Beziers, Avignon, and a bit of Isle Sur la Sorgue:
We left Bergerac, and stopped along the way to admire and capture some of the beautiful sights along the roads.We were on our way to Beziers, but first we wanted to go to a small town nearby where there are quite a few brocantes and a couple of great places to eat. Well, we were not very pleased this time: the prices were quite high and the food was just OK. We hung out for a while, took a few photo and left for Beziers which is only about 20 minutes away. We checked into out hotel, cleaned up and had a simple dinner before retiring for the evening so we could be fresh and ready for our first day of buying.
Beziers is about 30 minutes from the Mediterranean. When we have time we drive to the coast, walk around, and enjoy a nice dinner. This time we took time to enjoy the countryside so we didn't get to the coast. I always get very excited about Beziers and it's hard for me to fall asleep the night before. We get up early have breakfast at the hotel where one begins to sense the energy of all the other buyers and merchants who stay there. Everyone seems to be thinking and talking about the prospects of the day.
The fair opens at 8 a.m. so after breakfast, we walk from the hotel to the park where the fair takes place. As we walk towards the entrance of the park, the masses build up. Once they open the doors, the crowd has to walk in slowly and it gets a bit claustrophobic as people don't queue up but they just enter en masse.
As we walk in, people spread out, some running, trying to get to the space where some of their favorite dealers are. Some dealers do get the same space each time. We usually go to Dominick's space first to make sure we get some of our favorite items from him and from there, we just follow whatever route. At first we don't carry our dolly as we find stuff, pay for it, and tag it so we can pick it up later. We select the items that we will be taking in our van, and set aside some for our transporter to pick up and deliver in our warehouse in Belgium. We try to take the smalls and the most delicate items so we may take extra care to pack them.
Martin looked a little overwhelmed with the amount of merchandise and the running through the market, but eventually relaxed and began to point things out to us or even to begin making the deal. One of the things he said at the end of the day was, "I have a lot more respect for all that you do now," recognizing that it takes a lot to bring all the treasures to our customers: the hours of driving, walking in the rain, schlepping things around, sleeping in the van sometimes, dealing with sellers, who are not always friendly, etc. He also became aware of all the expenses incurred: hotel rooms, gas, transporter fees, toll roads fees, etc. "I will try not to give too many discounts." he said playfully.
I was so busy searching and buying that forgot to take more photos in Beziers. These fairs are different from what we are used to where the dealers get there early and have time to display their merchandise. At the deballages, as they are called in French, the dealers are not allowed to set up before the buyers get there. The dealers drive in and park their vehicles, and then wait for opening time to bring down their merchandise. It's a bit awkward, and I have yet to understand the logic behind it, but, "when in France..."
At first I was a bit nervous as we didn't start buying many things right away aside from the pieces from Dominick. The prices seemed high and the dealers were not too inclined to bargain with us. There were plenty of beautiful things, but too pricey for us to be able to resell them. Even though we are not whole sellers, we are glad that part of our clientele includes designers, decorators, and some retailers. We do our best to get good prices so we may in turn keep our prices down. We are always looking for new places to shop where the prices are more reasonable. The prices in Beziers and Avignon, as well as Montpellier are quite high and you really have to work for bargains, but I can also understand from a dealer's point of view; the rent for the space is quite high and it's very competitive. Also, dealers come from all places in Europe: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and many other countries. Of course, the buyers also come from all over the world. It's a fun experience seeing folks from all over and hearing different languages.
Our friends Juanjo and brothers from Valencia, Spain
Johan's friends Peter and Lucy from Belgium
Beziers is a two-day show and most of the buyers come only on Saturday, do their buying and leave. Some dealers also only come on Saturday. We go both days because some dealers are more willing to give better deals on Sunday and we can shop in a more relaxed way. We went back Sunday and dd find some great things that perhaps in our rush, we hadn't seen the first day and were were able to get better deals on some of the items we had spotted. On Sunday, we found one of my favorite items, which is a 3-tiered, Spanish, church chandelier for candles and also a beautiful cross which I had seen, but felt it was overpriced.
Wooden crown we bought from this Italian vendor
From Beziers, we drove to Isle Sur la Sorgue just to look and be inspired. Isle is a mecca for antiques in the South of France, but it is way too expensive for us. We do love to see the beautiful collections and designs. It's a great place to spend the day and there was a small street antique market going on, but we did not find anything we could buy. If we lived in France, this would be a great place to have a store.
From there we drove to Avignon so we could meet Melissa and Bob for dinner. Those two had taken their own course after Bolougne Sur Mer and explored at their leisure, and we finally saw them in Beziers and now we were going to have dinner in Avignon. Avignon is a beautiful city, which is surrounded by a river. It used to be a papal city and one of its tourist attractions is the Papal Palace.
Avignon, for more pictures of Avignon see Trouvais click here
Avignon's market is huge and includes outside and inside spaces. It seems like they do give the dealers more time to set up because the booths usually look a lot more organized and attractive.
We finished our shopping early and part of it was we bought a couple of high-priced items and thus, we ran out of money! It was fine though, we were satisfied with our buying, and had already decided to not go to Montpellier.
Italian chandelier that will be in our next container
The original plan was to go to the fair in Montpellier and from there Johan would drive us to Paris, where we would spend the day before embarking on our plane back to the States. Instead, we drove all the way back to Belgium with Johan so we could help unload the van and organize the warehouse (next posting will be about the unloading of the goodies.) We had a great time along the way, singing and remembering old songs, which made the 9-hour trip seem shorter.
The next morning we slept in, then unloaded the van. We also did some more shopping for garden statuary near the French border, and packed our things so we could leave for Paris early next morning. Now we are back home in beautiful, sunny Corralitos. It's great to get away and it's also great to be home!