The town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has become the capital of antiques in recent years, with many antique dealer groupings as well as galleries and shops and a large flea market every Sunday. But the stars of the show for antique hunters are the biannual fairs, one held over the Easter weekend and the other in August. Over 200 exhibitors set up stalls throughout town selling Provençal quilts, age-old earthenware jars, chests, ancient tableware, furniture and a wealth of rare objects. The fairs began in 1966 with just 14 stands before growing to today’s proportions.
Don’t miss the international fairs “Antiques Art and You” every summer in August. Hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors are expected in L’Île-sur-la-Sorgue for a giant market on the banks of the river, with a friendly, multi-cultural atmosphere and the chance to attend concerts and conferences as well as browse the bric-a-brac. Hunt through trinkets, leaf through books and get design and decoration inspiration!
Antique boutiques also join forces during the fairs, clustered into 10 villages and centres in the area and throwing open their doors to shoppers for the occasion. It’s a great treasure hunt…
Pottery is a major craft in Provence, particularly in the aptly-named Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie in Gard, where it’s intricately woven into the village heritage. A dedicated museum, teaching centre, gallery and bookshop are open to the public, as well as several workshops and boutiques including Poterie Danouska. The European festival of ceramic arts, ‘Terralha’, takes place here each year around mid-July.
In Hyères-les-Palmiers you can also visit the Poterie de la Presqu’île, the ceramics workshop of Myriam Belajh and Amélie Sernis, who produce a series of beautifully turned and painted items (both functional and decorative) – and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a must-see village for faience, with a dedicated earthenware museum that illustrates its 300-year history.
Allow time to visit the Terra Rossa ceramics museum in Salernes (Var department), an extraordinary architectural unit conceived by Jean-Michel Wilmotte with surrounding gardens designed by Jean Mus. For centuries Salernes has been famous for its craftsmanship, most notably the manufacture of tomettes (Provençal terracotta floor tiles). The museum houses reconstructions of traditional workshops, an astounding 2,200-strong tile collection dating from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century, and various technological masterpieces. In addition to the permanent collection, several seasonal exhibitions showcase the contemporary work of local potters and ceramists – the highlight is the Ceramic Biennale from mid-June to mid-September, now in its fourth year.