The Most Beautiful Brocante in France – The Rouen ‘Puces’

Like much of Europe, snowflakes were falling gently this morning as I headed off to  the Rouen ‘Puces’, a three day sale of the most beautiful antiques from all over France.

PUCES 2012 036 I had to wait for the kids to come home for lunch and feed them before I made an early afternoon escape for the fair. As a result I arrived just as the exhibitors were settling down for ‘dejeuner’.

This is France after all, and since each individual stand holder had arranged, for the most part, their antiques into ‘room sets’ to best display their furniture, paintings and ‘objets d’art’, I was amused to find myself walking through several ‘dining rooms, with each Brocanteur comfortably settled at his antique table, complete with linen table cloth, fine glass ware and three course menu. Every ‘dining table’ distinguished itself with a good  bottle of red wine, and a lovely aroma of Boeuf Bourgignon and Paupiettes de Veau filled the exhibition hall!

Clearly, this was not the time to start a business transaction. I decided to give time for the wine to do it’s work, and spend an uninhibited hour wandering between the stands, enjoying what was offer.

Ultimately though, no single bottle of red was going to help reduce the very beautiful ‘banquette’ from 1700€ to an affordable 100€, nor an armoire from 1500€ to 150€!

PUCES 2012 001

I took this sneaky one, just after one couple had got up to get back to work.

PUCES 2012 004 These were a few of the stands that I passed during the afternoon….

PUCES 2012 011A quantity of maritime paraphanalia, and old sports equipment..

PUCES 2012 015Lamps and busts…

PUCES 2012 020…. and one of the lovely banquettes.

PUCES 2012 028Several old model boats…

PUCES 2012 027Old urns and chests of drawers…

PUCES 2012 029Antique French linens…

PUCES 2012 024 Distressed wooden frames…

PUCES 2012 018It may not be everyone’s idea of interior decoration but these antlers in the huge stone vase looked incredible in this room-set made up of browns, naturals  and taupes….

PUCES 2012 032…and I was very tempted to take home this ‘serre’ (greenhouse) – sadly the bus driver wouldn’t let me on the bus with it!

PUCES 2012 023Taxidermy, and Butterfies….

PUCES 2012 025Lamps from old bobbins…

PUCES 2012 021

PUCES 2012 013A good quantity of Retro -( excuse the photo quality)

PUCES 2012 012

PUCES 2012 009

PUCES 2012 005I was sorely tempted by the small chandeliers!

In the end I took home a little wooden lion because he was distressed, and who so closely resembled my clay lion with a friendly face waiting for me still to collect him from the UK. Luckily the bus driver didn’t spot him as we climbed on the bus by the back door!

I wonder if you can spot him amongst these photos?

PUCES 2012 035I did spot where the empty bottles ended up though!

The Great French House Hunt – where to live?

Our house in the UK is up for sale. It may be some time before a deal is done, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy spending some moments identifying what I’m looking for.

We’ve lived in town, countryside and in the suburbs. each has it’s own positives and negatives, and this great french house hunt is the opportunity to put together a wish-list for the perfect home.

The city is wonderful for it’s activity, it’s buzz and vitality. I love that everything is on the door step – theatre, museums, galleries, shops, school. It takes no effort to move around. The quartier we live in has the main-line station to Paris, the metro system to cross the city and numerous buses to take me to the nearby brocantes, the atelier de patisserie and the swimming pool.

The car can stay parked up in the courtyard and I can walk when the weather is fine, or relax in a cafe and watch the world go by.

Every sunday I amble down to our local market:

but when the last morsel of goats cheese  has been eaten,

and all that remains of the baguette are a few last crumbs,

and the bottle of wine is empty,

I start to hanker for the greenery of the countryside, for a few hours to potter in the garden, the trickling of a little stream tumbling over its rocky bed, the clear blue skies of the summer, and the autumn mists. And then I think how much the countryside has to offer!

Call me a romantic if you will, but the prospect of opening my shutters in the morning and waking up to a view of lavender, vines, or mountains fills me with enthusiasm. Perhaps I could wake up to all three!

Recently I read the blog of Victoria Corby and sighed wistfully at her tale of joining the locals to do the vendange (grave harvesting). Back breaking work though it is, the quality of local tradition and community spirit shines through her experience

But perhaps it’s just the idea of the vendange lunch that appeals, with a bottle or two of last years wine to finish the day.

My sister in law was telling me about her last few weeks bottling fruits and making chutneys, and I wistfully thought about how much i’d like a potager.

and when the jobs were done there would be time to go cycling

and lounge in the garden

looking at the beautifully tended potager that I worked on earlier in the day!

I like the idea of the fète midsummer just to finish things off!

This jury’s out where the children are concerned:

It was inevitable really!

Perhaps we can find a wonderful house in the city with a garden attached, or maybe we keep the apartment and buy a small country cottage for the weekends and holidays….

only time will tell!

Sunday Breakfast in Rouen.

When I heard someone say that on a recent visit to Rouen one sunday morning, they had finally found sustanance in the local Macdonalds, I nearly sat down and wept!

Had they only known to turn left out of their hotel door and not to the right, they would have found ‘le monde’ in all its colour and vivacity, the air full of aromas and scents and the hubub of the masses going about their business at the big sunday market at Place St Marc.

I stopped a few people to ask where would be the best place for ‘petit dejeuner’, and they looked about smiling at the surrounding crowds- well you do what the French do of course.


…park your bike and find a seat in a local cafe, if indeed a seat can be found!

…have a strong coffee and muse over the ‘marché’ on the other side of the street. Many cafés are right next door to a patisserie, and most will provide a croissant or two when asked!

Then get down to business: the real french business of ‘petit dejeuner’ – which of course literally translates as ‘little lunch’…

A fresh crèpe would be a lovely start – nutella, citron sucré, confiture…

…then there are little morceaux of home made ‘Pain d’Epîces’, a local honey producer’s spicy honey cake to try.. and maybe a pot of honey to take home…

a few strawberries would be nice..

..or an apple or two. But being Normandy, with over 13 varieties of apples on display it becomes a difficult choice. More than likely, I will be sweet-talked by the producer, and will wander away with several bottles of  locally produced cider!

..before I know it I am sampling the cheese..

The cured salami and olives are delicious..

…and I am impressed by the queue for locally grown cress and mushrooms. It must be good!

There is Neufchatel cheese, formed in the shape of hearts and traditionally given to the allied soldiers by the Normandy dairymaids. Little morsels are on the counter to sample!

… perhaps a spicy paella?

Appetite appeased, it’s time to wander through the brocante at the far side of the market..

I can’t resist the flowers

But wait – If a strong cup of coffee and sampling all the produce at the market don’t constitute a fully satisfying breakfast, why not try either of these…

Appreciate the  interior of this great café, dedicated to discussion and the meeting of ‘minds’. One might expect to meet the great thinkers of the ‘Belle Epoque’. Open every sunday morning from 10-2, the owner serves food on weekdays, but is open to clients selecting their vienoisserie from the Boulangerie next door to enjoy with their coffee on a sunday morning.

..or if a formal breakfast is in mind – Try the Couleur Café on rue Eau de Robec where for 5€ an immense ‘petit dejeuner’ can be ordered with the most incredible selection of teas and coffees and vienoisserie.

Now there’s just time to drop the flowers, cider and ‘finds’ from the brocante off at the hotel before going to visit the…

Musée de Beaux Arts

…or the Musée de Ceramiques,

both open for free the first sunday of every month.

or perhaps the Jardin de Plantes,

for a game of petanque,

or perhaps just a stroll along the Seine before dinner.

Bon Apetite!