meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: Chateau de Chambord & the May Day Brocantes

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chateau de Chambord & the May Day Brocantes

As the largest castle in the Loire Valley, the Chateau de Chambord seems an unlikely, yet perfect, location for the biggest annual 'brocantes' (flea market) in France. Built by Francois I in the early 16th century, this palace is a classic example of French Renaissance architecture, and a gorgeous site for the most enormous selection of treasures (and trash) I have ever had the pleasure to lay eyes upon.  

First glimpse of the chateau as we walk from the parking lot
This escapade began last year when I read a blog post by Ellise Pierce aka the Cowgirl Chef about her grand adventure at the Chambord May Day brocantes. Then and there I had to go, so I put it in my calender and daydreamed... mostly about all the cool stuff to find, since I had really no idea of just how extraordinary the actual experience would be.

lots of dishes, in sets, singles and in pairs

"Our marked prices may be discussed.  Do not criticize, smile!"
Need one - or four?
So tempting
Tour de France in a box
13,000 acres of park surrounding the chateau makes for a lot of space for parked cars, people and (easily) 1,000 vendors selling everything from coffee grinders to brand new vintage linen sheets, wooden piggies to mouth-blown glass garden domes. Large and small, the bizarre to the everyday this brocantes has something for everyone. Low prices make the effort of driving the 142 kilometers (88 miles) from Paris all the more seductive.

With such a glamorous backdrop, everything looked magical
The mermaid seashell bowl was oh, SO tempting
What was unpacked the merchants hoped to not take home; deals were made
Vintage kitchen tools were everywhere
Following Elise's lead, fellow 'Chineur' Loui Frank booked a room nearby, we rented a car and set off the day before. Our hotel was a mere 8 klms from Chambourd (about 1/2 a mile), set in a yellow field of flowers (some say grown to make bio-diesel fuel) off a tree lined road.  We woke up early, bundled up, grabbed our rolling carts and headed for the stalls.  We had NO idea what we were in for, how HUGE this Brocantes is or what we would find.

Our hotel was to the left, just beyond the trees
Let's just say that NEXT year we will arrive in the morning the day before, stay in the Hotel on the Chateau grounds, and stay the night AFTER we shop till we drop.  There is just way too much to see, not to mention the Chateau itself demands a visit.

The beauty of the grounds impressed at every turn
We never made it past the wall
Right around 11:30 we stopped for a bite of lunch - the delicious smoky smells of grilling sausage was more than we could resist.  A pile of frites and a Merguez sandwich (on baguette, naturellement) washed down with une pression (a draft beer) did the trick and we were off again.  It's a good thing we stopped early because even when digging for treasures, the French take their lunch time very seriously.

Preparing for the hungry hordes
The line was endless and the loud music pure 80's disco
There were even people selling food - like a marché - randomly through out the place.

Sausage?  Salami?
 David's Asperge Blanche came home with both of us

Loui and I managed to pretty much fill our carts with treasures despite walking away from many, many things we loved.  But we have (BIG) plans for next year!

One of these...
The 3 little piggies...

and a couple of pots
Some people nabbed what they wanted early and were on their way home before noon.

Bird cages for instance
Stag head and pair O' boots lamp set
Some serious lusting after these was only over come by practicality
We ended our day in the sun, on the terrace of the Chateau Hotel ('Complet' for next year by noon!) and watched with fascination what people were carrying (in some cases dragging) home.

Some people would return to their room with booty, and head out again
Walking to the parking lot
We can't wait to go back next year. Though I'll be making a list (yes, people do go with lists) throughout the next 12 months as I think of things I 'need'.  Someone I know will be starting her silver napkin ring collection - and we'll be staying on the grounds for a bright and early start.

See you there?


Catherine said...

Oh my. That looks astounding. And not too far to come from London!

Mark Craft said...

I just love those Tour de France figures!

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

My mind is in overload just counting the empty rooms of our house in France and thinking of the possibilities ............... My husband has broken our in a cold sweat!
Bon weekend.

Marie Z said...

@ Catherine: Certainly not too far from London for a quick get away... :)

@Mark: And those lovely little figures were each only about 2 inches tall - making them all the more magical!

martinealison said...

Un lieu magnifique...
Gros bisous

ChaumiereLesIris said...

What a treasure trove in a beautiful spot. Thanks for sharing.