Ille sur la Sorgue

Good Friday and we set off to the Mecca of all Brocantes, Ille Sur la Sorge. Set in the heart of Provence, it was a three hour drive setting off bright and early for the biggest day of the year in French flea markets.

We stopped for coffee in Aix en Provence before heading on to the Ille, a small town set on an island in the Sorgue river.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the first or the second time we’d been but given that it was meant to be the biggest brocante of the year, it was hard to pass up.

We arrived before it was too busy and started perusing the stands. Green glass bottles (banned from buying any more), rusty wrought-iron tables and chairs, mirrors, crockery, cutlery, glasses and lots of miscellaneous crap. The unifying factor, the price. Prices in Ille sur la Sorgue were much higher than our trusty or rusty Troc en Stock.

We stopped for lunch and sat under a lovely wisteria in a picturesque garden, blossom dropping on to the table and plates.

Lunch was delicious, an entree of burrata with aioli followed by a Provençal gnocchi delicately flavored with olive and tomato and finally a rosemary-infused goat cheese with a drizzle of honey.

After lunch we discovered the largest part of the market and debated the merits of various rusty tables before stumbling across a stand full of antique soda siphons. A myriad of colour, we were captivated as we’ve searched high and low for the French glass bottles. It would appear however, not as rare as we’d thought!

We decided to cut our losses and leave before we blew the house budget. The prices were too high and we’ve had more success in our local flea markets.

Not all was lost as we stopped for tea in Salon de Provence and then decided to detour back through Toulon on our way to Ikea.

Passing through Toulon we saw part of the coast we’d like to explore, south of St Tropez, the Var coast looks less developed than the Riviera and definitely worth a look. On the list of things to do.

Several hours later we arrived home, it had been a long day and we were exhausted. Not much to show for our travels but we were making progress and the end was in sight.

50 Shades of Gris

Eight hours of painting later and I’m exhausted. I’ve painted three side tables, two lamps, three book shelves, half of the double wooden bed frame including sponging the wicker and I’ve now collapsed in a painted-covered heap.

Everything is shades of grey and ivory, very pretty, very French and perfect for the Little House Above the Boulangerie.

I’m pleased (and relieved) to say that the end is in sight. I have one lamp, half the wicker bed frame and the side of one book shelf left and then I’m hanging up my paint brush and might have to have a manicure.

DIY. Hmm.

Where there’s muck, there’s brass!

Heading off to my favourite shop, the Troc en Stock in Antibes which has the best collection of French crap we’ve come across, our fingers were crossed.

It had been forever since I’d been on one of my pilgrimages to the Troc as they’d been closed over Christmas and I haven’t been back since.

Entering the warehouse, I spotted a lovely collection of antique glass bottles with ground glass stoppers. They were gorgeous but really expensive for the Troc at €25 each. If I had a spare €100 to spend on glass (I can’t seem to get enough) those have my name on them.

We moved on to the antique beds and there, lurking behind an old armoire was the perfect bed. It was a single iron bed frame, dirty and rusty but perfect for the room formerly known as the bathroom, formerly known as the shitbox, now known as the little bedroom but soon to be the Pretty Little Provençal Bedroom.

We found a small table for the bargain price of €7 and with the bed, our grand total was €67. Troc means barter and while we knocked the proprietor down on the bed, she wasn’t coming down to €5 on the table. Still, it was worth a try.

We loaded up the Mini, this time there was room for me in front and off we went.

Arriving home we set to work. Letad painted the bed frame dark grey while I, upon discovering brass knobs, set to work cleaning and polishing.

The task seemed insurmountable except for a stroke of genius (if I say so myself), I tried spraying the knobs with oven cleaner and a hundred years of black tarnish was lifted away. Several hours of spraying and polishing and the knobs were gleaming like new.

As soon as the paint dries we’ll assemble the bed and hopefully it will look beautiful. Not bad for €60!

Hard work but worth it!

The bell, the bell!

Recently the bell in Valbonne was removed for cleaning.

