Out again early the next day. On weekends many more little shops open up and there are trestle tables set out along the quieter streets. Vernaison is the most popular and busy of the markets. It is something of a shanty town of lanes, kiosks with different roof lines, drain pipes finding a way to the ground, vines growing along the power cables. Here prices are less likely to be sky high – but even then…. One could spend hours just with the man who sells chandelier spares – so many boxes of droplets and delicate pieces of metalwork – each in their own way once vital to the greater beauty of a now defunct chandelier.

As I was buying some sturdy linen tablecloths from a vivacious woman wrapped in a fur coat, dyed blond hair tucked into beige angora beret and bright apricot lipstick heavily applied, a man stopped and embraced her with “Bonjour Ex-Belle Mere!” and carried on to open up his stand further down the allée. “Oui”, she exclaimed to me, pencilled eyebrows raised, “indeed, he was married to my daughter so now he calls me Ex-Mother in Law.” It was one of those delightful vignettes. I stashed my purchases under one of her tables, and carried on shopping, “Don’t forget, I am in Allée Deux!” she called after me, knowing how one might easily forget exactly who was where in the warren of lanes.


The stall of the ex-son in law was stacked waist high in paintings. He was busy sorting out a few canvases to prop up outside in the Allée. and let me squeeze in past him to begin a precarious balancing act as I worked my way through various piles of watercolours and oils. “What do you like? Flowers, portraits, landscapes? It is all here!” said he said beamingly. A still-life of jug and fruit by a window, and an oil painting of the Ile de la Cité and the Seine both caught my eye. I couldn’t help but think of the many artists represented here, some with an easy talent, some who applied themselves with determination, so many hours spent in front of a canvas.
Further on a little shop with rows of dusty glasses in the window drew my attention. The proprietor was keen to talk about life as a dealer in Paris, about the different markets and who bought from whom, about difficult times. We sorted out some beautifully grey tinged 19th century absinthe glasses and wine glasses, and I left him bubble wrapping about thirty glasses, handmade, heavy, for me to collect later.

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