ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Rural French Life: The Brocante

Updated on February 5, 2019
Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose moved from London to the French Riviera in 2000 and hasn't looked back!

Who needs Fifth Avenue or Bond Street?
Who needs Fifth Avenue or Bond Street?

Twice a year, every year, my little village in the south of France holds a ‘brocante’, less romantically known in English as a ‘car boot sale’. For the sellers, it’s a chance to clear out the attic, empty a few cupboards and earn a little tax-free cash while having a sociable day out. For shoppers it’s a pleasant stroll with a lucky dip thrown in; the chance to find that unplanned for, unexpected bargain that raises the spirits and lightens the purse in equal measure.

Correction: There are in fact two distinct French terms for this sort of thing and oops, I used the wrong one and of course cannot change the title. A 'Brocante' is a more professional set up, the equivalent I suppose of an antique fair, while the every day clear-out is in fact, called a Vide Grenier, or 'empty the attic.' My apologies!

Last Sunday was the Big Day. I walked up to the village in anticipation. In the past, I’ve found lovely, framed pictures for five euros apiece, succulent plants for the garden for a euro or so, the occasional English book and Asian artefacts from a former shop-owner. One of the highlights is the cake stand provided by the retirement home, including such delights as the Tourte de Blettes , which manages to combine chard, parmesan cheese and pine-nuts with brown sugar and get away with it. So what delights would I find this time?

The church square (pictured) was abuzz. In amongst the usual display of clothing, shoes and general bric-a-brac was a more professional-looking stand selling African and Asian objets d’art , sadly at professional prices. And despite the healthy amount of books on display none were in English. (It might sound arrogant of me to expect English books in France, but in the past I’ve found hidden gems people were only too glad to get off their hands.) One enterprising lady was selling pots of jam, though at 4.50 each I thought they were a little overpriced. My first purchase was from a woman who was clearing out high quality Danish scented candles from her old shop: on reflection I should have bought more. (I dithered and missed out on the vanilla ones, much to my chagrin.) I found a DVD of the film Michael Clayton which of course I’ll be able to watch in English (hurrah!) and a cute plant pot which I’ll fill with succulents and give to a future dinner-party hostess.

Not one of my more successful outings – no sign of my plant lady and the oldies didn’t even have the Tourte de Blettes – but it was fun all the same.

Something for everyone
Something for everyone

A few years ago, I decided to have a clear-out myself, and persuaded my friend to join me in a stand, halving the 25 euro fee. I chose our location carefully – it was near the coffee and refreshment stop, and in a bright, sunny spot. I was selling high-street clothes, old handbags, costume jewellery, bits of make-up and a few pieces of never-used fitness equipment. She was selling English books and videos, children’s wear, handbags and designer clothing. The inevitable happened. I bought her black Joseph trousers while she chose one of my never-worn evening dresses. We swapped handbags and I selected a few of her books and videos. Unfortunately for her, I was possibly the only person to do so.

One old lady stormed through my jewellery collection with such gusto I began to wonder if I wasn’t accidentally selling precious heirlooms. Then she bought a baggy old fleece, just to add to my confusion. A tiny Chinese woman, bent over double through arthritis, drove an extremely hard bargain, wrestling a cardigan down from three euros to one, then cackled hysterically at her success. Younger shoppers relished my hardly-used designer lipstick mistakes, going on to buy nail polishes to match. It had been an experiment even trying to sell old make-up, but it worked. Yves St Laurent shocking pink lippie for two euros? Pourquoi pas, madame? I sold nothing for over five euros, and made about 250 in total. I was thrilled.

My friend, however, was less successful. Strangely, people shied away from her designer clothing, as if convinced that the prices would be prohibitive, and there were fewer than expected rental-home owners around who'd be interested in the books or videos for their English-speaking guests. Even her son’s old clothes, which I thought would fly off the stand, went unnoticed. We couldn’t understand it. Undaunted, she used the occasion to spend more than she made, buying lovely, high-quality presents for her boy. Not content with the sausage-in-a-baguette lunch on offer, either, she ordered a salad from the restaurant nearby and sat there, regally, a glass of rosé never far from her lips. This made everyone laugh, if nothing else, and we were for ever being told that ours was the most fun stand to visit in the village.

It was an exhausting, but terrific day out.

Every corner of the village was filled with goodies
Every corner of the village was filled with goodies

Brocantes and Vides Greniers happen at regular intervals in towns and villages all over France, and are well worth a visit. My advice for selling at a vide grenier is to keep it simple, and keep it cheap. People will buy on impulse, especially if they’re only spending a euro or two. And as for the shopper, if you see something you like, just go for it. You might never have the chance again.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      6 years ago from South of France

      Hi Rajan Jolly, and thanks for your comment!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      This was a fun read and I believe is fun for those who purchase goods at these clear my attic sales.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      6 years ago from South of France

      Hi bac2basics, thanks for your comment - what a shame you can't have car boot sales in Spain, as you point out, nothing to do with the local markets and a very nice little earner for the village!

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Hi Riviera. I too am an expat but live in Spain, so this hub caught my eye. I have done tons of car boot sales in the UK and a few here in Valencia too, though in my area they haven´t really taken off quite yet. I did try and get a friend of mine who was the mayor of the village at the time interested in setting one up but he passed it on to the people who run the markets here and you had to take out a contract and all sorts of stuff in order to sell things, not the way it goes at all., plus the town hall could´nt afford to put an ad in the local dual language paper to promote the event either so it never happened. Your village must have raked in quite a bit of money 25€ is a heck of a lot to pay for a stall, my goodness it must have cost your friend a packet all in all. Never mind, it seems you had a fun if tiring day so Viva la France to you both LOL :)

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      7 years ago from South of France

      Hi Angie, thanks for your comment. I used to love doing car boot sales in England, it got to the point when everything I bought, I'd be thinking of the potential resale value! Now I'm pretty much clutter-free with nothing to sell...

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      7 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Hi Rose ... thought I'd schlep over to yours for a nosey. Glad I did ... this hub made me smile.

      My old man and I often do the more prosaically named car boots over here in Cornwall. I tend to move on all the idiotic impulse buys and old ornaments (though nothing that family and friends have given me with love) ... just stuff I've enjoyed for a while and am bored with. (How capricious that makes me sound!)

      Most things are sold for 50p or £1 ... maybe the odd lamp for £4 ... but we always make quite a lot of dosh and have fun at the same time. Occasionally we even manage not to buy another load of stuff back. We only do it on sunny days but oh, how I would love to do it where you live. Provence is just the one place I would love to relocate to.

    • missmaudie profile image

      missmaudie 

      8 years ago from Brittany, France

      Actually a lot of it just looks like junk! But the French obviously regard their stuff as precious. Glass especially seems to be expensive.

    • Riviera Rose profile imageAUTHOR

      Riviera Rose 

      8 years ago from South of France

      Hi Missmaudie, you must have much smarter vide greniers up in Brittany than we do down here!! Thanks for commenting.

    • missmaudie profile image

      missmaudie 

      8 years ago from Brittany, France

      We love visiting the vide greniers in our area, although we've never sold at one. We find though that some of the prices can be a little eye watering!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)