Shopping Pour Antiquités dans le sud de la France
It was not my intention to do a lot of shopping while living dans le sud de la France. After all, it is costing us a bit to maintain two homes plus travel and enjoy the delicious food and wine. And, I am not that much of a shopper – yes, essentials and clothes, but I prefer not to spend a lot of money on “stuff”.
BUT, I have discovered the magic of the French brocante et salons d’antiquaires. I got hooked when I decided I wanted a tarte tatin pan for the traditional apple tart recipe I had found on the Midihideways blog (midihideaways.wordpress.com). It was early December but it turned out we were just in time for the annual Grand Déballage (this translates as ‘grand unpacking’, so like a garage sale) which is usually held in nearby Pézenas on the 2nd Sunday in October but had been postponed this year. Lucky for us – but it meant a cooler day, albeit sunny. The city of Pézenas is known for its antiques and the shops of fifty second-hand goods and antiques dealers are open throughout the year. Furniture, old linen, jewellery, crockery, paintings, trinkets, African art, watches, books and posters, and an interesting selection of 1950s era furniture, china, and household items are available.
The colourful and “exotic” second-hand market we attended extended over a kilometre with over 150 exhibitors. Many just had blankets laid out along the street, covered with bits and pieces. Others were more serious with tables or cupboards full of goodies. I was looking for copper. There was not much in evidence but I did notice that items near the entrance had higher prices than further along. About half way into the melee, I saw a set of three copper pots. The man wanted 30 euros – for them all! Not quite what I was looking for so onward. Looking for anything specific is a bit like trying to find Waldo. Do you see the pots?
It was a cool day so everyone was bundled up. This lady was selling retro bakelite jewelry from the 50s – or so she said. It was very nice, new looking, interesting colour combinations and designs. I started looking at bracelets and Murray eventually bought one for my birthday and one for his granddaughter Kendra.
Along we strolled, looking at no end of strange and unusual “antiques”. Murray was impressed that there were these guns for sale – no one worried about them lying out there for all to fondle.
We turned a corner and came upon a jazz ensemble adding music to the atmosphere. But, it was lunchtime. And, in France, lunch means eating and the ubiquitous bottle of wine. And family time.
It was also time for our lunch. Along a little lane off the antique row, we found La Tour Pavée Crêperie where we enjoyed traditional Brittany-style crêpes and hot apple cider. Can you imagine the taste of a butter caramel salt crêpe? Is Murray happy?
Back to the Grand Déballage – we wandered back the way we came and I stopped again to look at the copper pots. I might be able to pack one in my suitcase so offered 10 euros for the smallest. Now I am the happy owner of a perfect little saucepan. What an exciting day! And there is more….
About a week or two later, I read about the oldest and the biggest fleamarket of Montpellier – Marche aux Puces. On arriving, we were a bit disappointed to find more of a garage sale en masse with more second hand clothes and shoes, etc. And the culture was definitely middle eastern. BUT, there were some treasures among the mish mash with a lot of careful looking. I surprisingly found an oval copper pan with brass handles in very good shape for 10 euros. I was happy but should have bargained I guess. Murray found a set of speakers to use on the computer when we want to watch movies. He paid 8 euros and, miracle of miracles, when we got home they worked!! Just a little further along, I found a set of copper pots on a mat among a lot of useless items. This time a set of 5 for 20 euros. Again, I did not want five pots. But there were two that were very nice, with stainless steel inside, which apparently is a good thing. They were about the same size as the one I had already bought but since I was able to “bargain” the owner to sell me the best two for 10 euros (I know, that was not exactly bargaining) I now have another copper pot a bit larger and have gifted the smaller one to my “foodie” friend.
Now I have caught the antique shopping bug. On a visit back to Pézenas, we visited Les Antiquaires de l’Hotel Genieys.
It really is a beautiful shop and at the back is a room full of antique linens. Once I started sorting through and feeling the softness of washed linen I could not resist. I started looking at sheets for about 150 euros but digging through the pile found a very nice one in a natural colour (not bleached) for 30 euros. It is huge – 320cm x 280cm or 126 x 110 inches – bigger than the usual North American queen size – 267cm x 280cm or 105 × 110 inches.
The most common and most desirable sheets are the white matrimonial monogrammed sheets, traditionally embroidered by a future bride for her trousseau. If you are interested, check out this website http://fleurdandeol.com. I found this one (with the odd initials A O) on a very cold Saturday in Marseillan Plage. The equally cold vendor, trying to keep warm in his truck when I dragged him out to unfold the sheets to check the quality, was not into bargaining. I happily paid his asked for 20 euros.
My photos do not do them justice. The sheets need to be washed and ironed but wonderful to imagine them on our bed at home. The natural coloured one will probably be used as a topper. I am now on a search for pillow shams!!!! And for anyone into sewing, you could make a lot of clothes out one sheet.
For sure our suitcases will be overflowing and we will probably have to send a box of stuff home by post BUT we have some great souvenirs and more good stories.
Au revoir for now.
À bientôt de notre maison en le sud de la France
Deidre and Murray Happy, happy!
PS: We did not buy these!