Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The BIG Day

No hitting the snooze alarm this morning - it’s the beginning of a BIG day. 

We have watched the weather for a week to find the best day for our adventure. Rain is no good as we will be outside all day long. Drizzle is doable, but rain is miserable.

Now it’s Tuesday a.m. and the alarm goes off and layers of warm clothing go on. There’s no telling if the sun might come out and warm up our BIG adventure, or if we will need to stay snugly bundled up. We are going to need all our energy to focus on our epic adventure and being chilled and wet just wont do.

There is no communication between us at this time of the morning, just two quick questions, are the dogs all set, and do you have the check book?
There is just a hint of light as we head off down the road. I am not quite as prepared as I wanted to be so we make a quick stop at the ATM - cash is important to a BIG day. 

We are off to la Foire a la Brocante et Antiquites des Quinconces de Bordeaux (aka the Bordeaux winter outdoor antiques fair). It’s a 2-hour drive and a churning feeling of anticipation has joined us in the car. 

Over the years we have established a routine to the BIG day - discipline is crucial or else we will either poop out from exhaustion or get disoriented and frustrated. The line between the two states is just too darn close to monkey around with. Impatience has to take a back seat to seasoned reason.

Today we have no interest in the splendors that Bordeaux has to offer - too bad as it is a jewel box of a city. Zipping through the morning traffic we are early enough to get a premium parking spot right by the fair grounds.

Hearts pumping with anticipation we arrange our ammunition for the hunt. Camera - check. Note book and pencil - check. I am the team photographer to record visual reminders of the treasures that catch our eyes. Tom is recorder of prices, the # of the stand, and of noting the location marked on the map. It doesn’t take long before location becomes a blur - there are 250 stands to check out and we’ll be here for a good 6 hours.

We have just started down the first corridor, entered the first booth and BAM there are gorgeous things! A sweet patio set from the 50’s catches our imaginations. Wouldn’t those fold up chairs be perfect for extra seating on busy summer nights. The small square table would make a great side table. At the first booth of the day we can talk ourselves into pretty much anything as we drool over some potential prize. While still in that very first booth we spy a magnificent gilded mirror. (If the other 249 booths are as great as this one we might be dipping into our retirement funds.) The size and shape of the mirror is intriguing. Not to mention it’s beauty.  Working with gold as much as Tom does,  he is impressed by the intricate gilding.

Hungry to get his day off to a quick sale the seller is sure to show us how easily the chairs fold, the quality of their construction, and to mention that since it’s winter when folks aren’t thinking of outdoor items he could give us a better price. It’s listed at 150 euros - he’ll let it go for 100. This type of negotiation exchange will go on a quite a few times before the day is over. But, there will be no buying yet. We have to stick to “the rules”. Photos are taken, prices noted, and the booth location marked on the map. Goodness! One booth down and our hunting has begun in earnest.

For an hour we glide in and out of booths. Sometimes separate, sometimes calling the other back to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to some intriguing object. The #1 qualification for anything we are contemplating is where can it be placed in the decor of our already over-crowded home. Tom and I do not always agree on an item, but when we do we both love it. We’ll stand there discussing both physical and emotional elements of a thing, then haggle with the vendor before adding the info to the ever lengthening list.

Around 11:30 we take stock of our location and strategize how to to arrive at the restaurant before we drop from fatigue and before the restaurant fills up with boisterous vendors. 

Turns out there is no great crush on a drizzly midweek day. We grab a table and start reviewing the morning’s collection of potentials. “Let’s keep the little patio set, scratch off the marble urn, what are you really thinking about that painting?” We run through everything listed so far as our legs and eyes take a break. 

Lunch finished we are reenergized for the remaining work. No lingering over a coffee. A coffee break is saved for later, when we will take stock of all we have seen, the very last review - but we have a ways to get to that…..

The afternoon continues pretty much the same as the morning but, we notice that we are less and less excited by things. By now we have looked carefully at, picked up, or at least glanced at thousands of things. We are able to make the decision “no” without the need for reflection on the list. Everything is now weighed by our obsession with an armoire and a great block of carved stone we seem to have our hearts set on. This late in the day we walk past stands just scanning from the outside. We think, but our muddled brains are a bit unsure, that we have passed up and down all of the aisles. 

It’s time to head to a cafe for the last pow-wow. Susan waves off coffee, fearing that caffeine could obliterate what little is left of her self-control. Time to check the list, add up the amount of dreamed of purchases and narrow our purchases down to reality.

The mirror is gorgeous, but neither of us can think of a place for it. Scratch.
The patio set is sweet, but complicated to store. Scratch.
The painting isn’t really necessary - it was to remind Tom to have fun. Scratch. Let him find fun elsewhere.
The stone is just too amazing to pass up. Check.
The vase will make a sweet Christmas gift. Check.
No place to put the lamp. No place to put the boat. The old doors wont fit our project. Scratch, scratch, scratch.
These pots are the buy of the year. Check.
The armoire is a work of art! Check.

And so we set off to make our purchases. Vendors faces light up to see up return. Checks are written. Then, invariably, Tom does his Tom at the Flea market Thing.  He dutifully follows the rules and argues down the price.  And then after the check is written we have to write another one because Tom feels guilty for arguing down an already fair price. (He also over tips waiters.) Delivery is organized with little maps sketched out to show where we live. No one charges for delivery. They don’t even bat an eye knowing that it could be up to a 2 hour drive-- each way. It’a a little love fest as we glow in our purchases and the vendor thrills to snagging us. 

Our drive home is dark and quiet. The adrenaline and decision making of the day has worn us out. There is also the little nagging feeling of regret for the things we left behind. But having our established routine has kept us from being impulsive, and more importantly, kept us within our budget. Dang that we don’t have a bigger home and a bigger bank account. But the BIG day strategies keep us on our toes and and on pins and needles as we make the most of what we do have - and that is the love of beautiful things created with love by amazing artisans.


anne fitchie said...

Thanks for that I really felt that I was there with you! xx

Mary Jo said...

Fabulous post. Almost as much fun as being there. And while I have no new treasures, I am also glad that my wallet is no thinner. Please show us where the stone rests in its new home.

Juanita said...

Thanks for sharing you excursion with me. I can remember those days. So much , so little space , so little money. I loved the doors . How could you leave then there.
My problem with Bill is he would buy them then build a house for them.
Aunt Juanita