Once a year, on the Monday of the Esgargot Festival, there is a Marché des Puces (Flea Market) on the streets of Digoin. The main streets are closed to traffic and give way to sellers from throughout the region and beyond. It is a blend of yard sale and antiques market, with treasures and junk all awaiting bargain hunters.
Peta and Bryan are in search of very specific items for Digoin. Light fixtures, cupboards, furnishings that might work with the farm/cottage décor of Bel Air. I have only one mission – to find a nice serving platter. This will be one of our contributions to the furnishings at Bel Air. Tim has to spend the day working on his students from Vermont College, so I am charged with the task of hunting for an appropriate platter – something that a Greek salad might be served on in a day or so.
Annie, Richard, Johanna and Matt are not as interested in des Puces, and instead head to the grocery for ingredients for our dinner. Between Richard and Tim there is a slight food competition emerging and Richard is definitely upping the ante this evening with the promise of a lamb tagine.
The stalls line the canal, as well as the streets of the town. There are boxes of old records, postcards, books and glasses. There are wonderful sideboards and corner tables topped in marble, and an odd cupboard of tiny drawers perfect for a workshop. I look at it longingly, thinking of how perfectly it would go in my studio, filled with pens, nibs and paints.
Bryan finds a pair of hip waders, almost in his size. “For cleaning up the pond”, he announces triumphantly. The vendor asks 2 euros for the pair, and not even Bryan can barter that price.
Platters, as it turns out, are not in abundant supply. There are fancy wall plates and a few sets of jugs and platters, but I have a hard time finding one that is both the right size and style. I finally find one, but at 12 euros (originally 15), it seems a bit dear. So we walk on, mulling it over, still looking. We see another of the right size, thinner and less substantial, plain white, but close. The owner of that stall is not around, and the friends who are stationed there cannot tell us the price, so we keep on walking.
Annie, Johanna, Richard and Matt come to meet us, stationing themselves with coffee at tables outside one of the cafes. I head back to buy the platter, now fully prepared to pay the 12 euros, sure that it has already sold. But I am in luck. The platter is mine, and for good measure, Peta and I go back to purchase the plain white one as well.
We drive back to Bel Air with a car full of platters, hip waders, light fixtures, even a bathroom sink, amidst the groceries for the tagine.
In the evening we are rewarded for our Marché des Puces labours with Richard’s Lamb and Apricot Tagine — one of the most succulent lamb tangines I have ever eaten.