I love a good brocante. The smell of dust and lavender polish, the ticking of antique clocks, the wobble of delicately balanced crockery.
There are the piles of yellowing linens and monogrammed tablecloths proffering the eternal search for one’s own initials.
In dark corners bulbous, green wine jars glow. Myriad wonky, brass chandeliers and seaglass bulbs dangle from the beams. There are novelty ashtrays, ornate doorknobs, waxed wood, grey photos of wistful uniformed soldiers, plates of charcuterie, burrata….
“Hang on just a minute there …..have you succumbed to the mentalpause?”
“Did the canicule melt your frontal lobe? Or is it the vino de collapso that’s finally done for your limited grip on reality?”
Down a back street of Olonzac, if you were to visit the village brocante around apéro hour, that’s exactly what you’d find.
Wandering down the Rue de L’Egalité you will spot a bright blue vintage citröen, with its painted insignia “La Vigne Bleue”. The sky blue iron gateway is surrounded by relics – a rusty daybed, zinc vats, a wooden washtub. At the moment there is a huge aged oil tank that could be upcycled into a cocktail cabinet or bbq or hog roas……no…..stop that now! We haven’t got room for it.
Turn into the gate and you’ll be in a pretty little courtyard, trees strung with crooked birdcages and coloured guinguette lights.
You’ll see 5/6 tables – some wooden, some metal, one balancing on four Duralex glasses – with mismatched chairs.
The strains of Edith Piaf, Buena Vista Social Club or Parisian jazz trickle from a huge wooden radiogram with enormous melamine knobs. (I just made the radiogram bit up – it would be appropriate so I hope it’s there, but it could just be an iPod.)
There will be tables full of friends sipping, chewing the fat. They’ll all greet you when you enter.
Settle down at a spot of your choice and your host, Jean, will take your orders for food and bring something cold and local, in thick green or brown bottles that originate from the old Olonzac lemonade factory.
To accompany your aperitif is a choice of assiettes. There’s charcuterie – a variety of lapping pink meaty folds, saucisson and pâtè en croute, perhaps served tonight with tiny sweet tomatoes and cornichons.
You might go for cheese – which could be accompanied by Jean’s homemade fig chutney or a spicy relish.
There is a crudité platter brimming with crunchy vegetables, rapés and boiled eggs.
Then there’s the luscious burrata with peppery rocket, melon and marinated pimentos. It oozes cream and pure white unctuousness and Jean won’t tell us where he gets it from.
You may even get a bonus dish of garlicky, tomato smeared bruschetta. But then again you might not.
All the plats vary slightly each time you go, like the patterns on the vintage china, but they never disappoint.
There are always, however, plentiful baskets of crusty bread with flasks of olive oil to make golden puddles for dipping.
Go with a few chums, sit at the big table and order encore of everything. Or visit à deux, picking at a romantic sharing plate in a dusky corner.
It’s charming, chilled and seductive – and really, everything you need in life is here. You’ve got friends, food, music, liquid refreshment and there’s actually no need to ever leave as La Vigne Bleue has rooms.
Each “Assiette du Broc” costs 8 euros. Jean and Cecile open for apéro every evening except Sunday and Monday and carry on through the Summer into September, depending on the weather, so it’s always an excellent idea to ring ahead, or pop in first to book.
And of course, you might leave with an ice bucket in the shape of the Eiffel Tower tucked under your arm, or an enormous old oil tank strapped to the roof of your car…..if I don’t get there first.
By AA Lil