French Market Review - November 2013

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I am originally from Cheshire, England, but have lived in Scotland and Belgium raising my family.   For the last six years I have lived in the Loire region of France, and have been passionately travelling around local, and Paris, brocantes and vide-greniers in search of wonderful French treasures!   I’m so excited to be sharing my excitement about the items that I find, together with a little history and culture that surrounds them!

 I like to research French authors, artists and architecture. and have just finished reading about Napoleon and the French Revolution –this has fuelled my interest in finding Napoleon treasures – they are very sought after so I haven’t been successful as yet in finding even the smallest trinket!  But I did start searching for treasures not only for myself but for others also (a good excuse to visit even more flea markets!), and so it snowballed ....

 I love getting up on a Sunday morning having planned my route to a flea market, and setting off quite early when the mist is rising from the fields.   I always feel anticipation when I arrive as to what I will find. Every flea market is different, and there’s always a snippet of history to be found about the village.   Some markets are held in a local farmer’s field, some around the village square, but the best ones are when the whole village is closed to traffic and all the little winding streets are lined with stalls.  This is also quite interesting because the residents open up their huge tall wooden gates and you get to take a rare peek at the houses behind with their lovely blue shutters (the colour of the Loire region).

At the markets are the usual professionals who do house clearances, and some who have shops elsewhere in France so travel with their treasures – these markets are called Brocantes.   But for me the ‘particuliers’ at the vide-greniers (flea markets) who have just decided to have a clear out of their garages or attics hold the most excitement, as they have oodles of boxes which are full of mixed items of every description.   If I’m lucky then they will have one or two of their grandmother or great-grandmother’s boxes too, which by far contain the best treasures! 

Sewing boxes always hold wonderful surprises as often nestled in with tangled silks and cottons are the tiniest treasures, such as delicate religious medals.

 On the 1st November it was Toussaint (All Saint’s Day) and a public holiday here in France.  It’s the day that the French remember there loved ones by taking chrysanthemums plants to the cemeteries and churches.   The flower shops and markets were filled with these beautiful colourful plants, which are the traditional Toussaint flower.

It was also the annual Brocante de la Toussaint at Richelieu.  The city (as it once was) and it’s fabulous Chateau and parkland were built in the 1700s on the instruction of Cardinal Richelieu who was First Minister to King Louis Xlll, and also the world's first 'Prime Minister'.

The Chateau was sold off in the 1900's and fell into disrepair, it was dismantled and the building materials were sold.  It's rumoured that a lot of the materials were actually stolen at the time by locals to build or enhance their homes!

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All that remains now of the chateau is the wonderful parkland and a couple of small buildings dotted around the park.

The Brocante was early in the morning and just professionals which is usual for Richelieu as it’s a popular destination for Parisians who have holiday homes nearby...................so sadly for me there were lots of fabulous treasures with fabulous price tags!    But, I still thoroughly enjoyed the scouting around in the hope of a hidden and not too pricey treasure, but it was not to be – so I’m now planning the route to my next flea market!

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1st November 2013 – Brocante at the entrance to Richelieu parkland with the Cardinal Richelieu statue in the background.

janette.sumner@yahoo.fr