Summer is coming to an end, although you wouldnâ€™t know it by the weather.
The truth is that this is probably the best season in the Midi-Pyrenees region â€“ summer is often swelteringly hot with the mercury edging the 40Â°c, Spring is often wet and cool and winter, well we never really know what to expect; days where tee-shirts are de rigueur and days when the snow is on the ground.
Autumn brings many goodies â€“ freshly made cider, wines, olives, jams from orchard fruits, wild mushrooms and the season of the Â«Â Vide GrenierÂ Â» – literally empty the attic, the equivalent of a car-boot, yard or garage sale.
Today we went to a vide grenier in Le Vaux, near Revel in the Haute Garonne department and a Â«Â MarchÃ© au PoterieÂ Â» – a pottery market in St FÃ©lix de Lauragais.
The village is small and very quiet, well at least when there isnâ€™t a vide grenier, with views across the Lauragais countryside and the Pyrenees from the ancient ramparts.
One of the great things about vide greniers in the country are that you are forced into curiosity, not only by looking at and picking up the wares on sale, but also speaking to the locals and wandering around the backstreets of villages, that, usually are passed by.
This was certainly the case for me today at Le Vaux â€“ the â€˜Xâ€™ is pronounced as are most word endings in the South west of France â€“ which makes the name of the village sound like Â«Â Le VoxÂ Â».
If you have ever been to a vide grenier in France, and especially those that are held in the otherwise sleepy villages, then you will know what to expect.
Well, that is not strictly true, most vide greniers are full of surprises, interspersed with what just about amounts to rubbish to serendipitous bargains and some fantastic curiosities.
This particular vide grenier included a show of vintage tractors and cars gleaming in the sun.
The tractors were in a field just below the village, where they were busily demonstrating their skills at ploughing straight lines in the ochre earth whilst spewing great clouds of black smoke and diesel fumes for all to savour.
One of the older tractor was blowing perfectly round smoke rings into the clear blue sky as its powerful engine made the ground tremble as it passed. A blaze of gleaming chrome announced the vintage cars all French including a group of CitroÃ«n Traction Avants â€“ which I love, they are the cars used in war films, usually driven by the French Resistance, a real classic car.
Stalls lined the winding streets of the village, with everything from boxes of rusty odds and ends to state of the art tools that look like items of torture and home-made jams and preserves.
The diversity is pretty amazing and there are some great bargains to be had, alongside objects that make you wonder who would want to but them and who would think that anyone would want to buy them in the first place. There is clearly a lot of optimism on both sides of the stalls.
Next stop was the MarchÃ© aux Potiers at St FÃ©lix de Lauragais, which occurs once a year and, which I cannot remember ever, in the last ten tears at least, being held on anything but a gloriously sunny day.
It is a day when the village gets very crowded, as visitors shuffle around the stalls of colourfully glazed pottery, mostly produced by local crafts workers.
One of the great things in the marchÃ© are the demonstration from local craftsmen and women of traditional pottery, most of them authentic from the tip of their wooden sabots to the top of their berets.
The most intriguing demonstration was the making of a deep and narrow pot, much like an amphora. The pot was built around a cylinder made of wooden laths with rope wound around, the clay being applied directly to the rope, smoothe and levelled by hand before the laths are removed followed by the rope.
Of course, if you are going to St FÃ©lix de Lauragais, you have to go and admire the view from the old ramparts and have a look at the well, which is exactly as deep as the church spire is tall and is said to conceal the sword of Simon de Montfort, the leader of the crusades against the Cathares in the 13th century.
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