Before Lisieux

November in northern France is not the most agreeable month for visiting brocantes and markets.

We find a few dealers in their cold barns, all bunched up in padded jackets, but there is little to inspire. So we drive on a little way to call in on a dealer I’ve been wanting to visit, and park in a wide grassed courtyard with stone barns and stables on two sides. An elderly gentleman comes out, donning his jacket, charmingly rheumy eyed and missing some front teeth. He suggests we look round the stables first. The straw was still in there, with bits of furniture and piles of boxes stacked on top. He told us that he had kept horses until a few years ago, but that was all finished now.

He takes us into his 16th and 17th century limestone manor, and in one room we find linens and glass ware, much to please the eye. An engraving of a Duchess caught my attention. “An 18th century gravure from the chateau over the hill”, he said. “The wife had to sell the chateau when her husband died, but she hated the place. She was happy to get rid of it”.

He showed us into another room to one side of a dimly lit stone staircase. A white stone fireplace spanned most of one wall. The floor was a mess of earth and broken up stone – a previous owner had been convinced that treasure lay beneath the floor, but had found nothing. We follow Monsieur up another stone staircase into a bedroom with a large box of superbly monogrammed linen sheets and pillowcases, all pristine and in impeccable condition “I don’t bring everyone through into my house” he said, and left us examining each lovely item as another customer arrived in the courtyard. It was dark by the time purchases were wrapped and loaded, and farewells made. An interesting and worthwhile place indeed.

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