Vide-greniers: how to bag a bargain in France

Vide-greniers: how to bag a bargain in France

There’s a fine and fluctuating line between clutter and collecting which is, in our household at any rate, often crossed. As an ardent and somewhat militant minimalist the prospect of a morning rummaging through the jetsam and flotsam of someone’s attic or garage clearance is anathema but in the spirit of for better or for worse I go along, as keenly as I can, to the latest vide-grenier hoping against hope to come away with only empty bags.

It is claimed that one man’s junk is another’s treasure and this no where better illustrated than at a vide-grenier, literally “attic clearance” and the French equivalent of a car-boot. We arrived just before nine-o-clock – to bag the best bargains or not – and parked in the car-park of the local Marie. There were, as ever, no signs indicating where the booty was situated so we just followed people who looked as if they knew where they were headed. This is not always a good idea! Eventually our guides stopped at the town’s football pitches where large groups of men were either gathered around a bar drinking, even at this hour, what appeared to be white wine but was most probably some Gallic moonshine or playing a game which seemed like quoits. There was no evidence of clutter or collectables. I could feel my mood lightening.

Unfortunately my wife caught sight of something and disappeared down a steep grassy bank to another football pitch. My heart sunk and a wave of despondency swept over me. I had stood on this shore of shifting sands so many times before. I had that sinking feeling.

The first stall we felt obliged to stop at – largely because there were so many locals besieging it – had a curious collection of badly-broken and rusting tools laid out on blankets – picks, spades, hammers, padlocks (which did not appear to have keys) and piles of unidentifiable shrapnel that might well be mistaken- or perhaps was cunningly intended to resemble some post-modernist sculpture. Surprisingly this seemed very popular with the locals. I had heard that rusting iron placed at the base of a hydrangea plants improved the ph of the soil and so perhaps this accounted for the popularity of the stall. I doubt it!


Then a stall with a rather eclectic collection of odds and sods: hats on mannequins heads, some strangely bearded, worse for wear children’s’ clothes, old and yellowed newspapers, worn-down shoes, a solitary roller-skate, half-tins of paint, empty glass bottles, dog-eared books – including a Vinny Jones autobiography in English and several Tour de France fridge magnets – which held some puerile fascination for me. I had seen better bargains in the skips at the local dechetterie.

I was, however, determined not to buy anything and thereby contribute to our blossoming clutter mountain but my resolve was severely tested at one stall by a Systeme U cycling shirt, faded and over-sized, but appealing because it was the team which the late great French two-time Tour de France winner Laurent Fignon had once rode for. Remarkably I resisted. My wife, however, was not so disciplined. She bought a collection of French childrens encyclopaedias, wooden boxes, attractively painted, to store pomes de terre and a framed print of Monet’s garden. What a bargain!

Rather worryingly on the way home she was already scanning the pages of the official vide-grenier handbook for our next up-cycling foray.

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  • Rizwan
    2022-08-27 06:40:40
    That's a nice article. Thanks for sharing an amazing article.


  • bricabrac
    2015-01-05 20:21:02
    We earn our living by visiting vide greniers. There are some really huge ones in if you know where to luck, Bourbourg (near Dunkirk) in September there are 800+ stalls. We can fill a twin axle box trailer in about 12 hours by visiting several vide's in one area. The android app for the mobile is excellent help in finding them


  • chaletcat
    2014-11-15 17:15:29
    We have seen some lovely little villages that we would not normally have thought to visit We have found some lovely old churches that are open because it is the village Fete day We have also come across some war graves in lonely churchyards and the graves are all beautifully kept The larger vide grenier sometimes involve miles of walking and we enjoy the exercise in the summer and sitting outside a bar for a coffee somewhere different each week We rarely buy anything these days but enjoy pointing out discretely to each other the rubbish that is usually to be found on some of the stalls we have had the occasional bargain One thing we bought this year was the French version of Monopoly which kept the Grandchildren occuopied for a few hours I usually look out for rhubarb etc for the freezer a lot of the old chaps who have it on sale are thrilled that an English person wants their produce though it usually brings on a laugh when the English couple point out that they are in fact Welsh Roll on summer


  • riquet
    2014-11-11 09:52:48
    Emmaus ....some good ones (St Brieuc 22)and some worse ....L'Isle sur Tarn near Gaillac 31. I called the outlet in the morning, asking if they were open as conflicting information on their global website concerning days and time. The woman confirmed they opened at 14h so we all set off after lunch. Using the GPS, we arrived at the address mentioned on the website ..... it looked more like a storage area with all doors/gates shut. Another call to the woman to be told they had moved about 18 months ago to a new place on the outskirt of the town. Got there in 5 minutes to enter a very empty carpark ......A group of people was being busy off-loading a van so I went to speak to them. The woman who had answered both my calls was also present, I introduced myself and asked if the place was really open ..... She said "we aren't open to the public today, we are open for delivery/donation of goods" ........ and before you ask the question, I am a french national and don't have problems understanding nor speaking my own language .... Grrrrrrrr .....


  • khasiofkalabar
    2014-11-07 18:27:00
    After several long distance trips to vide greniers , only to find little more than 3 men and a dog, we have now given up and go to Emmaus instead ! Much more fun, and it helps to know that it all goes to charity. Seriously spoilt by the huge boot sales we were used to in the UK - or maybe this is just because we are in a remote part of the Deux Sevres?