Brocantes Fairs are France’s Goodwill Stores

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Now that summer in Paris is in full force, with sunny days and temps that hit around 90F. I want to share with you something, which is very common here, it’s called a BROCANTE. Think of this as a yard sale – for the whole village!! Usually, its one day a year, and most of them take place on the weekends, to allow working people the ability to partake in the annual event.

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When it was announced that our area, was going to have a Brocante, I was excited. Never did it cross my mind to make money, but to meet the people who are my new neighbors. There is no “welcome committee” here, and I think, this goes back to a distrust of outsiders. The French people seem to hold back, and wait & watch the new strangers. I am not sure when this had started- I can only guess, it may started around WW2. When the country was split into 2 parts, and never knowing who was a Nazi, dressed as a Parisian. I am guessing of course..But I do not see the logic of not greeting strangers, what can you lose? (back then it was your life).

So the cost of “renting a space” was 6.00. Now keep in mind – you as a private person, do not have the right to hold a yard sale without permission. (I know, this blew my mind too) So this is the only time, you can clean out the attic or garage, and make a little cash. The Brocante is controlled by the local “Marie” (Mayor’s office). You do not have to collect sales tax. It’s a way to give the people a way to get rid of things you no longer need- kind of a re-cycle program for everything.

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At our brocante- there was Art, China sets, lights, plants, children’s toys, music & movies. What I found is the common thing, is clothes at these events. Keep in mind there are not GOODWILL stores here. Most people sell their gentle used clothing for 1.00 apiece. I decided to give it a try and offered some long dresses, which hit at my calves. I have been trying to educate myself about how to dress, and French women usually do not wear dresses that long. (I am short 5’4”)

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Also I put up for sale, items that we found in the house from the old owners- mismatch dishes and such – of which I have no use for . Also we decided to use the event to introduce Nic’s art to everyone. We picked out a few oils and hung them up for viewing, and gave out business cards when someone showed interest.
These sales start around 6 – 7 am. Yes, people showed up due to the weather being cooler that early in the morning. I of course, shopped and found some wonderful items for nothing!!
A new café set in soft blue – never used for 5.00

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A toile (I am addicted to this style) set with café cups and bowl for 4.00

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A crystal decanter with a silver handle for .50!

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Front door planters for my new Hydrangea plants – 2.00 and these planters have a water reserve in them.

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Mantel clock for 1.00

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Art Deco salad set, in a wonderful style with that periwinkle blue that has become my favorite color. The set was sold for 3.00

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Heavy black & silver trays with Don Perignon name on them. Great for serving crackers & cheese. 1.00 each

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Black Metal hall entry coat rack with red glass accents for 20.00 (you can see the dog leads resting)

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I also picked up a weed whacker for 15.00 – I was not going to buy new for double the price..to cut weeds, no way, I am too cheap.
My list is short, but I have just started to visit these sale events. It’s a great experience, because I try to find historical attractions near the Brocante to get the full benefit of the trip.
In my travels, I have come across villages that are older than America (yes that still is overwhelming to me). I think, the best part of this experience is learning the area of the village, and also attending the event, and viewing what the village “style “is. One Brocante I went to, had rows and rows of children toys & clothes, and not much else. One village had lots of tables of “table art”, everything was there – china, stoneware, crystals, barware, candle sticks, linens, napkins, even those little dishes to hold the butter knifes off the table. ( my kind of village !) I was lucky because our brocante, has tents – so you do not ‘ bake with the bakeware ‘.

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Most villages have one Brocante a year- so it’s like a hit or miss. Do not worry too much about items, for there is no way to know in advance. I made a wish list – of things I would like to buy – like photo frames with silver. This is one advantage that leaving the “City of Paris” , gives you. I also was very happy, when visiting these villages – to see normal sized women ( in French terms) ..sizes 6-10 are common, once you leave the capital.

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So if you have a free day – just try to visit one village – and enjoy the ride to an unknown place, to view the stone houses, with overflowing window boxes of red germanium flowers. Smell the scented air with roses and lavender, as the soft wind carries the perfume to your nose. Pass by the purple wisheria – with its soft sweet scent. Dress in casual clothes, for there is no fashion police at these events..pack a small lunch..and go for a day. To experience fragments of French life, as it truly is..simple and unhurried.
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Bises

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