One of my very favourite things about rural France is the predominance of brocantes and vide greniers.
For those who are uninitiated these are antique or junk shops, and the French equivalent of a car boot sale without the cars.
Each town, village and even the smallest hamlet will have a weekend or two in the year which will be put aside for the event, the roads will be closed to traffic, and big car parks set up in fields miles away, saucisse stalls will set up, everyone will bring out their chairs and tables into the streets and pile up the contents of their garage, loft, kitchen cupboard, toybox and cellar.
Some villages have tannoy systems to play musique while you browse. Bigger venues may have line dancing, fun fairs, vintage tractor shows or other rural French entertainment! As the shops are not open on a Sunday here, vide-grenier shopping is a national pastime.
In the UK I've been an antique dealer for a number of years, so it's just such a joy to me to be able to indulge my buying addiction over here with bargains to be rooted out wherever you go. I've bought so much stuff in fact that I've had to open a brocante of my own in my barn!
Luckily I'm not alone in being obsessed with anything antique and vintage French. There are such huge numbers of ex-pats in our area, the beautiful Pays de la Loire, of Escape to the Chateau fame. If we visit a local brocante we are bound to bump into other English speakers, and every vide grenier is thronged with the Brits negotiating hard on milk churns, shabby chic furniture, confit pots and the like. So I've got a ready customer base for my own brocante and I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors we've had in the couple of months since we opened.
The French have a different attitude to 'second hand' than us Brits typically, if something still works here it is considered to be just as valuable as a brand new item. They will price things accordingly so we are occasionally shocked at the ticket price on an old TV, stereo system, car part, toy etc. These items might be sold through a depot-vente, a sort of second-hand emporium where prices start high and reduce week by week, a psychological ploy so if you really have to have that enormous TV without a remote control you'd better snap it up quick, or gamble on it not being there next time you visit. And used clothing is also big business over here, even the grubbiest, most worn out garments are proudly piled up on trestles and fought over by local housewives of all ages, most bizarre. New clothes are really expensive so no-one is ashamed to go rooting around in other people's closets! I do like this culture of re-use though, so much more environmentally friendly than the UK's consumerist throwaway society.
The things that we ex-pats cherish, however, are considered tat and old-fashioned by the majority of French customers, they are totally bought into the whole Ikea vibe.
That's not to say that French traders haven't cottoned on to this though, prices of popular vintage and antique items such as bottle carriers, red stripe tea towels, fruit pickers baskets, chippy painted shutters, and bigger furniture items such as wormy old farmhouse tables and flea ridden chairs have shot through the roof! There are UK dealers coming over and taking back vans crammed with this stuff for a ready and willing customer base in the South of England, I sometimes think there is more French tat in the UK than is left here to be honest.
But this might be a short-lived trend, we don't know what will happen to those vans going back through customs after the dreaded Brexit.
However, that's not happening until the vide grenier season is well and truly over, so this summer I'm going to make hay while the sun shines and trawl the trestles for goodies until I drop! Will I bump into you?