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La Brocante April antique buying trip to France

by Penny Attiwill

You'd have to be partly mad to travel almost 38,000 kilometres in 21 days, barely staying more
than one night in any place. But that was our most recent buying trip to France and we managed
to fill a shipping container as well. Certainly hard work but also a lot of fun at the same time.

We make the trip twice a year during the European Spring and Autumn and have our regular
stops including 3 or 4 of the larger déballage marchands fairs and our growing list of favourite
wholesale dealers and warehouses ferretted out over several trips.

Starting in the south - after plane and TGV train journeys to get there - we hit Marseille, Avignon,
Montpellier, Beziers and many places in between. Some of these stops are for the déballage
fairs, some for our regular sellers and others are purely exploratory. The latter often ends without
any success however the occasional gem to add to the list is always more than worth the effort.


         An early morning seller at a Provence deballage                                             This is how we buy many pieces at the deballage fairs
          demonstrates this vintage sink douche bucket                                           just sitting outside on the ground behind the sellers trucks

The déballage fairs are fast and furious, mostly one-day, events for dealers only, held in various
"parc des expositions" with sellers arriving in their trucks from all over Europe. The déballage
rules prevent sellers from unloading their trucks until the gates open - so at 8am the crowds rush
in but then must wait while the trucks disgorge their huge variety of items. Buyers from all over
the world compete for pieces and it's truly a case of "those who hesitate are lost". 

With time running out we turn north towards the Loire and Normandy districts, east to Picardy
and the Nord areas and back to Paris, clocking up more than 3,500 kilometres in the hire car on
the way. We also like to check out some of our preferred dealers in the west of Belgium and
even further afield if time permits. The days on the road are always full with very early mornings,
breakfast and lunch on the run and continually checking that the GPS is not trying to take us on
some goat track "shortcut" (it's happened more than once!).


You never know what you'll find down a country lane  Part of huge 1-day déballage fair in Montpellier

Apart from the thrill of the hunt, dinner is a daily highlight when the day is dissected and a,
hopefully, decent meal and bottle of French red consumed.

Back in Paris there's just time to meet with the shippers, visit the Porte de Clignancourt markets
and soak up a little Parisian atmosphere before finally catching the RER back to Charles de
Gaulle airport and the long flight home to Melbourne.


                                                          Another container arrives safely in Melbourne.
                                    The French sure know how to pack it in!

Penny is the owner of the La Brocante store in Melbourne.


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