Winter grazing in the Tarn

20150110_11050820150110_10461920150110_10353520150110_10355020150110_10400320150110_104032The Marche a la Brocante is held every Saturday beneath the large covered market in the Place du Castelviel in Albi.  This is no ancient timbered medieval hall but a functional concrete and steel construction.  On a damp January morning everything was in a palette of dull grey.  A group of dealers warmed themselves around a fire in a galvanised bin.  Most stallholders had laid items out on the concrete floor or old sheets, or had simply not unpacked their boxes at all.   As I looked through a crate of grimey glasses with tatters of newspaper round them, the stallholder came over, smiling:  “Bonjour Madame, ca va?  I have seen you before at the market in Le Mans.”   This weaving across the map of France, back and forth from market to market, seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar location always gives me great pleasure.

Graham and I had flown to Toulouse for a few days, so brocante buying was restricted.  But as I’d be at the Montpellier deballage a couple of weeks later, perhaps I could find a dealer who would also be going and who would bring any larger purchases down with them.

A chilly, unsmiling man sold me a couple of 1000g jam jars at an excellent price.  Heavy jam jars are not great for one’s luggage allowance, but I had to buy them as they are not so common.

Further on I bought some thick, hand-made glasses from Raffael, an effervescent Italian dealer.  The market offered good, solid domestic items at reasonable prices.  I wanted to buy much more of course.

20150112_12312120150112_123412Then to Cordes, a striking twelfth century bastide hill town.  On the road up to the little town stood an antiq20150112_123306ues shop.  I pushed open the door into two ancient white washed rooms with terracotta tiled floors and low beamed ceilings.  Floorboards creaked upstairs as someone moved around but no-one appeared.   The sun shone through a small window onto glass and mirror.   A simple shop with good, plain country furniture, engravings and armchairs.  Madame came down at last followed by her dog.  “Oh!” she said, “I am so sorry, I thought my husband was here to help you.”   By the time we had talked about how business was going and interesting house clearances in the area, her husband came in from the vegetable garden.   They would be going to Montpellier they told me, and yes, they would be happy to take down anything I bought.  My morning was looking even brighter.  Some delightful black and white engravings, a large wooden frame, pewter ware, gleaming brassware, a cherry wood table were paid for and left with them.

20150112_150509Th20150112_150646e sunny terrace of a pizza restaurant was an ideal place to wait until Jean-Louis’ Brocante just down the hill opened at 14h 30.  This brocante was full, full, full of interesting and obscure finds, along with a good selection of coffee glasses, Sarreguemines dishes and all manner of paraphernalia hanging from walls, beams and squeezed in under tables and chairs.  He was not a man of many words but it was a good visit.  I called back into the shop up the road and deposited more packages with them.

In the last light of the afternoon Graham and I wandered in the quiet cobbled streets, peering down mossy alleys and into 20150112_165028shop windows and learned about the blue dye from the woad plant grown nearby. Happy.

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