Seaside vide greniers and the big foire

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThree vide-greniers were earmarked for next morning. I was out by 6.30am but there were only a handful of stands very slowly being set up at the first venue so I continued down the coast to the next market. Here I wasn’t the only person looking for the Place du 11 novembre, only to find that the market had been cancelled due to the weather forecast. When I rang the organiser of the third vide-grenier he assured me – “Oui, on a du soleil – pour le moment.” The market was on and was in full swing at Sion sur l’Ocean, a modest place with a few seasidey shops and cafés. As I started at one end of the line of stalls, I could hear the ocean roaring at the far end. What a treat to be by the sea! As I didn’t have to be anywhere until later that afternoon I looked forward to a little sea-side respite.

There are always interesting finds even at the smallest of markets, and I bought a complete Sarreguemines 1950’s dinner service, pale pink with hand painted roses, from a woman who said, “C’était a ma grandmere<“/em>. Another woman, with a shock of short white hair, bright eyes and broad cheek bones, had a car full of linens. I spent a long time there, rummaging in boxes, unfolding and folding monogrammed linen napkins, handworked bed covers and sheets. As we chatted and admired the accomplished needlework, people stopped and looked over my shoulder, adding their comments and recollections.

Another family had set up camp in their big old garage, with friends, dogs and children, and were selling galvanised tubs, 1970’s red kitchen chairs, bottle carriers, and picture frames. Everyone was in good spirits and ready to banter, the day was fresh and bracing, and coffee later on at the Café de la Plage was good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater in the afternoon I drove over to St Christophe. Twice a year a massive organising force transformed fields just outside the village into a vibrant professional foire a la brocante.  From early the next morning there would be a snake of white vans waiting to be let in through the gates. There would be much running around and men in high visibility jackets with clip boards. But for now, in the last of the afternoon sun, several dealers were already setting up their pitches on either side of wide allées marked out on the lumpy grass. 

Lili was steadily opening up boxes of linen and ceramics, Thierry was unloading galvanised tubs and cafe tables. Nearby a man with sleeves rolled up unpacked a crate of resin collecting pots. The thick layer of resin would soften in hot water, he said, and still smell of pine. Across the allée a couple were installing painted armoires and vitrines in tasteful muted greys and mushrooms in their marquee. Portraits had been hung from old white shutters propped behind commodes, and their decorative objets were set out beautifully – a table top jardiniere stuffed with seaside shell souvenirs, cast iron urns filled with stems of dried seed heads stood on a long farmhouse table, a pair of tall turned wood candlesticks. All very pleasing to the eye. I bought a lot that afternoon, delighted to be an early bird.

There was a heavy dew next morning. Vans were still arriving. I always enjoyed this early time at a market – full of promise and everything yet to be discovered. In a bedside cupboard I found a white plastic glow-in-the-dark Virgin Mary. ‘Made in Italy’ was stamped underneath. I imagined the comfort of her greeny white glow through the darkness.

The catering tent was huge and orderly. Regimented tables covered in disposable cloths advertising Credit Agricole waited ready to accommodate breakfasters and lunchers in great number.

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