April in Paris is more than crowded cafes, train strikes, and orangey spray-on tans on every Parisienne; it’s also the beginning of brocante season, which is the real harbinger of spring, if you ask me.
Twice a year, in the spring and the fall, little towns all over France hold day-long brocantes, usually on a Sunday, where the townspeople clean out their attics and closets, set up tables, and sell whatever they can. Way cheaper than a flea market, these events are really city-wide garage sales (vide-greniers), which I find completely irresistible. You never know what gems lurk beyond the old ice buckets and books, heaps of outgrown children’s clothes, and chipped glassware.
Wanting to get out of town for the day, anyway, X found a few brocantes around Paris for us (OK, me) to check out, because I’m always looking for anything for the kitchen or the table. Lately I’ve been on the hunt for footed cake plates, but like any good junker, I’m open to whatever the day’s treasures might be.
We hopped into the car on Sunday morning and drove about 45 minutes north, to Chiry-Ourscamp, and didn’t find much at all, though I spied some very familiar footwear underneath a pink stool. I felt like this was some sort of sign, and proceeded with enthusiasm.
After that, we drove 1 kilometer down the curvy, two-lane road to another brocante, to Pont-l’Eveque, a very cute town on the banks of the Oise river.
See the river behind Stephane the chicken man’s little stand?
Some very cute pans in this basket, but I pushed on.
Well, I was going to buy this ceiling fan, but as you can see, I was too late. Dommage.
I was starting to feel like I’d leave empty-handed when I came across a table with lots of silver platters and copper, too. It’s not hard to find old copper pots at brocantes and fleas in France — most that I’ve come across, though, require gobs of work and a trip to a professional to recoat the insides, or are simply for decor and not to be used for food — but in this case, I totally scored.
I bought three copper saucepans for 15 euros and two small ones for 5 euros. I wanted to make sure that they were for cooking and not for just hanging on the wall (or whatever one does with decorative pots), and she said that yes, they were for cooking, such as heating up caramel to put on crepes.
(That’s exactly what I was buying them for! What a funny coincidence.)
Obsessed with all things blue-and-white as y’all know, I couldn’t resist these two plates, one for 50 centimes and the other for 1 euro. I paid a whopping 3 euros for the serving spoon, which is probably for cake or fish, the woman told me. Well, of course. Cake. Fish. Or maybe to serve caramel-covered crepes.
Caught up in my shopping buzz, I also bought this large copper pot that’s usually used for making jam. He wanted 15. I gave him 10. The silly, Jolly Green Giant-size wooden spoon and fork, 50 centimes. I bought this because it reminded me of something that my grandmother had on her wall. The little glass milk bottle that says “La Lorraine” I figured, would be perfect as a vase for flowers. This being spring and all.
We stopped at a boulangerie on the way back to Paris and bought the very last ham sandwich and split it between us, and we toasted to my successful day at the brocante.
To find out about vide-greniers and brocantes around France, check out this website. Happy spring junking, everyone.