The words antique buying trip for many conjure up images of exotic days spent wandering around flea markets, armoire and chandelier shopping … rewarded with a French pinot and fromage at days end.
Whilst the reality is a little less glamorous sourcing is the definitely best part of the job, especially in France where ‘dealing’ really is a way of life. Buying trips are a heady mix - equal parts excitement and exhaustion. 😊
The mecca for antique dealers is France and there is no bigger antique market than the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, better known as Les Puce or Clignancourt. This labyrinth of alley ways maybe your idea of heaven or hell depending on your love of markets and vintage shopping. With 15 separate markets and more than 100,000 visitors on weekends it pays to do your homework before you arrive. But be warned, prices are eye-watering ... & then add taxes & shipping to the other side of the world.
FYI - never stand between a dealer and there lunch table :)
One thing that never changes when buying at markets are the early starts (not ideal when travelling with our daughter which we often did). In the days of dial-up internet and no iPhone's to entertain her - the world we were in was the only distraction. Perhaps not such a bad thing on reflection…
PS. But antique shopping can be very tiring for four year olds.
Early starts on winter trips were perhaps the most challenging but Paris under snow made up for that, always an extraordinary experience. Over time we tended to plan our buying trips around the European summer. Not such a hard decision🙂
Heading to the South of France during summer really is the dream part of the job. There is something romantic about European stations and train travel that I still love & the TGV is the only way to travel. Its super easy with kids and cancels out any arguments re driving/navigating between the adults! Three and a half blissful hours looking out the window and watching the colours change as we glide into the Provencal light. These hours were used to review what we had bought and regroup before the next round of buying.
We still have to be up early and hit the markets, but down South the days are longer and the brocanting days feel shorter & sweeter. Summery afternoons can be spent wandering and discovering smaller brocantes in local villages or eyeing off somewhere to have dinner. A love affair with goats cheese and people watching began in the small town of Arles and has continued to this day.The antique trade comes alive in the warmer months, fairs and car-boot sales pop-up in villages all over France - you might actually find a bargain here! Pack a picnic lunch and see where the back roads takes you...
Buying trips are a unique kind of travel, we always have a pretty packed schedule but it's a fun kind of work. We always imagine we are going to be more French in our approach, a little lunch with a glass of something, regardless of time or place ~ maybe next time...
There is no rule book when it comes to buying antiques or being a dealer, but French dealers are a constant inspiration for that work-life balance!
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