Simple Sunday pleasures...
I have a nice little routine forming... every Sunday (if it’s not pouring with rain) as Roddy hits the road by bike, I take myself off to any brocante which happens to be on that day.
As early summer shakes away late spring, brocante signs suddenly seem to pop up everywhere by road sides advertising village names in black capitals on loud fluorescent paper.
There are huge brocantes out here like the many car-boots in the UK, but here, they generally offer a reasonable sit-down lunch too. With rows of long wooden tables beneath oiled table cloth layers prepped in anticipation under vast canvas canopes, all ready to receive hungry punters. When the french are out, it’s still firm tradition for that 12-2pm lunch break and even at the smaller village brocantes you’ll see them as the clock firmly strikes 12 - out come their pop-up picnic tables, superseded by plates, glasses, cutlery, tupperware lidded tubs packed with edible feasts and corkscrews of course, for the most important lunchtime ingredient - vin rouge.
But it’s the smaller brocantes I love the most.
So today, on this beautiful bright and sunny Sunday morning, after a lovely session of yoga on the terrace, I get the now, incredibly excited Iggys ready. I manage to wrap and secure Biba’s collar around her neck without too much fuss, but it’s a very enthusiastic Huxley who is beside himself that I have to chase around the room trying to catch him as he freejumps the furniture from one sofa to the other mischievously trying to out run me.
They know. They know it’s Sunday. Brocante day. A special doggy outing. An outing packed with new country air scents drifting just above nose level, barking at feral cats and receiving lots of fuss. That’s their favourite part. Sometimes their hopeful eyes and waggy tails are even rewarded with the precious gift of a treat.
There doesn’t seem to be many Iggys in france and the attention they get is ‘beaucoup’. Elderly ladies and young children mostly seem to fuss them, asking ‘are they whippets?’
My reply rolls off the tongue by heart now like a true native... “Ce ne sont pas des whippets, mais similaires. Ce sont des lévriers italiens. Ils ont huit ans et sont très gentils.”
“Ahh...” they reply surprised, “pas les bébés?”
“Non”. (Not babies.. and actually my french is pretty crappy.)
I set off in the car in the direction of Chef-Boutonne, yet at the end of the lane, I spot Marie-Claude (my neighbour) who waves and hurries over to the car. She tells me she loves the taste of the elderflower cordial I gave her and wants the recipe. I’m a little surprised as in England it’s so common to make your own cordial, I just assumed the french would make their own too. The french are great foragers, they know their ‘death cap’ from their ‘chanterelle’ fungi, and they certainly know how to harvest escargot.
I tell her where I’m off to and she says there are two more brocantes on today, one in Barro and one in Condac, sadly she has to work today or she’d come too. I change my mind about my first choice as it’s a 38min drive and take her choice instead. Two in one day seems more appealing and neither are far from our house.
Barro is my first hit, the sweetest village by the banks of the river Charente. They throw the most amazing little village festivals in the summer months too.
The treasures in this village are to be found mainly in people’s front gardens. The balloons you see attached to the premise gates or fences are an immediate invite, enticing you to come and peek at what they have on offer.
And it’s at my first stop here, that I spot and can’t resist the Chinese Samurai hat - perfect for keeping the sun off my back and even more perfect at the smidge price of 5€. Madame kindly réserves it for me while I continue on through the lane in further pursuit of more treasure. I’m on the hunt for two particular items, a couple of wine boxes and a lock for the dormitory door. I saw these gorgeous old hinges last Sunday, so looking for something along those lines.
I pass by a house with a interesting group of old alarm clocks displayed - maybe there are alarm clock collectors out here somewhere in rural france - and what looks like some sort of ancient ammunition laid to attention to the left of the table... The vintage radios sit impressively underneath...
but unimpressed I pass by eagerly spotting more balloons.
Can you spot le petit chat? - Huxley did. It’s here I find my second bargain... a white cotton robe perfect to be draped around a padded hanger and hung on the hook by the shower in the gîte, hopefully a nice touch for any girly guest to wear who doesn’t like roaming around in a towel after their shower.
Hmm... the small chest of drawers looks interesting.
I have no idea what the stand-up cardboard ships are all about - maybe once found in cereal boxes? Who knows...
I love these old fashioned specs... and the book underneath held closed by an ornate little clasp.
So much silver! and SO cheap!
Just look at this silver cutlery ranging from 1€... to this gorgeous traditional set of Laguiole (you know - the famous french bees)
It's still in this beautiful original box, all for 8€!
There’s something for absolutely everyone here, collector or not…
By the time we reached the Condac, it was in full swing with their bread festival on the go, and judging by these amazing tarts it didn’t take much encouragement to get a bustle of people queuing up to purchase them.
I thought Mr. P might appreciate these when back from his ride...
When he did arrive back from his 137km bike ride, he was almost salivating from the sight inside the box of these two tasting looking tartlette aux poires and tartlette aux pommes laying in their crunchy golden pastry cases begging to be demolished.
So his bike ride went well apart from almost crashing into 5 deer running straight across the road into his path from suddenly no-where. Oh and another snake, he always seems to be cycling over snakes.
Admiring his ‘Visage’ socks I asked if he fancied cycling with me to Lizant tonight for indulging in the moules frites festival...
So a couple of hours later we - him on his old Stan Pike steel frame, trailing the Iggys’s behind in the ‘love shack’ as we now call it and me on my Kalkhoff electric, head off up the road on this stunning early summer’s evening for our supper in Lizant.
It’s not too far, which suits me as I am also that typical reluctant, lazy cyclist. So tootling along slowly on these quiet country lanes where it’s uncommon to witness the sight of a passing car, enjoying the warmth of the sun - the golden light glistening through the trees dancing patterns on the road as we pass by and entertainment making me laugh in front as Roddy trails the love shack with Huxley frantically trying to hump Biba inside it - just suits me fine.