My previous trip had concluded with Moe breaking down. But with her electrical problems sorted out, the main goal of the next trip a few weeks later was an excellent market in the Perche region. I’d been there a couple of years previously and found it stimulating, varied and worthwhile.
As I was one of the last on the ferry at Portsmouth I had to reverse on. “Je deteste faire marche en arriere,” I grimaced as I attempted maintian a reasonably straight line. “Vous n’etes pas la seule!” was the reply of the man in his orange boiler suit, and he gave me the thumbs up once I was in place. And Moe crossed to Cherbourg in the elevated company of many classic cars heading to a big weekend at Le Mans.
An overnight stop south of Valognes was planned and I’d intended, for my supper, to take a pizza to Monique’s lovely chambre d’hote. But the pizzeria had closed down since my last visit, and the only shop left open at 20h was the boulangerie. So with a baguette and a fruit tart a few minutes later I drove up the little allée of trees with a peaceful sense of return. Monique added to my supper some Camembert and a bottle of red wine, and I ate outside in the last of the golden sun while frogs croaked, cows were called in, donkeys watched over the fence.
It took a few attempts to get Moe into gear the next morning but then I was on my way to a favourite dealer with an enormous warehouse. Amongst monogrammed linen sheets, candelabra, oil paintings, mirrors and café chairsI bought a promising farmhouse table with a chestnut top that had just been brought in from a “debarras” – a house clearance. We flipped it onto its back to load it, and underneath was pencilled with a firm hand, “Cette table était fait le 23 juin 1935.” Again I struggled to get Moe into gear but drove on to my next rendezvous thinking I can’t break down now, I’ve hardly started buying!
At the old Cider Factory I found a magnificent 18th century oak commode and after we ‘d loaded it in to Moe I asked Jean-Francois if he knew anything about gear boxes. “Je suis desolé, rien du tout,” he shook his head. It was getting late on a hot afternoon and I decided to drive straight to the Manoir de Clerrison where I’d stayed in May, and was relieved to arrive without mishap. A tall ladder rested up against a cherry tree by the manor – it was an abundant year for cherries.