There was a strange silence in the village as usually the bell rings on the hour, first for the Marie (the mayor) and a few minutes later it rings again for the people of the village. At midday and midnight it rings twenty four times and it rings every half hour. That’s a lot of bells!

The newly restored bell is now back in place and is ringing away merrily, the cleaning was very successful as the bell is much louder than it was before.

While the bell is a quintessential sound of the village, from the slightly sleep deprived it would be nice if they could turn it down a bit.

The bell!

One Hundred and One Ways to Pack a Mini

We only have a couple of weeks to get the little house finished so it was time to assess the bed situation and as we’re claiming the house sleeps six, time to buy a new bed.

We set off to the Carrefour superstore in Antibes to buy a mattress and slats for the new/old bed frame we bought over the weekend. We bought a few extra necessities including lamp shades and then it was time to pack it all in the car.

Before continuing I should mention the car is a Mini.

We did some very creative packing which involved standing the mattress and frame vertically in the back of the car. Luckily it’s a convertible or we’d still be in Antibes, but with the front seat pushed forward, the mattress angled across the back seat, there was just enough room for me to climb into the remaining space carefully holding the lamp shade. And off we went.

We were a ridiculous spectacle and hysterical laughter from onlookers followed us through Antibes, on to the motorway and back to Valbonne. It was quite breezy in the back and by the time we arrived (luckily not arrested or decapitated), I was glad to get out.

Next step, carry everything through the village and try to get it up the stairs.

Before continuing I should mention the house is four stories high with very steep and narrow staircases.

We carried the mattress and slats up to the third floor and there we ran into trouble. The mattress was fine as it was squeezed under rafters and round corners and hooray, a perfect fit for the new bed. A slightly problem though as the supporting slats would not and could not be maneuvered up the narrow staircase.

We tried every angle possible before deciding to give up for the night. Other solutions are now being considered as giving up is not an option.

The bed itself will be painted ivory and hopefully by the time I leave, will be fully functioning. I’m confident it will look gorgeous and hopefully won’t collapse if someone sleeps in it.

Lots of work still to do. Day Three of the least restful holiday ever!

Smelling the …

By mid morning my sense of smell had returned, just in time to smell flowers, pastry, coffee or dog shit depending on which part of the village one happened to be standing in or on.

Another day of hard work ensued as I took inventory of bedding, towels, crockery and cutlery. Cleaned and decluttered the kitchen, dismantled a small bed and carried it down four flights of stairs, washed bed linen and cleaned, cleaned and cleaned. Next on the list, paint the new bed. Next time I go on holiday, I might rethink this plan.

Still, things are looking good and with a trip to the Office de Tourisme done, I’m now armed with brochures for guests to entertain themselves along the Côte d’Azur.

In other housey news, the valuation of the slowest moving flat in Parliament Hill has been completed and apart from being massively overpriced, it doesn’t look as though it’s about to fall down. Apparently it’s been there since 1890 so that’s good news.

And so for the rest of the day, a trip to the enormous Carrefour in Antibes where the preparation for summer rental continues.

Day Two. Exhausted already but soldiering on.
What holiday?!

Five glass bottles

After an evening spent dysoning with the brand new baby Dyson, a much needed investment for the Little (dusty) House Above the Boulangerie, we were up bright and early to go brocanting.

We started the day by rating the local pain aux raisin, still not as good as the Early Bird cafe in Chalk Farm, but not bad at all, and from there we set off to the Marineland vides greniers (car boot sale) in Antibes.

We were there by 8:30am and had the best brocante on record. Two mirrors, five glass bottles and a double wooden bed frame for the top bedroom. Score! And all for under €150, even better.

We drove home through a triathlon with the wooden bed frame poking out of the Mini and delivering the new old stuff to the house, we started cleaning and polishing. Hours later we stopped, exhausted. I had lost my sense of smell from hydrochloride acid fumes (hopefully it’s temporary) but the bottles were clean.

It would appear there are now fifteen glass bottles scattered throughout the house. My theory is that no bottle should be left behind but have we reached saturation point?

More brocanting to come I’m sure…