French Secondhand Markets
One of the great pastimes to undertake during a trip to France is a visit to a second-hand market and during the warm summer weekends in France there are a multitude of these markets spreading the length and breadth of the country.
Large cities will have several markets in a weekend, there are also many towns and villages throughout France that will be having their annual market.
There are different types of markets that will be selling either antiques, bric-a-brac or specialist collections. And although the lines are often blurred between the types, below is our guide to get you started.
The French brocante is akin to an antique fair where you will find an amazing variety of great antiques sold by mainly by professional sellers.
Whilst the volume of quality antiques may be fantastic, expect to do a fair bit of footwork in order to find a bargain.
But these are definitely the places to find that buy of the trip.
Flea markets can be a mixed affair. Some are almost Brocante like, others are more like a vide-greniers.
There is no real English translation of this, the literal translation is Attic Empty.
This is similar to a garage sale or car boot sale. Lots of childrens toys, homewares and general bric-a-brac sprawled across the ground.
The nice thing about these markets is that the majority of sellers are everyday people local to the village, thus it can be a nice way to interact with locals.
From time to time there are also specialty markets for collectors. These can range between books and postcards to vehicles and childrens items.
These tend to be shop stock sellouts and are rarely of interest to a collector.
One common thread through all of these second-hand markets is the absence of any pricing.
This obliges you to talk with the sellers, which depending on your level of French could be a rather daunting moment.
But as they say nothing ventured nothing gained and a bit of basic French will get you a long way.
Negotiating on price is absolutely fine, although the results may vary from a firm price with no movement to a reasonable in between that everyone is happy with.
One of the best parts about visiting the second-hand markets in France is the adventure of visiting somewhere you might not have thought to go.
There are plently of charming villages off the beaten track waiting to be discovered.
We have lived throughout the South of France and have been to many markets over the years.
When we lived near Toulouse in the South-West we would frequently attend local vide-greniers.
One of my favourite parts of going to the markets near Toulouse was the sausage sizzle.
No precooked pork sausage in a slice of white bread here, just a 100% pure pork Toulouse sausage with nothing but the fat cooked through to keep it moist in a real baguette with generous helping of Dijon mustard.
Of course these are not chared on some gas bbq. They are most commonly cooked over a half metal barrel filled with charcoal.
Upon arrival at a market my nose would always searchout the distinctive aroma.
One other thing I liked about the regions markets were the antique oak inlaid frames of which we bought several.
Over the years we have never seen these outside of Toulouse, so no matter where you are heading to in France,
try to checkout a second-hand market as you just don't know what you might find.