By Sheron Long
Chula Wula D’Augue, a Sheltie by birth and a Frenchie by choice, flies to France at the drop of a bone. Last spring, she flew 11 hours from San Francisco, California, to Paris and then took the TGV, or train à grande vitesse, to Provence. She arrived ready for adventure.
When the day came that Bob and I, her fellow travelers, could spend months at a time in Provence, the thought of being without Chula was, well, unthinkable. And that’s how Chula, whose name means “Pretty” in Spanish, first got to France and began to answer to the French equivalent, “Jolie.”
Now, Chula is an old hand at international travel and likes nothing more than to explore Provence on four paws. She has sniffed out many a village, the big Provençal markets, lavender and sunflower fields, and the French version of an upscale flea market, known as the brocante. Ah, the brocantes! Chula is there like all the chineurs, or bargain hunters, looking for a find.
A “brocante” is an upscale flea market with collectibles and some antiques.
You can find just about anything at a brocante—lace and linens, etchings and prints, furniture, old tools, door knockers and hardware, silver and china, and that special objet. In fact, whole houses have been furnished with treasures from a brocante.
In L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, the brocante dealers set up early all along Avenue de la Libération. It’s part of the Provençal market that happens every Sunday morning in this village with moss-covered waterwheels fed by the Sorgue River as it meanders through town. The textile industry, once powered by the waterwheels, has given way to antique shops and the Sunday brocante that now make this village the capital of collectibles.
Around 1 p.m., the market vendors pack up their goods and head to lunch, leaving L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to the brocante dealers. Their stalls of old treasures entice the flaneurs, or wanderers, to find something they just can’t live without.
Bob and I, with greater height, admire the arrays of goods spread out on wagons and tables. Unmatching eggcups, anyone?
Glasses or thread? Old bottles and boules balls? Look no further than the brocante.
True chineurs go to the brocante in search of the unusual. Some think the best goods are in the wooden cases with the glass tops. They peer in and pour through with great attention. Some may turn up an old stick pin or a gold toothpick or a special corkscrew. Maybe they’ll even find an ancient pewter reliquary with a tiny Virgin Mary behind a hidden door.
When you find a stall with an artful display, look twice. We passed over the mannequin head with the cute coif and the Santa face with the gold glittered cone hat. But we couldn’t resist the plastic baby head or the wrinkled old santon for contrast. Santons are figures of villagers engaged in everyday life and used to populate nativity scenes at Christmas. They’ve been made in Provence since the early 1800s, and the more charming ones crafted decades ago often turn up at the brocante. Feeling lucky with these finds, we packed up our treasures and headed out.
Enough was enough for us, that is. Chula had yet to find her treasure. When we saw her walk up to the iron bull, we were a little concerned. But then she looked at us in that way that only Shelties can. The eyes said, “I love it. Just have to have it.”
We know when we’ve been had. And so, on that Sunday in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we rode out of town packing one baby head, one santon with a wrinkled old face, and one slightly-rusted bull. Back at home, we prominently displayed the bull in Chula’s doghouse. One more home decorated at the brocante.
Text and Images copyright © Sheron Long. All Rights Reserved.
Sheron Long is the author of Dog Trots Globe, a newly-released travelogue and photo book of France. Told from the dog’s-eye view, you’ll see Chula sniff around the boulangeries, lavender fields, and big outdoor markets of Provence. Follow her in Paris on neighborhood walks, by the Eiffel Tower, and to opening night at a gallery. A helpful Afterword gives tips on pet travel. Hardcover book available from OIC Books and Amazon, which also carries the standard eBook. Enhanced eBook with embedded videos and music available from Apple for iPad. Keep up with Chula’s continuing adventures on her Facebook page.