Buried treasure

April 2, 2010

Marché aux puces a Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie


Saturday morning I awoke to scratching coming  from the attic.  Glancing at the clock I noted that it was before 8am and I wondered who could be up there snooping around so early.  The sound was too loud to have been a rodent.  Yawning , I crawled out of bed and left the room unsure whether I wanted to investigate.  At the creek of my bedroom door opening, Olivia called out, “Mommy, I’m exploring and taking pictures in the grenier.”    

What, I thought, is Olivia doing in the attic and with my camera?  “Olivia how did you get up there?  You’re not allowed in the attic.”    

“I followed Kitty.  I’m on a treasure hunt.  Like my I Spy game.”    

A treasure hunt.  I could only imagine how the spider web filled grenier could intrigue an imaginative 7 year old girl.  I’ve spent some time up in the attic exploring its treasures.  Although, I have a feeling my treasures are different from Olivia’s.    

I made my way up the rickety steps to retrieve Olivia and my camera.  Our attic consists of two rooms.  The first is large enough that an adult can stand up without touching the ceiling.  The are two small windowless openings blocked by shutters which are always closed.  There is no electricity so the only light is what seeps between the shutters.  A heavy wooden door opens to a second room just under the rafters with crawl space only.  This room is more lit due to an opening in the roof, a sort of natural skylight, I suppose.  This is where I found an excited Olivia, my camera slung around her neck.  “Just one more picture and then I’m done.  Okay Mommy?”   She snapped one of the dusty corner.  She showed me her cache of treasures;  a laminated map that was her ‘treasure’ map, a box of old, empty match boxes, and framed drawings.      

 A few years ago, when we moved into the house, I uncovered my own  trove of treasures still up there waiting for me to bring them into the light;  old screens, the kind that fold in three and once hid women when they dressed.  I haven’t examined them yet and they remain in the attic until the bed and breakfast is completed.  My hope is that they are in repairable condition although I suspect the fabric that formed the screen is sadly moth eaten and moldy.  The girls would love to play dress up with the old fashioned clothes hidden in a suitcase.  Most of the space is taken up with boxes of old Paris Match magazines along with some cartons of papers, letters and post cards dating from the first world war in which Raphael’s grandfather fought.     

Olivia’s treasure hunt put me in the mood to go on my own treasure hunt in the form of antiques.  The villages of France are strewn with flea markets and vide-greniers this time of year.  And the country roads of  Provence are lined with numerous antique and brocante shops filled mostly with overpriced furniture.  While I love exploring these shops, I was hoping for a discovery, something I could actually afford.  The marché aux puces et brocante was just getting underway outside of the medieval village of Mornas.  The market is held every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year just beneath the fortress that dominates the hillside.     

Marché aux puces translates to flea market.  The market in Mornas is just that, a large parking lot where vendors station their cars in front of which they unload their wares onto folding tables or blankets.  Much of the items on display consist of plastic toys, old clothes, paperback books, and cheap mismatched dishes like any flea market or garage sale.  We’ve even considered setting up a table with our own junk.    

 It had been a while since I scouted the market and we are heading into the season when more people display items so the likelihood of uncovering buried treasure was greater.  I wasn’t in search of anything in particular although I do have a few things in the back of my mind I’d like to find;  an old fashioned bicycle – the kind without gears and to which I can attach a basket.  I have fantasies of riding it to town and back with my daily baguette sticking out of the basket.  (With young children, I’m sure this will remain a fantasy.  But the bike, which I’d like to paint blue, will look good leaning against the stone wall in the garden.)  I’d also like to find old copper pots, a metal watering can,  antique water pitchers that can be used as vases and I’d love to stumble upon a box of old mismatched, even broken hand painted ceramic tiles.  I didn’t find anything that I had to have Saturday morning but a few items caught my eye;  a rusty metal children’s bed and a wooden cradle exactly like the one my girls slept in as infants.  No bother, the flea market season is just beginning and the hunt is much of the fun.  In the meantime, I’m thinking of bringing out those old screens for a closer look.    

Photo by Olivia    

Olivia's treasure.


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