Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sunday shopping at a Provençal flea market




Remi wrapped his arm around my shoulder, we picked up the pace and shuddered in unison. That Mistral wind! Always arriving precisely when it is most unwelcome. So it was on a Sunday morning in December. But the sun was gorgeous as it always is on such windswept days and for once, I had prepared, wrapping myself in layers of cashmere with gloves and a bonnet in my pocket plus fly-sized glasses to keep my eyes from tearing. I had to keep my focus. For yet again, we were on the hunt.

Of course, we didn't actually need a thing from the brocante or flea-market at St. Etienne du Grès. But it has always been about the Art of Looking for us. The prick of possibility. From those very first weeks together in Vanves on the outskirts of Paris, we would walk the puces every weekend, sometimes on both Saturday and Sunday. It was our antiques education, not to mention free entertainment. We didn't yet have a spare dime between us, so despite our empty apartment (I had only brought an Icart print and many pairs of heels with me from NYC), we simply asked questions of the dealers and compared likes and dislikes over a scrambled brunch upon returning home.

The Mistral whipped Remi and I off into our own individual orbits. Which was just fine as we were both too busy storing up little bits of lost history and found inspiration to be good company. Pushed forward by the wind, I rolled through aisle after aisle, past the sellers lunching on saucisson and warming wine, while mentally sifting the junk from the jewels at each stand. And somehow, just that walking while looking outwards with a soft gaze, always tends to do the same for me mentally. Stuck staring, I wondered with my head tilted just so and responded to each dealer's enquiring eyes with a nod that was curt but kind. "No, sorry but no." As always, I was searching without really knowing what I  was looking for and perhaps that is another reason why such flea market strolls are so comforting. Anonymous, right in the thick of the crowds, we all are.

I finished first as I often do, impatient red-head that I am. But then again, it just might be that I like that moment of turning back to search for Remi's face, that familiar face, to catch him unaware with weighty eyes. Slowly, I reeled myself in towards him until that arm was replaced wordlessly, shoulder-round. We didn't end up buying anything as we knew we probably wouldn't and turned to leave as the dealers started to close up shop - repacking their wares carefully and with a hint of accustomed disappointment - all of us waiting for a "Yes, thank you, I'll take it," possibly at the next brocante.



A boutis or typically Provençal antique quilt. They are getting harder to find...






Rusty ponies, anyone?





Vintage santons and saints for a Provençal crèche...

What do we think? An olive or grape press?

And for my friend La Contessa of Hen House...


Did you see anything that tempted you?


Sending my very Best from a tiny village in the South of France,
Heather


47 comments:

  1. You are killing me!
    The flea markets here have gotten so meh...
    I feel like a brocante addict desperate for a good flea market shopping high!
    Shopping with you is the next best thing.

    Thank you for taking us along with you!

    xo xo

    Brooke

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    1. And Brooke, this was NOTHING compared to the deballages that I have told you about. How I would love to get you over here for you to get your "fix"! ;)

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  2. Oooh - I like the pictures! And the teddy bear in the chair. And why not a rusty pony? (except that it would probably scare Ben and Kipling). Yes, a few items told me we were in France - the the grape/olive press and the linens - so fancy! This also made me think about the discovery that our old house is now a bed and breakfast, and the pictures of all of the antiques in it! We also grew up around antiques, so that's maybe why your are drawn to them. It does look wintery there, but it sounds like a lovely afternoon with your sweetie - thank you for sharing it with us!

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    1. I still can't get over that our old house in now a B&B!! I was even thinking of writing a post about it but still haven't figured out to do it. But I loved seeing those interiors again. And yes, for sure I must love antiques because we were always surrounded by them but they were never "off limits" either. :)

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  3. Heather .. Lucky Woman .. just to be there, with the possibilty of hauling some newfound treasure home .. in France .. in La Mistral .. Lucky Woman!

    Aloha,
    Bill Facker
    www.kauai-to-paris.com

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  4. I like the door knocker. You have a much better attitude toward flee markets. i go expecting that there is something that I will like and then I'm usually disappointed. I think I need to other markets than the local ones. Happy Mistral :(
    Judy

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    1. Oh that never works, Judy. Next time go with ZERO expectations and I bet you will get lucky. :)

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  5. Yes, I did! The rusty horses among some others. The hunt is really the thing, isn't it? But then, the thrill of a small find is wonderful, too. I'm actually a bit 'brocante starved' at the moment, but it is my favorite pasttime in summer and fall. Aren't we lucky to be here! Lovely post, Heather. I felt every feeling you described - even if we do not, mercifully, have to put up with mistral ici en La Charente. <3

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    1. Ahhhh, consider yourself very very fortunate on that account. :) And we are lucky it is true! If you get super starved you can always come to Provence as there are brocantes pretty much year 'round!

