Friday, January 6, 2012

L'Isle sur la Sorgue

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... 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...


  1. I love L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and haven't been in three years so thank you for this post. I have several dealers there who still send me textiles but I miss browsing and of course the touching. I need to go back and the sooner the better! Thank you for sharing, I love it!


  2. What a lovely trip to a favorite Provencal destination! Thank you for sharing with us your favorite dealers and their wares. I have not stopped by in years and have really enjoyed this visit. The linen-covered ottoman would have caught my eye too ;-) A bientot, Heather. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. Now that is what I call a great day out! wonderful pics, thank you

  4. I KNOW EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE IN THAT FIRST PHOTO!!I do know the town too.When we lived in ITALY I kidnapped my husband and just told him to drive North!Long story short he had found out where we were going and called a head!Good thing as I had him driving to the ALPS,and not the correct way.After he made a gasoline stop he said why dont you check your map and I figured it out!So, after many hours of driving from Florence we got to our inn only to be told they didNOT have our reservation and were full.It was the weekend of VALENTINES DAY.My adorable Giampy pulled out a fax with a confirmation number and the person he spoke too!VIOLA........we got a room!We bought a couple cherished items that weekend.Which adorn my house to this day!

  5. Well I'm glad you didn't buy the temple lantern because it looks VERY scary and threatening. Which I guess is exactly what a good dragon is supposed to do. And 2012 is the year of the dragon, so perhaps it may be a useful device to summon other, more friendly dragons, to come hither?

    The market looks fantabulous, and I think it better go on our rather long list of things to visit next January? Is it open then, or was Christmas Eve the last time for a while?

    Love that vista of the bridge - so impossibly pretty! Virginia xx

  6. We love this village and the surrounding region and keep returning whenever we can. We have spent hours combing the antique stores - window shopping only - and love the market from which we have bought many items. The thought of being able to just "pop in" on Christmas eve fills me with excitement and a little envy.

  7. I love the big "R" in the first picture! But who am I kidding, I love all the pictures (! All the colors and beautiful finds; it's like a European Treasure Mart on steroids!! I like the Chinese temple lantern, but if you were not moved to purchase it, twas not meant to be.

  8. Oh yay! I wouldn't have thought that so many of you would know of this special place, but of cooourse you do. :)

    Debra, our sheets seller is also on ebay and "Favoris 84" is their ebay name. They have great ticking too.

    Vero, ah great minds think alike...

    Sharon, you would be in Heaven here, although I remember your making a pass through Provence, so hopefully you have been!

    La Contessa, I loved your story so much. So romantic. And I think that I can guess what the pieces might be based on the "Romantic Living" feature on your house. :)

    Virginia, as always, good advice and yes! Definitely! We can go when you visit. They are only open on the weekends and Sunday is the best bet as there is the market too.

    Elizabeth, you too? So close yet so far--we are going to have to take care of that soon. :) Maybe we could go together for the huge fair in August?

    Sister, aahhh Treasure Mart=happiness. And no, that is the old camera! Wait to you see what the new one can do! I still have a lot to learn but it is so fun trying.

  9. What a beautiful tour, Heather. The town and the antiques shopping look amazing. Maybe I'll get there one day. A girl can dream.
    All the best...Victoria

  10. Only one visit so far to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, but by far the best puce IMHO.
    Everything under the provencal sun on offer...the olives, the much, so little time.
    I wonder if the prices are better being in the country than Paris.

  11. It looks like you had a good time over there....
    I was in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue 18 years ago, good place for 'chiner', but in general I prefer the big deballages. Might you, as an antique dealer I'm looking at it in a slightly different way.

    Very interesting post and good to hear that you had a lovely "outing"!

    Just to let you know Heather, I passed with my today's post an award on to you. Hope that you like it.

  12. The Chinese lantern would have caught my eye, too, but with all that there is to devour with your eyes, how would one ever make a choice!

    Happy new year , mon amie, and wishing you three many blessings this year mixed with great adventures!


  13. Heather,

    I am not sure where I have been but I am just now finding you and your lovely blog! I spent most of the morning reading it. Thank you for your great writing and beautiful photos. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. I wonder if you could email me?


  14. Victoria, if a girl can't dream, it is time to call the funny farm! Trust me, I never thought that I would end up here. You have lots of blessings in your life, this I am sure of. :)

    ParisBreakfasts, you are making me hungry! And by some weird fluke, I don't have any olives in the house but shuush or the Frenchy police will come after me. ;) Yes, the prices are lower than Saint Ouen but that ain't saying much now is it?

    Karin--thank you!!! Gosh, I am tickled pink especially as it is coming from you. And now that I know that you go the deballages!!! Where? THIS IS WHERE WE CAN MEET! What do you think? Bisous.

    Genie, merci et franchement à toi aussi!! I don't know about you but a little adventure is sounding mighty good right now!

    Hello Christina and thank you! Well, it is my fault for only lurking on your insanely beautiful blog and not commenting! But I will email you pronto. :)

  15. oh how utterly everything......has brightened up a very dull London morning!!

  16. Oh thank you! And thank you for signing up as well, that brightened up my morning. :)

  17. Oh how I wish we had fleas like this in Australia!! Very envious indeed.

    ~ Clare x

  18. MORNING! I just found your blog through greige and fell in love! I am your newest follower!
    Have a great weekend!

    1. Oh hooray! And so glad you like it! There are wonderful folks here.

      Wishing you a wonderful weekend as well... :)

  19. Just found your blog through a blogger friend. What an exciting life you have. I am an American who married a Dutchman and now live in Holland half the year. I love living in Europe. Glad I found you. xo Jenny

  20. Hi Jenny and yay! But really my life is not exciting, it just sounds like it is because I add "in Provence" at the end of my sentences. As in "today I shopped for Provence"--suddenly sounds better, non?

    It is interesting living in Europe, isn't it?
    Bon Weekend!

  21. Hi Heather - i found you quite by accident via another blog from a designer in Tasmania (Australia) Greige Design so it goes to show it is a small world!!

    I have to say your blog sent memories and waves of green envy through the room - you are right just the word 'Provence' shoots imagery up on the wall like you wouldn't believe!! We came back from a visit last June and I have had to work it out on canvas - so am sharing one of the images inspired by the region with you - cheers - thanks for reminding me of the wonder!!

  22. Hello Wyn,
    Your work absolutely conveys the essence of Arles! Thank you so much for sharing it with me. It is wonderful that this region inspired you so much.
    Wishing you an excellent Sunday,

  23. Lovely
    Coming at you from the Northern Beaches of Australia
    Carolyn xx

    1. Hi Carolyn! What an incredible life you have! I want a beautiful Beach House too! :)

  24. Lovely to find this post! We are doing a big French road trip in June and I found this post via my internet research. I want to explore the Sunday market at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Thanks so much for bringing it to life for me! :-)


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