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  • Debra Palmen

Yes this really is work


Play Days in Paris are always great fun. This time we spent several hours in the Louvre Museum, but after walking for bloody miles we still only saw a fraction of what it offers. We focused on antiquities, particularly wanting to inspect the Egyptian collection (which was very fabulous) but along the way were side-tracked by the Mesopotamian collection, particularly the pieces from Sumer and Assyria.

These pieces are incredibly beautiful. Try telling that, though, to the people sitting next to some of the treasures of the world but glued to their Facebook feeds. Look up, people! Life is going on around you, and you’re missing it! Why bother coming to one of the great museums if you can’t bear a moment away from your social media? Clearly I don’t get it. You do see these people everywhere – Doug has dubbed them Zombies – but I was amazed to see them in the Louvre.

We thought ironic that for once a country like France pillaging Babylon turned out to be a good thing, because a few hundred years later these priceless relics were safe from destruction by Islamic State. And I was pleased to note for everyone who has purchased antiquities from me, that the Louvre would have been likely to give them a spot. A small spot, granted, but they would hold their own. I’ve kept a few of the antiquities I’ve found over the years, and I’m chuffed that the standard is right up there with a world class collection.

The next day we took a cruise along the Seine, but not on one of those expensive and hugely crowded monster-barges. We selected the cheapest option – a Batobus – which has the longest route, the most leisurely pace, no commentary shouted at you in several languages, and very convenient stops. It’s little more than a multi-stop ferry, just what we wanted.

We hopped off at Notre Dame, and spent an hour touring this grand old Cathedral. It’s very dimly lit, full of medieval atmosphere, with beautiful windows, statues and relics. There was no queue to get in, or the previous day at the Louvre, which was in contrast to last trip, when we had to queue for four hours to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower. This time, everywhere we've gone we’ve just swanned about, with crowds parting before us, and everything we’ve needed just suddenly presenting itself. It’s been wonderful.

We strolled along the Left Bank, looking at the paintings and the vintage images. I saw a few pictures I Iiked, but you don’t buy these things on the Left Bank – not unless you want to pay considerably more than I want to pay. The vendors there were offering reproductions for more than I can buy the originals for. So I restrained myself and waited for the Porte de Vanves market.

Then back on a Batobus for a floating late lunch of hot chocolate and madeleines as we watched this beautiful city glide by. I love central Paris and could easily see myself living here for a little while. Better learn French. I know I say this every trip, but this time I mean it. Who wants to come to French lessons with me?

But then Saturday was upon us and it was time for the Porte de Vanves Market. We found all manner of kitchen copper, including a terrific lidded water cistern that would have been hung on a wall. We’ve never seen another one like it. Plus lots of cookware, enamel, lovely stylish coat hooks, a bunch of great coffee grinders, lovely pictures, seriously good rock concert advertisements, and more.

Prices were way up this time, though, so I had to walk away from some very beautiful things. I’ve been looking for a good crystal ball for years, and have a variety would-be fortune teller customers wait-listed for one. But I bet the mists didn’t clear well enough for any of them to forecast they would have been paying $1500 if I had taken it. Perhaps fortune telling is more lucrative than I’m imagining – you’d think so, wouldn’t you? But my own fortune-telling skills are good enough to know that precious few of my wait-listed customers would have coughed up that much. Gypsy Debra, sees all, knows all.

So the crystal ball stayed in Paris. So did a marvellous coffee grinder for 100 Euros – it wasn’t that marvellous. And the most beautiful, beautiful large blue and white pot with a white appliqued dragon around it. I really, really wanted this pot, but the price wasn’t even close to me being able to consider it.

So I found plenty I wanted but couldn’t have, and yet I still came away with many nice things. I took the now-traditional Are we having fun yet? photo of Doug, loaded down with a few of my purchases, including a very attractive antique side table, c1850. But he’s going to be even more loaded down during the coming week because I’m going to be spending up big. It’s a professional obligation.

Then it was a leisurely drive back to Dieppe, a leisurely late lunch at Tout va Bien, and a long, leisurely walk along the seafront promenade before boarding the ferry back to England. France was excellent, and I’ve already got a number of play days planned for next time.

On Sunday we briefly explored Seaford, a small town down the coast from Newhaven, before heading north to Lincoln. The chalk and flint cliffs and pebbled beaches of Seaford hide treasures that have led to the area becoming known as the Fossil Coast, although we came up zero on the fossil-hunting front. Still, we enjoyed hiking the coastal trails, along the way enjoying snacks of fat, glistening hedgerow blackberries, sun-warmed and sweet. Yum! I love blackberries, and declared that we must find somewhere that sells good, hand-made blackberry jam when we get home.

We came across a car boot sale in Seaford right on the town’s seafront promenade, so naturally we had to inspect it. And we found hand-made apple & blackberry jam! Yay! We bought good butter and nice bread, so that’s breakfast sorted for a few days. We also found a surprising amount of good smalls, and at car boot prices I’ll be able to offer some absolute bargains when we get them home.

This coming week is going to be big – huge. The two biggest antiques fairs in Europe should keep us occupied shopping and packing. I want to fit in a visit to the Diss auction if we can, but it will be a big ask. First stop today was Zoltan the Magnificent, who had fabulous enamelware for me, as usual.

And here's another shot Doug, still having fun, lugging a rather heavy, 150 year old wooden tub. We finished shopping just before the rain hit, and literally couldn't fit another thing in the van. I’ll report on it all as and when I can. Meanwhile, if you have my book read the chapters on Lincoln, Newark and Diss and you’ll be with me in spirit.


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