A visit to this pretty little town was one of my chief motivations for visiting this part of France. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is known as “The Venice of Provence” because of the way it is encircled by the river that gave the town its name. The water also powered the wheels that powered the many factories that made this such a prosperous town that is was able to support two market days a week instead of the typical single day. The open-air Sunday market that still takes place today dates to the end of the 16th century.
The other reason for L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s immense popularity is antiques. There are seven multi-dealer “villages” filled with antique dealers, many if whom had really high-end merchandise. In mid-August, there is a very important antique fair with about three times as many vendors. Along with Paris’ flea markets and London’s Portobello Road, this is the most significant antique fair in Europe. I decided on a two-day trip to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue: on Saturday, I visited the antique dealers and on Sunday, I visited the open-air markets. In this post, I’ll just talk about Saturday.
Peter Mayle, author of several amusing books about his adventures fixing up a house in Provence, famously quipped “You can get anything in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue but a bargain.” There may have bargains to be found, but they weren’t on the items that caught my eye. A mere €5000 separated me from a gorgeous traveling clock adorned with cherubs in its original case and for a further €1800 I could have had a stunning rock crystal vase with ormolu mounts. Unfortunately, all shops were clear that photos were not permitted, so I can’t share these lovelies with you.
The best purchase that I did make was at La Boutique de Francine (20 Avenue Julien Guigue), a shop filled with stacks and stacks of antique linens beautifully embroidered for a long ago trousseau. I frankly wasn’t in the market for lots of ironing, no matter how intricate the needlework. In a basket in the second room, however, there were lavender sachets made of vintage linens. They were about the size of a brick; the center panel was an embroidered initial cut from a piece that was too damaged to be used whole, and the side panels were a pretty print. They were absolutely stuffed with lavender. There was a beautiful “E” for my mother’s first name that came home with me. I only wish I had bought more of them.