Brian Stephens moved permanently to France in 2008, since then he has operated a gite business providing luxury accommodation to tourists.
The nitty gritty of French Life
When you start to think about life in France and what the typical components are then you are likely to come up with Paris fashion, fine French foods sustained by their traditional French food markets, French wine perhaps, maybe the cosmopolitan lifestyle or the cafe culture in every town, they are after all major components of the the French way of life as seen by the outside world.
I have been living here for a little while now and I have found a new (well to me anyway) and very important element of French Life, the 'Vide Grenier'.
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What is a Vide Grenier?
Part of Traditional French Life
What is a vide grenier I hear you say? Well in a word it is France's answer to the car boot sale in the UK, it is an event that takes place all throughout the summer at any town worth its salt, in turn of course because you can't have them all on the same day, way too much competition.
But this is not like the British car boot sale where you are committed to a cold damp field on the outskirts of a town or village and have to trudge through the mud at 9 O'clock in the morning to get anything worth having because by 9.30 anything that was worth having has gone. No this is the 'vide grenier' which actually means, when literally translated, 'empty attic' but in translation becomes an attic sale and is primarily for the sale of antiques or 'brocante' as the French call it.
Anyway I digress, the 'Vide Grenier' takes over the whole town in much the same way as the coveted French food markets, every nook and cranny has a table, every street full of tables, every table full of nick knacks and old peculiar's.
Yes there is a semi-professional air to the proceedings, you do get the feeling some of these stalls tour around the regions and appear at all the best do's, but that's no different to the car boot sales in the UK. There are of course the amateur participants as well and I have to be honest a vast array of products to choose from at what seems to be very reasonable prices.
So the next time you are thinking I need a new chandelier or bedside table and need to go to IKEA then think again, think 'Vide Grenier', because you are almost sure to get a better product that might even be an antique and at a way better price.
Vide Grenier's on Film
We were 'vide grenier' virgins
So there you have it, our first official 'vide grenier' which was held at Auriac sur Vendinelle in the Midi Pyrenees. France can be proud, I thought I lost my virginity for most things years ago.
It was a bit of an eye opener, they certainly know how to do their 'Brocante' selling in France, I can be honest when I said 'yes that will be a nice way to spend a Sunday morning' I was expecting about 3 tables full of junk, which we could quickly dismiss, a quick meander around the town and then a nice cold beer at the nearest cafe.
I didn't really expect to find a whole town covered from head to foot in trestle tables selling everything from garden tools to fine porcelain. Still, it made the wife very happy, for her it was better than that day out at IKEA even if we didn't get any of those funny little meatball things or a cold beer in the end. It took so long to get around it all we had to shoot off straight after so that we could get back to take the dog for a walk before his legs platted.
We did manage one or two bargains, a bronze light fitting for 2 euros and a wooden tray for 5 euros, you would never have got it for that price in the shops. I did finally get my beer as well but it was out of my fridge and we sat on our terrace to drink it, still the view wasn't too bad from there, probably better than in the town if I am honest.
Actually this could be a nice place for a holiday in France, come to think of it and if you want to benefit from the goodies for sale you will need to think about bringing the car on a ferry to France, so that you can pack in lots of goodies to take home with you.
Resources for French Life
- European Holiday Destinations and Tourism Info for Europe
Tourism information and European Holiday Destinations, the most visited countries in Europe, who uses the Euro, who's in the European Union and population sizes
- French History Books - The Lauragais Story
This story of the Lauragais, a region steeped in history, has been loving researched and detailed to produce one of the best French History Books of the region.
- Gite - Gite in Laroque Des Alberes, Pyrenees Orientales
A 2 bedroom gite in Laroque des Alberes, close to Perpignan, the Mediterranean and the Spanish border. A perfect location for a holiday in the South of France
French History Books - The Lauragais Story
A fascinating insight into the complete history of the Lauragais region of the South of France, from Toulouse to Castelnaudary. Includes the Cathar persecution by Simon De Montfort, the German occupation and much much more. There was a lot of action in the Lauragais over many centuries and if you ever visit this region, this book will really inform you of its past, where money was made and how lives were lost
Share your experiences of French Vide Grenier's
DreyaB on July 24, 2013:
Just experienced my first one or two over the last couple of weekends. Some of the smallest places do the best experiences, making them nearly a whole day out. My sister loved it!
Barbara Walton from France on October 31, 2011:
I've bought lots of lovely, old French bits and pieces for the b&b and gite from vide greniers. Love them!
Brian Stephens (author) from France on October 31, 2011:
@donaldwilson: Yes they certainly do it in style.
Brian Stephens (author) from France on October 31, 2011:
@ChrissLJ: Yes that's true, but our dog is a little anti-social to other dogs when he is on a lead. No idea why as he is a rescue dog and we don't know his history. So we decided it would be better all around if he chilled out at home, he doesn't really like shopping at vide greniers anyway :-)
Don Wilson from Yakima, WA on October 30, 2011:
I've been to some pretty big neighborhood yard sales but nothing as interesting as what you've just described.
ChrissLJ on October 30, 2011:
Why didn't you just take your dog with you? That was one of the funnest things about living in France... dogs can go (almost) anywhere. My dogs love the outdoor sales.
sukkran trichy from Trichy/Tamil Nadu on October 30, 2011:
thanks for sharing this info about vide greniers. very interesting place for holiday shopping.
Weblady on October 29, 2011:
I love the vide greniers, so many bargains to be found, especially if you get there nice and early. Lovely reminder of what life is like in France.
anonymous on October 27, 2011:
wow. a must place to visit during the holidays
traveller27 on October 25, 2011:
Very interesting - enjoyed this.
anonymous on October 25, 2011:
I never knew the French version of the swap meet was called that! Very interesting write up.
Brian Stephens (author) from France on October 25, 2011:
@Princessa LM: Hi Princessa, yes you conjour up the perfect picture of what the vide grenier is all about, that's exactly what the French are doing as well. It is very much a social occasion and not just selling stuff. thanks for the comment.
Princessa LM on October 25, 2011:
I love them. Not only you find lots and lots of curious things, but it is an opportunity to meet up with friends and neighbours that otherwise you hardly see. The best part for me is the social interaction, standing at the buvette having a kir, snacking on french fries and andouilletes and of course chatting with all those people that you haven't seen