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The French Vide-Grenier

Ever tried a Vide-Grenier while on holiday in France? To think that getting up at 6am on a Sunday morning in France, a country which is well-known for its rather relaxed and laid-back approach to almost everything would normally be taboo. However, at certain times of the year you would be wrong. Every Sunday morning from June to October thousands of French and English in Orne are up, literally at the crack of dawn (and even earlier!) to claim their prime spot on which to place and try to sell, what often seems to be ‘all their worldly goods’.

These ‘vide-greniers’ for the French are more than just a car boot sale. It is yet another time in the French annual calendar for the whole village to socialize, catch up with local gossip, have a fun day and maybe make a bob or two while doing it. The stalls, the ground, people’s drives, hedges, and nearby walls are covered in anything and everything; and, not just from what has been stored in their attics, but from the basement also and what seems to lie in between!

The French will sell anything from the bizarre - old calendars, bottle tops, empty drinks cans …  to live animals (perfect for that menagerie that you’ve always wanted!) and even cars and houses. For many this is the one time of the year in which they try to sell what they didn’t sell last year.  This is because the Ornais are simply great hoarders. They never throw anything away no matter what the condition. They will even tell you that they will keep it for next year’s vide-grenier. As Charity shops, that we are familiar with on most high streets in England, do not exist in France it is often an opportunity for many less well-off families to buy necessities like childrens clothes or even household utensils and furniture. These can be found in great quantities at great prices.

English speaking residents are often to be found with their own stalls alongside that of their French neighbours’ (a fast-track to learning the language - for both!) trying to unload themselves of those trinkets that they now wished they hadn’t packed. It can be a great way to get involved in the local community if you live here; if not, it is still a great day for all the family. You don’t have to be there at 6am but whatever time you go make sure you are prepared to walk a lot, go with something to drink and eat. Although the vide-greniers are often held in the streets of the local villages, often on people’s front door steps, many Ornais are unaccustomed as yet to buying takeaway food, or going to the tea and cake tent.

So, while holidaying in your French gite, go along with your 20 euros in your pocket, your latest copy of the ‘Calendrier Brocantes’ and, by the end of the day after all that haggling, you might just find that ‘petit souvenir’ from France that you’ve always been looking for.

For the French, they will simply wrap it up, put it in their vide-grenier and do it all over again next year!!

Averillann lives with her family in France and owns 3 successful business - a holiday business in rural Normandy, offering gite, cottage and chambres d’hôtes accommodation to suit all needs and tastes; and, a beauty & gift boutique and an online shop.