A love letter to brocantes and vide-greniers.
I grew up collecting things, memorabilia and eventually got interested in antiques. At the age of 10, I was collecting phone cards (weird I know), then stamps and notes, as well as collecting NBA basketball cards, much cooler than your standard football Panini stickers.
Going up in my twenties, I wasn’t so much collecting anymore but rather interested in selling my old ( not so old) clothes, toys and objects accumulated over the years. Car boot sales you have in Provence over the summer are the perfect place for it. Reason being, I have always been reluctant to find a summer job in the summer and had to find a way to finance my holidays. In my twenties, whilst trying to be a cool kid in Provence, wearing the latest fashionable trainers, I have always been fascinated about our local carboot sales. Often held in small villages, there’s something really charming and quaint about carboot sale there. You are often setting your own little stall on a pretty cobbled street right next to a lovely fountain. I have tried selling at a carboot sale here in the UK, ended up in North London, just outside the M25 on a muddy football pitch in the rain, selling my stuff straight out of the boot of my car. No as romantic as your Provençal “vide grenier” (carboot sale). Carboot sales in the UK never again. Although I am sure there are nice ones out there. If you know any, please recommend them in an email to me.
Back to Provence when I was in my twenties… I enjoyed the direct sale at these vide-greniers, the contact with the local people, giving my unwanted clothes a new life, and leaving after a few hours with a wad of cash that I could use to get a new pair of trainers or to buy drinks to the girls at the local discothèque on a Saturday night. Another very enjoyable thing at the local car boot sales was the local bistrot or sometimes a simple stand with a barbequeue selling merguez, cheap rosé and beers in a can. After 2pm, most stands had some food and a drink and new friendships were made. Quite often it’d be the same crowd and the “traders” would recommend to each other which carboot sales were worth attending, described the crowd and the attendance. I was kind of hook and started looking for other things to sell from our house or at my grand parents house! This whole atmosphere was not too different than what I experience now as a market trader. Some traders hate it, but I actually really much enjoy setting up my stand, making it look pretty, sampling our food, chatting to fellow traders but most importantly meeting new customers and seeing people returning to my stand. Seeing people with a smile on their faces because they like our food and home products. It’s worth the days spent trading in the cold and in the rain!
Back to the carboot sales, often I would end up using some of my takings to buy curiosities or items that I would find at the sale. My family would often question the whole purpose! I always had a penchant for old chairs: bistro chairs then Tolix chairs, chairs from the 50ies and 60ies, cast iron garden chairs, old sun loungers, even antique Louis XV shaped arm chairs. I bought them all and they are dispersed a it everywhere at our house in France and at my grand father’s.
Fats forward a few years, and I am back at car boot sales, now as a keen buyer. It’s funny to be on the other side, knowing the bargaining techniques to get the products you like at the best possible price. Think antique road show programme, in Provence, with incredible French antiques and filled with chilled rosé wine. Teamed up with the expert eye of my mum Sylvie, we are a cracking team at finding great antique items. My speciality is finding the best carboot sales and getting there early with my grandfather’s old Citroën camionette (local mini van). I love finding old furniture and old books. Sylvie’s thing is to find local antique shops and flee markets in remote villages in Provence and in the Alps, the ones where tourist don’t go, the ones were you can sometimes find real treasures for a bargain. Sylvie’s more into tableware, porcelain, ceramics and old cutlery. Now we’ve decided to introduce you to our latest finds and treasures. We’ll start selling our antiques, first at our markets and Neptune events and eventually on our website. We’ll try to have a selection of items and antiques that not only look great and at great prices but that tell an interesting story and somehow have a connection Provence. We look forward to hearing what you think of our selection of antiques!