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    2. One of these days,mI will be there. <3

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  6. I'm actually intrigued by the tri-fold mirror in the first photo. The ponies are interesting, but one would need a bigger house than mine for them. The embroidered linens are wonderful, the faded shutters...the chair with some old book titles. But then again, I have just been going through a clutter clearing purge since Christmas and am intending moving through the house into other rooms. I feel so very virtuous and FREE after doing it. (Using La Contessa'a capitalisation) that I might turn around after the flea market visit and be satisfied with just the looking too!
    Cheers,
    Deborah C

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    1. Yes, that is it exactly! We won't bring anything in unless we know exactly where it could go since we like the house as it is (and already have too much "art" that isn't even out). That is awesome that you are decluttering. We had to since we moved (aka downsized) twice in recent years - even though there is still more to get rid of, always.
      And isn't that mirror amazing???

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  7. The piles of linens caught my eye. They are beautiful and so popular now that I wonder how there can be any of them left. I'm not much of a shopper, but looking at all these items I would wonder about the stories each one could tell.
    A great way to spend free time together.

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    1. Quite simply, those linens aren't cheap! :o We have bought a few over the years though when we have been able and they really are wonderful - they keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. "They don't make things like they used to..."
      And yes, there are definitely so many pieces that are practically shouting with stories waiting to be told...

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  8. A BOUTIS.................I WANT THAT ONE!The black with the roses!!!How much about do they sell for?THat was EXTRA pretty! My guess would be an olive press!!!THEN A CHICKEN for MOI!!!!!!!!!How apropos as today I posted about RETIRING the VINTAGE HEN HOUSE BLOG NAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!SO< happy you thought about ME at the FLEA..............but what did you find?SOME Little object I hope!XOXO

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    1. I bought my boutis a looong time ago so I don't know how much they are going for these days - although I do know that the prices vary widely depending on the condition. That one was very you!

      And no, nothing at all. There was a bust that we didn't buy...and regret that we didn't but that happens...

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  9. Hello Heather,

    Gosh, such willpower! We should not have been able to resist a little something from these eclectic treasures.

    Your photographs are quite haunting. As one scrolls through one cannot help but have the mind wander to the provenance of these items. What memories and tiny scraps of history they hold. What stories they could tell if only they could speak.

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    1. Hello my dear Hattatts! Yes, I most certainly agree with you. At times it even makes me a bit wistful - such as with all of the lovely framed photographs - how did a family give them away or sell them? Shouldn't they be treasured? But of course, everything, everything was important to someone at some time or another...

      And yes, we do have willpower! But we have gone to so many brocantes over the years and hope to go to many more.
      Much Love to you Both,
      H

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  10. I'll take some of the linens and the teddy bear please.

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  11. One of my absolute favourite things to do on vacation - made even better by the fact that we now own a house in France just asking to be filled with lovelies from the brocantes! So far the house hasn't been finished enough to fill with stuff but on our next trip in March we are planning a brocante blitz ! Thanks for a moment of vicarious travel this dull Wednesday morning!

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    1. Oh you are welcome! And how fabulous to be at the point where you actually NEED to buy things for your house...ah, I miss those days. :) If you are here in Provence, let me know and I will hook you up with good addresses!

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  12. I really love those three paintings!! I hope you have a super duper Wednesday, Heather!

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    1. I do too. Danke, Keith! ps. How is your German coming along? ;)

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  13. Oh, I would have definitely gone for the wine glasses. So many of the same type.
    In fact I am waiting now for quite a while to buy new glasses since I really want to buy them when we are in I-S-L-S end of April.
    And I really hope they have some for me, because I smashed mine all to pieces over the years, one after another. And now there are only 2 left. Of different types. ( I know, this is quite unbelievable to only have 2 wineglasses but I want them to be special and beautiful)
    By the way I ordered a box of " LaVallongue"-Garrigues. Any recommendation de ta part for a nice round, heavy redwine from your region? (Assemblage de cépage préfèré)
    (Though this is probably advertisement...)

    Beautiful sunshine on your photos. (:
    Bisous, Silke


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    1. Eee, I totally am hesitating in suggesting something because what if you spend all of that money and you don't like it??? That said, I recently tasted the red from the Abbaye de Pierredon: http://www.abbayedepierredon.fr/pierredon-vin-bio-alpilles-viticulture-biologique.php#/FicheTechnique/10
      I thought that it was lovely but this was at a friends house so I am not sure of the pricing. I don't know who you are buying from but these guys come recommended: http://www.vcommevin.com/

      We are exactly the same with our wine glasses. Ben and Kipling are the Champions of knocking over glasses on coffee tables with wagging tales! Eh oui and you know that you will find what you need at L'Isle...but the question is...will you be able to afford it?
      Gros Bisous,
      H

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    2. Cool, thank you for the LInks! But I really have to come and taste before.

