What’s the big deal? Isle-sur-la-Sourge has morphed into the antique shopping capital of France and one of the top three in Europe. There are more than 350 permanent antique dealers spread over the town and two major international antique fairs at Easter and on August 15. Don’t wear socks, it will blow them off. If you are in the know, the locals call antiques “brocante”. I get why, I went broke buying brocante.
Found it! My first treasure all wrapped up and ready to take home. I’m liking that fountain and the outdoor set too.
My primary mission was to find a hand-carved rustic bread proving bowl and I found one in the very first shop we walked into. It’s a sign right? I took it to mean I was on a roll.
My next purchase was a basket which happened to nestle nicely into my new bowl in my suitcase, with a slight bending of the handle.
If you ever look up from all the shopping for treasures, the town is pretty. It’s shaded with plane trees, the river actually babbles and the riverside cafes and restaurants are festooned with flowers. There is a farmer’s market as well where we sorted our dinner.
We stopped for lunch too which was necessary to keep the rest of the less enthusiastic antique shoppers’ spirits buoyed.
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a 30-minute drive from Avignon and is also accessible by train. If you go, it’s best to arrive early for the Sunday market, which starts at 9 a.m. both to enable you to find parking and to avoid the crowds. It was raining by the time we got there and not crowded. You can try to negotiate a bit on the prices too. I paid about 20 Euros less on the asking price of my wooden bowl and saved another 10 Euros on the picking basket. I had also done some pre-pricing on the Internet so had a rough idea what I wanted to pay. Bargaining is worth a try. I think that being polite and speaking to the vendors in French helped. It’s not a place to find amazing bargains though. Dealers are savvy and know their prices. The thrill for me was finding things not found in Canada or found here, imported from Europe and sold for appropriately more money. It was also about having so many wonderful things all in one place.
The antiques trade took off here about 30 years ago when a few dealers got together on weekends to sell off the contents of a few local chateaux. (Wish I had been there for that.) There are now 10 main areas or “villages” spread throughout the town with the largest being Le Village des Anitiquaires de la Gare where over 100 dealers are gathered in a giant warehouse. Here is a tiny list of what you will find: garden furniture, entire fireplaces, enamel signs, books, paintings, cutlery sets, linen, zinc-top tables, mirrors, crystal, stone statues, silver trays, glassware, porcelain, jewellery, weird curiosities, lamps, children’s toys, and on it goes with enough treasure to fill Ali Baba’s cavern and a few select items left over for my modest Canadian home.
It wasn’t too hard to leave as dinner on the terrace of our Rasteau villa was pretty inviting. Much of the conversation centred around items sadly left behind due to budgetary and suitecasary considerations. I have to go back with bigger luggage and wallet…
It was one of my best antique shopping days ever (on par with the day spent at Ardingly Antiques Fair in England). The Handyman, his brother (and our wonderful English relatives) indulged me and helped make the day special. The Handyman and his brother had other plans for the following day that I in turn did not indulge by accompanying them.