Perfect day for brocante

Savigny en Veron held its annual vide-grenier on July 14th. La rue Basse, fringed with trees and dappled clearings, lead out of the village.  A duck plied its way across a pond solid with emerald weed and an egret stood statuesque, brilliant white in the early slanting sun.  The church bell chimed 7h, birds chirruped, frogs croaked. It was a perfect summer’s day.

There was a bustle of activity around the fishing lake nearby. Members of the Comité des Fetes wore black sweatshirts with a logo. Cables were being eased into the sandy soil; the refreshment marquee was primed for action with coffee, boxes of croissants and, alongside the hotplate for crepes, a giant jar of Nutella. It was still early but the child’s roundabout was playing sunny music; the man selling apricots and peaches was settled beneath a blue and white parasol and a handful of people were making their way round the stands. Set out in the dewy grass stood all manner of items that make a vide-grenier good – the galvanised pitchers, the hand-made wood trugs for asparagus or grapes, discarded soupieres without lids; wooden picture frames; garden chairs – and local produce alongside. Great bouquets of rhubarb with leaves still attached, jams, and on one stall, fists of garlic, streaked grey and purple. A smiling woman said “Tout est de mon mari“, everything is grown by my husband. He had particular success apparently with les échalottes grises, grey scallions, that needed just the right spot of earth to not rot in the ground. These were as sculptural as the garlic, with dry grey earthy skin, looking ancient and beautiful.

As more people arrived with cars full, trailers behind, and dogs on laps, I made the rounds again.  At a stall I had already bought from, I paid for a large white Sarreguemines jug for my own collection. The man joked with me, “Dear Madame, you are without doubt my best client of the day!” It really was a blessed summer’s day. I returned to the chambre d’hote for breakfast before Graham and I continued to Richelieu, south of Chinon.

20140714_12280720140714_125656Nine years before I had made my first ever sortie to a market one dark morning to find just fruit and vegetables on sale. This had been my first crestfallen encounter with Richelieu.

But today the brocante market was set out under the vast medieval roof of the market, and around the main square. Graham helped carry chairs, pictures and pewter back to Sylvie. With its white stone classical buildings Richelieu was utterly striking.

A tall waiter, immaculate in a shocking pink shirt with white collar and cuffs and long white apron rushed past balancing a laden tray, delivering lunch to stallholders from his Salon de Thé and antiques shop across a large square. We later tried his tarte tatin and drank citrus tea from fine porcelain cups, while he mopped his brow and apologised for the delay. Je suis débordé, he lamented, extremely busy.

Near one of the town gates stood a bright orange three wheeler van, pointing down a side street to another Brocante shop. This one was cool, small and dusty. The dealer stepped out into the street and continued reading his book in the sun, making room for us to look inside. A worn and lovely pewter platter with initials beneath was wrapped up and we all continued on with our day.

The last of the afternoon was spent a few miles away at a large Brocante in a hanger, usually a good spot 20140714_125917for linens and ceramics amongst the unglorious and the discarded. Up and down the aisles, searching through crates of chipped, dusty frames, running my eye along metal shelving jammed with dishes and platters, a jungle of glass ware and landslides of sheets and old hemp workshirts, and carrying things back to the cash desk, making a pile. Madame behind the till provided newspaper and orange crates, and then a major emptying and repacking of the van was required in the car park.

We called in at Montsoreau to collect the portrait bought the day before, and Graham eventually sat down with a glass of chilled rosé rather later than he had hoped.20140714_16343320140714_163426

Leave a Reply