Last Sunday, despite inhospitable weather conditions (the kind you grow to expect here in July), we repeated one of our favorite summer rituals: the antique market at Noyers-sur-Serein. This isn’t your typical vide-grenier. It’s a much more elegant affair with actual “antiques” hand-picked by actual “antique” “collectors” and “dealers.” That undisciplined array of quotation marks is my way of saying: I don’t know much about antiques or so-called experts; I just know if an old object speaks to my heart or not. And that being the case, I’d rather pay less for it than more. With luck and a keen eye, you might find the same 75-euro “truc” you’ve seen at Noyers for 10 euros at a vide-grenier in a less noteworthy location. But then again, you’d be missing out on the place itself.
Noyers-sur-Serein is right out of a fairy tale. It’s old, extremely old, with ancient buildings that list and lean, diamond-shaped panes of glass that warp more than they reveal, and lacy half-timbering that boggles the mind. And the most beautiful part, I suppose, is that modern life goes on inside these centuries old walls. Paté is sliced. Diapers are changed. Arguments are had. Transactions are completed. And faces look out and down, as you browse the cobbled streets beneath in search of a find that’s worth your money.
This year, prices at the antique market seemed higher than ever, and other than some small porcelain boxes I bought for the children to keep their secrets in, I observed without buying any of the things that wanted to come home with me. And what I observed was that perhaps the most stunning items for sale weren’t the antique toys or the wrought-iron beds or the art nouveau silverware, but the buildings themselves. Many of the aforementioned structures are up for grabs—to whoever has the patience and the bottomless pockets to put them into shape again.
The last thing, well, being, that caught my eye before exiting the walls of the city was a dog sitting regally in a partially reupholstered arm-chair. The price of the chair might have been reasonable had it included him, but his bored gaze said one thing in the universal language of dogs: The chair’s not really for sale (it’s mine), and neither am I.