Potato Sacks & Mustard Jars: Bastille Day 2012

Today is Bastille Day, which the French call La Fête Nationale or the super-accurate Le quatorze juillet. Lots of fireworks (feu d’artifice) happened last night, but not until 11pm or later. Apparently, we only go to places that like to put nighttime in “air quotes”. Today is the largest military parade in Europe right on down les Champs-Élysées. I do love me some cadencing. The garden party at the Palais de l’Elysée is also happening, which sounds delightful.

Ah well. Paris is far and thus we needed an appropriately patriotic activity that would be more welcoming to our hyper-scheduled little one. I asked the English caretakers of our gîte, Anne, if she had any recommendations. She mentioned that Domfront, a town about 40 minutes from here, was hosting un vide-grenier. YES PLEASE. Turns out Bastille Day is also a common day for French towns to host vide-greniers.

I first read about vide-greniers on Design Mom’s “Love The Place You Live” post about them. She’s an American living with her many cute children in Normandy with far more grace and aplomb than I am with my one cute child.

What is it? Well, all the sites in English talk about car-boot sales. Not helpful unless you know that those sites are primarily written by British folk who are discussing a rummage sale, flea market, what have you. Car boots are trunks and what is being sold is primarily no longer wanted personal possessions. While some professional sellers and buyers lurk, it’s a national pastime in France to rummage like hell. For being, in my head, such a refined culture I love that there is this rummage-y mentality too.

There are many sites like Brocabrac! that helpfully list the daily offerings. And there are MANY. There are braderie, more traditional flea markets, and their little brothers brocantes. Then there are vide-grenier, the slightly awkward cousin of a braderie who just might say something awesome and embarrassing at the family dinner.

We opted to drive to a town called La Chapelle-d’Andaine, a town about 30 minutes southwest of us, for their vide-grenier.

I was hoping for an antiqued looking, perhaps hand-painted sign announcing the sale.

I got fluorescent. Ah well.

We entered with some small bills and some big dreams.

And you know, it’s just like our old crap. But it’s FRENCH.


It rained (of course) and sellers covered their wares with tarps. Considering the hodge podge of stuff they had, it made it fairly difficult to shop since under one tarp might be an old camera, a military helmet, some fairly new kids toys, and a couple coffee mugs OR a box of playing cards, some old gardening tools, a hair dryer, and some records. We were undaunted.

Vide-grenier translates to something like “attic clearance” and is considered a chance for kids to make money off their grandparents’ leftovers. A young boy sold us this fabulous mustard jar for 1€, which I hope he made after nicking it from his crochety grand-mère.

And from a former young boy, now a very old man, these fabulous potato sacks for 6€.

What will we do with them? I dunno. Something great.

Here’s to revolution, independence, democracy, and old stuff.


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