A summer trip down to explore the Cognac area with it’s jewel green undulating landscape, and line upon line of vines. This was another of those “Brocances” trips – the perfect combination of Brocante and Vacances – that always turns out to be more Brocante than Vacances.
We stayed in a wing of a fine 18th century Domaine. An allée of cypress led up to the house. We pulled round to park near vast terracotta tiled outbuildings – these housed concrete vats for maturing the spirit. Grand gates at the back of the property opened out into the vines, and there was a pool for Graham to enjoy while I was out buying.
By the green and languorous Charente river, Cognac baked in hot afternoon sun. Down a side street an old atelier, now turned Brocante, had pushed open its large glazed doors. Tall ceilinged, bare floorboarded, flaking white beams and chalky walls – this looked a great space full of possibilities. The proprietrice with dark brown, smiling eyes said please look round, everything is in its original state (dans son jus). A collection of white napkins, confit pots and jugs were gathered up. As we chatted I mentioned that I didn’t know this area and Madame immediately gave us details of a friend with a very good Brocante.
The next day’s foray was out along the vast Gironde estuary, its water clouded by sandy sediment, extending to the horizon. I took a little road down to one of the small harbours that indents its massive channel – Mortagne sur Gironde
On the quay an old flour warehouse, in operation until the 1980’s, had a new life as a Brocante. Metal drying silos inside had ingeniously been opened up to form very tall circular rooms for displaying goods.
Glasses, pictures, coffee pots, antique jam pots, galvanised wash tubs were found, and bit by bit cardboard boxes were filled with good honest Brocante, although I wasn’t going to find any outstanding pieces here.
An enthusiastic couple ran the café. They recommended the open sandwich, made to Madame’s grandmother’s recipe: onions and mushrooms poached in white wine, served on a slice of country ham and crusty bread. Sitting on the small terrace, just in the shade, watching the tranquil pleasures of those ambling by the water or pottering with their boats I felt very content.
I was driving on to Royan and Monsieur said you must take la route du litoral, the coast road, it is very scenic.