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?|
|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.
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?