Since we moved to St Vaast in October 2005 we have seldom strayed far from our coastal idyll. Apart from two trips to Giverny to visit Monet’s famous garden, on both occasions with visitors – first the Millets, the second time with the Palmers – we have limited our excursions to the Cotentin peninsula, with Barneville Carteret on the west coast being a favoured destination.
So when Alain Dupont, who owns the farm at Le Vast, invited Nick, Daniel and Francois to see the England-France Rugby match as part of the 6 Nations Grand Slam in the Stade de Paris, the opportunity was seized upon by the trio. Invited along for the ride, ex officio, Anne and I joined Alain’s partner Martine for a retail adventure in the 9th arondissement which boasts the famous Opera and major stores like Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.
The former is very reminiscent of Oxford Street’s Selfridges and, somehow, the three of us managed to divide four hours between these two stores. I came away with two swimsuits, a blue top for sailing days and a pair of springtime boots. The Rugby kick-off was not until 9 p.m. so we ladies were back at the Dupont home and eating supper in front of the big screen in time to watch the match
On Sunday morning we drove into Paris to go to the Marche aux Puces de St Ouen. The history of the famous Flea Markets dates back over two centuries, when rag and bone men scoured through the garbage of Paris at night to find valuable junk to sell on. The flea market covers 7 hectares and is the largest antiques market in the world, receiving between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend.
With not much more than an hour and half to spend we can only explore a fraction of the sprawling complex of lanes and alleys which make up the market. There are small shops and stalls selling bric-a-brac of every conceivable kind and there are specialist outlets for vintage clothes, genuine antique furniture, paintings, glassware, Art Nouveau jewellery and artefacts, postcards….. But one small emporium has a fantastic array of rather special Victorian pottery and this collection merits its own next installment.