Bethan and I have just got back from a fantastic trip to Lille in France, where we spent many happy hours browsing La Braderie – a massive, annual flea market. We were lucky enough to be practically teleported from London to Lille in just over an hour on the wonderful Eurostar – one minute, we were enjoying breakfast at St Pancras – the next moment we found ourselves standing in Lille town centre, clutching a map and some shopping bags ready for loot.
To begin with, I confess, we had a few map issues. Both of us are a bit ‘geographically challenged’, so we spent a while aimlessly wandering through the outskirts of the market, searching in vain for bric-a-brac. This area of the market was NOT very vintage – think pan pipe CDs, dodgy trainers, manky old nail varnishes, racks of velour tracksuits, smelly hot dog vans etc. Finally, we scraped together enough French (ish) to communicate with a local and were soon directed to the heart of the Braderie. We found ourselves surrounded by beautiful Brocante, and realised we were in Flea Market Heaven.
We kicked off proceedings in the ancient Citadelle, which was full of vintage books, magazines and postcards. I bought a pretty French novel for styling purposes only (my A-Level French is a dim and distant memory!) and Bethan stocked up on gorgeous postcards covered in elegant handwriting. We spent ages admiring some printers’ blocks and found some wicked old hairdressing chairs.
There were so many hundreds of wonderful things, it’s impossible to record, or even remember, them all! There was a lot of taxidermy – interesting, but gross – and we saw lots of lovely rustic wooden wine carriers and old metal watering cans. A gigantic chemist’s chest of drawers caught our eye, and we wished we had a van to transport a lovely cast iron bath back to the UK!
Lunch at La Braderie is a civilised affair – all the restaurants serve moules frites, then collect the shells in massive piles on the pavements and compete to see who has sold the most. We had a delicious meal, a cheeky glass of wine each, admired our purchases, and then headed back into the throng for more bargaining.
We each found some real gems. Bethan had her eyes peeled for a vintage, white bird cage – luckily, she struck gold and found the perfect one. I bought a galvanised wire log basket, and a 1930s clock. But the best buys of the day were two funky 1950s French learn-to-spell school tableaus, with retro lettering.
They were a pair, so we negotiated a deal with the stall holder and bought one each for 10 Euros. Bargainacious. By the time we were back on the luxurious Eurostar, we were completely shattered, but happily laden with vintage treasures. We’re already planning next September’s trip… – Ellie
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