It’s a Once in a Year Experience. The first weekend of September…
Lille transforms into a living food and flea market referred to as the ‘Braderie’, which is French for ‘to sell at a reduced price’ …works for me and we’re already planning our return trip to the Lille flea market next year. I – like many others – have a soft spot for older items with a bit of a back-story.
It’s hard to say if I’ve been influenced somehow via osmosis from my mom who would take any opportunity to check out antique dealers en-route to pretty much anywhere and still supplies running up-dates (or out bursts) on freeways and highways everywhere alerting us (mostly the driver) to the imminent arrival of pottery farms and antique outlets that are just around the corner… Or if I am somehow entirely and completely original in everything I do…there is of course also the option that I – like many others – have been inspired by the current and growing tendency to embrace the older, pre-used, pre-loved things as ‘signature character pieces’ in our homes. It not only means that what you find is truly unique as no two pieces will ever age or develop patina in the same way, they also tick the environmentally aware box – which is never bad and things are enthusiastically re-cycled, up-cycled and re-stored. It has never been quite this cool to be green.
You’ll also have an interesting story to share with those who’ll listen – and this need not be some bold global walk-about from where you have returned with obscure items made by a lost tribe – it can just be something to connect you with something other than the factory where an item was mass produced or the shop where it was sold: I recently picked up a giant pair of antique scissors at a local flea market in Enfield – they originated from a tailor in New Jersey where the same family still runs the same business. This tickles me. They look amazing and still work beautifully….and now they’re in my living room. I’d like a whole row of them on my wall as a feature for no other reason than they are incredibly striking and beautiful to look at. Everyone who sees them is drawn to them as well. The fact that the same people almost always pick up the scissors and make the classic ‘Psycho’ gesture is neither here nor there.
WHAT YOU’LL SEE AT THE LILLE FLEA MARKET
Whatever the reason or motivation – the Lille flea-market is a fantastic place to explore all these types of items ranging from antiques, genuine vintage, restored classics, curiosities of every description and general nick knacks that somehow all look a little bit cooler displayed on a blanket at a flea market in France. The sellers are from all walks of life as well with some clearly running a business and very aware of trending fashions within interiors and know what they can charge – right through to people who do it for a bit of fun or just want to empty out their barn (my favorite).
As such it requires a bit of time and effort – not to mention a healthy dose of patience and a dramatically reduced sense of personal space – to move through the throng and inspect all the things on offer in order to get an idea of how much you should expect to pay for similar items along the way. In and amongst all the incredible amounts of stuff on sale is of course also the opportunity to buy food of pretty much any description in its more humble and hand held version. This year we only saw the furniture market down by the canal but that’s not to say there was only furniture there. This area also had a fantastic array of old ceramics, pottery, tin and copper items incl milk cans as well as loads of other antique farming equipment, rugs, frames, lamps, ladders, old industrial cans and buckets, old school maps and charts, taxidermy, wooden clogs…anything you can imagine and probably a few things you can’t – you name it they had it.
The flea market itself is spread out all over the entire city centre with certain areas dedicated to certain types of things – furniture, fashion, electronics etc. so it’s well worth having a look at a map long before you even arrive so you know where you want to see and stay – something we learnt the hard way. If it ever becomes a popular celebrity workout to carry chairs through a bustling city for 60min – I’m all set and way ahead of the game. But I don’t recommend it.
What we did do right was park up close on the last day and run back and forth hitting the market at all the places we saw something we liked the day before and getting some really good deals on some beautiful stuff. It’s also worth considering how you will carry things around in general – a granny wagon will come in handy for accumulating smaller items but the market is so big you’ll need some kind of trolley to move larger bits around even if you do manage to park relatively close – which you certainly shouldn’t expect to as the entire city is more or less on traffic lock-down with vigilant police to ensure no mavericks decide to see what they can get away with. Mind you – having said that – we did see some of the most creative parking ever attempted by man.