14 April 2014

Good Food & Great Shopping in France

The Old Port at Dieppe
We’re now home from our buying trip, ladened with goodies and a whole heap is on its way. Unfortunately technology let us down badly, and the computer crashed pretty soon into the trip. But I did keep writing the blog – I just wasn’t able to publish it or any photos. So I shall resume our journey just as we left England for France, and shall publish the rest of the updates every few days until we’re done.

In the meantime, if you see us walking down the street for the next week or two, look away and pretend we’re still in France. Unless you want to visit us at the Peregian Beach Market next Sunday, 20 April, in which case you will see our happy smiling faces and see what’s left of the things we brought back in our luggage (heaps have already sold, but there are still a few pieces I’ve held back especially for Peregian).

So, to continue …

The pebble beach at Dieppe
Dieppe, on the west coast of France, is a charming, medieval port town. It is our port of choice when coming and going from France, and we always make sure to take a hotel right on the seafront. The beach isn’t anything special, being entirely pebbles, but it’s still nice to look out over the ocean and feel the wind in your face. At night you can open your windows to hear the quiet shush of the waves on the pebbles and the cries of the seabirds, and it’s very relaxing.

Carousel at Dieppe harbor-front
It’s especially relaxing if you’ve just filled up on a delicious dinner, and Dieppe is rightly famous for its seafood. We had the best ever mussels in cream sauce (Moules a la Crème – doesn’t it sound better in French?). How easily pleased we are because this is the most simple recipe, but I assure you that no chatting went on at our table while we were tucking in – can’t talk, eating.

Then it was a quick promenade around town, and right on the waterfront at the old port we found a very old children’s carousel. It was so French, with slightly menacing horses and an abundance of naked women, and we loved it.

French angel, very
Norman in design
Next day we headed off to visit Serge, a dealer who often has great things if you’re prepared to scramble about to find them. I don’t usually agree to clamber over teetering piles of wood, glass and metal, where one wrong move will lead to the lot collapsing and you dying a horrible, squishy death. But I make an exception for Serge. My burrowing through piles of stuff at his place always results in great finds, and I’m not dead yet.

This time we carried off some great vintage French copper, including a couple of large copper preserves pans, nice enamel buckets with lids, yet more glass pate pots (now I have 52!), various vintage fishing accoutrements, and best of all was a large haul of salvaged ecclesiastical metal ware.

French angels are very beautiful, and this time we have 19 pieces church metal ware to offer, including angels and decorative items. They range from as tall as my knee to tiny enough to hide in my hand and were sourced from a demolished old church in the Mayenne region. I think they will appeal to a lot of people – if I get to offer them on the open market, that is. Most pieces already have dibs on them, but if I have any left they’ll appear on our market stand as soon as they arrive in Australia.

Brass Man-in-the-Moon,
We have been good customers of Serge’s over the years, to the point that we are now always shown his secret stash. This time from his secret stash I carried off three deep blue French ticking mattress covers. You can’t beat the mellowed look of very old textiles that are still in good condition. Two of them still have the remnants of their original feather stuffing, which Quarantine will no doubt go nuts over, but it’s nothing a good fumigation won’t fix. We also took four large beautiful linen sheets, with ladder-worked top edges and hand-embroidered monograms. 

Even better than getting access to the secret stash was the ultimate sign of Elite Customer Status – I finally got to meet Serge’s cat. He loves his cat and doesn’t introduce him to everyone, though I must say introductions were a little difficult seeing how the cat doesn’t have a name. He’s a lovely big ginger Tom with a wonky tail, but he doesn’t come to you unless he can see you’ve got food bribes. I had no food but did get a few cuddles through sheer trickery. I have world class ratbags at my house, so I have some experience outwitting moggies. 

Glass carpet bowls 'jacks' - the balls
you aim for.  A bit over 100 years
old.  $15 for the 3, to be offered
at Peregian Beach Market.
Then we found lunch in a tiny, out-of-the-way truckers’ brasserie, which Doug really wanted to try. He wanted to try it, but have me do all the talking to get us in, seated and served something that sounded nice. This is a tall order when I don’t speak a whole lot of French and in tiny out-of-the-way truckers’ brasseries there isn’t a whole lot of English going on. I made him promise that we will attend Alliance Francaise when we get home – both of us, so it’s not just me who has to muddle through. But anyway, I did muddle through and we had a surprisingly good lunch. You’ve got to make the most of the excellent food while you’re in France.

Next, we shall explore a new region on the way to Paris, and then on to the Porte de Vanves markets for our main French shopping.

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