had price tags) made an agreeable haven for an hour or so, and after supper I walked through the village in the last of the sunlight, plane trees standing poetically around the little stone church, swallows swooping.VILLAGE

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