Shopping, Eating and Exploring

Come along with me and discover some off-the beaten paths in Southwest France

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Life of the Brocantuer

There are a lot of reasons that I have made part of my life in France, but a big one is brocanting. Brocante, literally used household goods, but for many people it means seeking out the treasurers of everyday life that someone has discarded or left behind. The French have an historically high standard of design for decorative arts that carries over into almost every product manufactured or hand made since Napoleon legislated it. And let's face it, there is just something about French stuff that sings to a lot of people.

So, cut to 6am, it's dark, drizzly and my friend, Lisa and I are getting up in some small village in the Sarthe to find our way to the Parc Expositions for the monthly market in Le Mans. We give a bit of thanks to Joan, a neighbor who lent us her TomTom GPS finder. How did we find these markets without them?

At 8am (still dark) The men at the gate are checking business cards or other ID, as this show is only for professionals. The set up starts about the same time, so people are unpacking and setting out as" le monde" push in. The show shuts down at noon, there are between 800 and 1,000 dealers, so a lot to see, in a short time. The pace is a bit frantic.

As the sky starts to lighten, the drizzle continues. Not a really downpour, so no one is too worried about covering up their stuff. There is an inside section, but a lot of dealers are outside, exposed to the elements. The market draws a lot of buyers/sellers from Paris and the prices reflect that. A lot of art, furniture, decorative smalls, industrial, nautical and wonderful things. Some prices were over the moon, some much more reasonable. After slogging through for four hours, we meet up for a lunch of steak frites with friends, to compare notes. Everyone saw the adorable child sized mannequin. The seller was firm at 300euros. That is $450, before shipping. William pointed out that yesterday, at the show in Chartres, there wasn't a stain on the mannequin, but it hadn't stayed out of the rain. We all passed on that one. Katie scored a couple of old handpainted tamborines, I bought a tall, stacked wire bin, painted green, William did find a great adult sized mannequin at a more reasonable price.

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