On Christmas Eve, Remi and I decided to make a smart decision for our sanity's sake and headed to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. No last minute mall run's for us, instead we decided to head up to Europe's third largest antiques market (after Paris' Clignancourt and London) for a little bit of inspiration.
There are over 350 dealers spread out amidst several "villages" each with their own distinctive ambiance. As usual, we started with our favorite, Le Passage du Pont, also known as L'Ile aux brocantes. We love the less formal ambiance and also the extraordinary selection of pieces that wear their patina proudly on their oh-so-perfectly-tattered sleeves. We also were delighted to run into the couple that sold us the beautiful over-dyed linen sheets at the local monthly brocante in Arles. Their permanent stand was packed to the gills with gorgeous antique textiles but we were kept busy by a rather philosophical conversation with one of the owner's who is taking the same doom and gloom stance towards the French economy that the French press has been hounding us with for months.
As that was exactly the kind of mentality I was looking to avoid, I politely excused myself and continued on to the stand of "Charlotte & Frédéric" or at least that is whom I think it belongs to as there was not a seller insight. During the off-season, quite a few stands are left unattended with only a card or a cell phone number posted for interested buyers. Oddly, it made the experience all the more pleasurable as we were able to oggle to our heart's consent, free from any "So, are you interested?" sort of pressure.
Yes, there is still a bit of industrial style present and many of the important pieces have thankfully lost their overly restored Provençale gloss.
As charmed as I was by the vignettes and as clearly as I was lusting after the linen covered ottoman that I had absolutely zero use for, I felt drawn like a moth to a flame, as I always do, to the stand of Annie Gravezat. Along with her partner Bernard Roux, she was one of the pioneers of patina in Southern France and certainly an innovator in elevating that style from quirky to iconic.
I couldn't help think of my friend Brooke Giannetti, whose wonderful book Patina Style, became an instant success in the States. Yes, this is right up her and her husband's Steve's alley and I am looking forward to their discovering all of Provence next summer.
And for those of you looking for the perfect shade of vintage Tolix chairs for your garden (and you know who you are), look no further! I love the combination of high and low...
...as well as the oooh ever-so-slightly kitsch. And yet, this Chinese temple lantern was the only piece that really tempted us that day. Would it look just right in our 'petite salon' hanging above our antique travel photography or would it be too much? With a sigh, we decided too much. Not without a bit of bumming as it is something that we have never seen before nor will most likely see again. Did we make a mistake?
It takes several hours, depending on your pace, just to skim the surface of the offerings. And that doesn't include when twice a year, at Easter and in August the streets are overrun with an enormous flea market. It certainly is enough to make one work up an appetite! While Le Jardin du quai is the town's most heralded restaurant (and deservedly not only for its fine cooking but its tables tucked into a garden du rêve), I was sorely tempted by the menu at Le Carré d'Herbes and hope to give it a try in the future.
The antiques, the bon bouffe, what else could one hope for? Well, beauty is always a good goal and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has that in spades. For canals of all sizes criss-cross the town, rendering it a little Venice in Provence. As the sun took its dive, I would have happily checked into La Maison sur la Sorgue, a small inn gleefully decorated by the owner's of the antique shop on the ground floor but not this time! It was Christmas Eve and time to head to Home Sweet Home for our own wonderful celebration, both of us delighted to have spent a quiet afternoon, hand in hand, talking and dreaming...