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Vide Greniers in Burgundy

all the fun of the vide grenier

Bargain hunters travel from far and wide, even across the Channel, to look for finds at that very French event, the vide grenier. Marilyn Floyde, who can never resist a good bit of memorabilia, sets the scene as the season get into full swing.

Epoisses Vide Grenier, June 26 2016The local vide-grenier is as much a feature of the seductive French lifestyle as the local fête – and comes round just as reliably, bringing with it a similar level of anticipation and enthusiasm. Forget for the moment the ‘Car Boot’, that most ugly of terms to describe a wet Sunday morning in England rummaging through plastic tat, smelly clothing, discarded foot massagers, musty books, chipped china and rowing machines. Forget the tepid tea in a plastic cup and the general sense of desperation . . .

Imagine instead, a village in Burgundy where the first vide-grenier of the season takes place at the beginning of May. There, on every stall, in little foil-wrapped bunches, are the muguets; wild lilies-of-the-valley to be sold for a few centimes and given to mothers everywhere. Smell the fresh coffee and croissants as the sun comes up on the local people arriving with their chattels. As this is the first vide-grenier of the season there is real excitement in the air! Perhaps as many as a dozen stalls will be displaying genuine artefacts; authentic products from turning out the old barn, garage, or granny’s six-bedroomed farmhouse in the Morvan, full of antiques . . . The dealers are there in force, giving you no time to get organised, rummaging in your boxes, picking up pottery and mantelpiece ornaments . . . before you know it you’ve sold a large boar’s head, two marble-topped chevets, a box of cutlery, a tortoiseshell dressing-table set, a crucifix, a rocking horse and a pocket watch. You’re clutching a wad of notes and the dealers have moved on.

Then the Maire arrives with a couple of adjoints, some speakers, a microphone and a music player which looks as if it came off a stall last year. They fix the speakers to a venerable tree and run the cable in through someone’s front window, et voilà! After a few false starts and some attention to the volume, we have Jean-Michel Jarre, Charles Trenet, Tryo and Johnny Hallyday on a continuous loop, interspersed with announcements all day. Setting up in competition is the man selling new and second-hand cds and DVDs, playing ‘50s music; next to him his wife selling radioactive sweets and lady’s underwear. Then a dishevelled young man arrives and begins to play his guitar and sing; his amplifier blasting out backing tracks. Until an adjoint moves him on, further down the village.

Epoisses Vide Grenier, Burgundy People turn up in their hundreds, bargain-hunters all. There is so much choice; stalls selling furniture, light-fittings and ancient lampshades, household linens, old tools, paintings, bits of carved wood, car parts, kitchenware and electrical goods, toys and baby paraphernalia; teenagers selling second-hand fashions and bags; local producers and artisans proudly displaying their wares and offering tasters; garden stalls; hippies selling essential oils, candles, crystals and incense; and stalls run by ex-pats who do rather well out of named British goods, and offloading their crime-novel collections. And of course there’s refreshments: wines and beers, moules-frites, andouillettes, pizzas, saucisses-frites . . .

 There is also much bonhomie. At a popular vide-grenier it is possible to sit and enjoy a glass of wine in the buvette while most of the people you have ever met in Burgundy, wander past. By lunchtime things have mellowed. Stallholders are getting out their cool boxes and deckchairs and arranging feasts on picnic tables. Friends arrive for an unusual Sunday lunch.

The afternoons have a different atmosphere. It is widely agreed that all the serious punters come in the morning. Those who turn up, fed and well-watered in the middle of the afternoon, are there to see and be seen only. There is a drift of men and boys laden with stuff on their shoulders, back to their cars. Many vide-greniers progress into the evening with a village meal and perhaps a traditional bal dansant de campagne. It’s time for the packing up, and the counting up.
© Marilyn Floyde Photos above: The thriving Epoisses Vide Grenier

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