Un dimanche à la brocante

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mr M and I are a couple of chîneurs. That makes us sound like we're part of some underground sect or have some affiliation with China. But no, chîneur is the informal word given to those that pass their time fossicking through old, smelly things at flea markets and garage sales looking for that one treasure that they didn't know they need but must have in their possession.
Mr M and I chîne quite a great deal; a lot of weekends are spent at far flung corners of the city, weaving trough rickety tables set up on streets, up turning plates to see where they were made and dusting glass to see if it's actually crystal. Making sure Daisy isn't trampled on or accidentally "uses the bathroom" on a hundred-year-old painting. We've collected a few treasures in our 'chîne-ing' jaunts, and with every trip I start to dread the time when we have to cart it all back home to the mother land, and resign to just deal with it then when that time comes. We have a problem, I know we're addicted, but we can't stop. I'm on the constant look out for the ideal café/ sugar/ tea jar set for the kitchen and I know Mr M wants the perfect antique enamel Michelin sign for when he finally gets a garage, aka man cave.

The Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambon (yes, antiques and ham fair), which happens twice a year in March and September, is a special trip for Mr M and me. We discovered it a year ago on a day's date to St Germain au Laye, a little village just a 30 min regional train ride north west of Paris. As the above ground train went over the Ile des Impressionists we saw the familiar tents and displays of a brocante, and after scoffing our lunch in the village jumped straight back on the train to check it out. We've been back each occurrence for a look around and big ham sandwiches since.

Yesterday's jaunt provided us with a beautiful hardcover book filled with the botanical drawings of roses by 1800s illustrator Pierre-Joseph Redouté, a 1950s Italian Marelli fan for an eighth of the price it's valued at and a wooden croquet set in a little upright frame on wheels that has enough knocks and chunks missing from it to know it's been around a while. I've wanted one for such a long time, and was even going to start looking to purchase one online this week! I'm just dying to take it along to picnics once the weather warms up.

And then there's the ham...

After combing through stall after stall of lampshades and yellowed books, at the back of the fair, is the allée spécialitiés régionales. A weird alternate universe of yummy smells, white plastic furniture and red checkered tablecloths. And sandwiches of roasted vegetables and ham off the bone. Or plates of oysters if you're more of a pescetarian. The obligatory crêpe and gaufre stalls are there, too, to add to the fair vibe; one lovely man and his van is conveniently set up at the exit for you to pick up a sweet something to munch on while waiting for the complementary shuttle train to take you back to the RER station.

While I try my hardest to not be a very materialistic person, I do take comfort in owning, using and enjoying something that at one time or another was the pride and joy of someone before me. The anti-consumerist in me is always wanting something second-hand rather than brand new. And something found during a day well spent becomes more like a souvenir rather than another object in the home picked up at one of the majors that everyone else has, too.
I know that when we do move home, eventually, I will just hope we have enough 'souvenirs' to fill our home so as to not miss France too much.

Foire Nationale à la Brocante et aux Jambon
Ile des Impressionists, Chatou
RER station 'Rueil-Malmaison'
For 10 days, Every March and September 


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