      Ooohh, it seems I do not yet have an idea about the prices at L'Isle. Hmm we'll see... (;

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  14. Good afternoon!
    What Wonderful and suggestive objects!
    They make me feel better! I would like to have such a stroll here! Lucky woman !
    Here is my List: all the linens, all the glasses, the iron tables, the books and the chair, the clock and finally "les paniers en fer".
    When I visit puces I don't know what I am looking for just like you but you are right when you say that such flea market strolls are so comforting. It is a sort of full immersion into the past and beauty!
    Ciao bella!
    Bisous

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    1. Emilia, that made me smile. That is quite a shopping list that you have there!!! But I know that it would all look perfect in your lovely abode.
      Have an excellent day!
      Bisous!

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  15. I'll take that chair in the last photo, please. I'm a sucker for the stray chair... And the frame leaning against it. I would hang it on the bare wall I'm staring at right now, either empty - a work of art on its own - or with a quickly created watercolor abstract.

    Heather, I love the rhythm of your words - they evoke the walk, look, pause of a happy, leisurely morning at les Puces. You know I would have loved to wander with you! XOXO

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    1. Thank you for that very specific compliment Jeanne - it went right to my heart as that is something that I work on. Merci! And yes, come over whenever you like and we will shop away...I will take you to all of my favorite spots. We will just leave Mr H by the pool! ;)

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  16. I love linen...and I would adore a vintage French cutting board...one that has age and patina.
    We have nothing like this where I live...so I am going to live vicariously through your images and posts!

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    1. Oh good! By all means do! But as for the cutting board...they are another item that is getting harder to find. I think that once someone buys one they don't let it go! I still see some amazing butcher blocks at some of the professional fairs but those go for a fortune now...

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  17. You are killing me as well. Oh to have such a market near us in Greece! The closest seems to be in Athens, too far for a Sunday morning outing. . .but then there were rumors of a place in Tripoli. . .one of these days I hope to have a similar post from down south of you. I did laugh at your Mistral wind. . .we experienced it for the first time this last month and have a whole new understanding of dressing in layers from head to toe. And this die-hard contact lens wearer finally gave up and put on the glasses . . .which also helped block the wind from searing through my eyeballs!

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    1. Ai! Be careful with your eyes!! What is the name that they have for the wind?? I bet that there are several!

      And do you have any idea how romantic it is that the nearest spot you may be able to go antiquing is in...Tripoli? *happy sigh*

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  18. For me it's the thrill of the hunt! I love good flea markets and brocantes. The ones here are getting less and less interesting. I would have snapped up those linens. I adore the monograms, the weight and quality of the weaving. Much like the way you weave a story:)

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    1. Or the way you weave a compliment? ;) Merci, Jennifer and it is interesting that you and Brooke said the same thing...Someone in Cali needs to bring all of this stuff over there!

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  19. Its all tempting! Biggest eyes on the globe in the background.

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    1. Aha! Well spotted as I hadn't even noticed it! It would have been interesting to try and figure out what year it was from...

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  20. Mending a rusty pony is tempting... for space sake though an old photograph might be the temptation given in to. Every object has such a story :-)

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    1. It is amazing, isn't it? It actually can make me super tired if I focus on that aspect too much! Something tells me you understand what I mean. :)

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  21. Hi Heather, thanks for the birthday wishes. Yes we are close in age :) And thanks for the compliment. I did pass my test so life is more or less back to normal now. I love it when you go to flea markets and share with us. I would have bought some wire baskets, that wooden chair and the linens.

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  22. A day of relaxation: walk, browse, and learn. Or discover. I’m surprised by the presence religious statues.


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  23. A day of relaxation: walk, browse, and learn. Or discover. I’m surprised by the presence religious statues.


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  24. Just found your blog, bravo! I live in the Languedoc now but anticipate a move to Provence. Those flea market pics did it, we have nothing that good here as far as I can tell. And I am a frequent flyer to any of them within a reasonable distance (I am a bit remote). The large wooden object I believe is a grain winnowing device or sorter. In your area, my guess would be rice......
    Thank you for the blog. I do a little one of my own, just to keep friends in the US up to date, I know how much work it can be.

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    1. Hello and bienvenue! And thank you for the info - I would never have guessed that it could be for grain sorting but that makes perfect sense. I would have just asked the seller but he had quite a scowl on his face so I didn't dare!

      And there is an amazing event in Montpellier - the professional deballage. It is several times a year and there are sellers from France, Italy and Spain and buyers from the world over. If you have never been, it is a must do! You can find the info needed at www.cipolat.com - the next one is Tuesday Feb 10th. I have written about a few of them that we have attended - you can find those posts in the search bar on the right hand side. :)

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