To Giroussens–the red brick village in the Tarn with a magnificent view and the clay that makes pottery–for the annual ceramics fair [foire].
The last weekend in April every year potters and ceramic artists from all over Europe come to this small village perched on a bluff above the river Agout to display and sell.
The normally sleepy streets are a-bustle with late arrivals setting up and punters scanning the stalls on a gentle walk-through before lunch.
The village’s dignified chateau sits above it all, now depending for its authority on tradition, as the shuttered windows show no signs of life.
The work varies from the practical to the fanciful
…and caters to all tastes!
Stalls stacked with salad bowls and all manner of tableware…
…stand next to elaborate sculptures in clay some of which might frighten the neighbors on a visit.
The village was a regular lunch stop for us in the early days when we lived the double life of a home in London and this new adventure in the Tarn.
A quarter of a century ago–the early flight from Heathrow to Toulouse would give us time to make the restaurant L’Echauguette (watchtower) for a late-ish lunch.
The Maitre d’ in his navy blazer with brass buttons ran Front of House with a steely discipline, learned in the military perhaps and his talented wife made a meal that Elizabeth David* would have been happy to find on her travels 40 years earlier.
We always looked forward to lunch at l’Echauguette and we always arrived at the house here with a package or two of pottery, wrapped with care in newspaper, purchased after lunch from Martine Lévêque, the village’s resident potter.
Most of it is still in daily use, much loved by one and all!
Yesterday we added some more from a different potter (Martine is retired now), wrapped with equal care.
It carried this evening’s pasta!
Sadly the old soldier and his wife sold up–and the restaurant is new hands.
Elizabeth David would not be so happy today!
Though after an undistinguished lunch she’d have found other things to amuse her as she scanned the stalls for treasure.