Believing that yesterday’s vide grenier — that’s garage sale in North America, and car boot sale in the U.K. — would begin at 9 a.m., we decided to set our alarm and get up at 7 a.m. We figured that we’d have plenty of time for breakfast and showers, before having to set up our table for the event.
Ha! Were we ever wrong about that.
My wife Jan was awake before the alarm, and so at about 6:45 she got out of bed and looked out the kitchen window. “Yikes!” she hollered (or words to that effect), “Someone’s already set up their stuff right across the street from our house.”
So that was our introduction to the world of vide grenier dealers — professionals or semi-professionals who make it their business to buy old household goods, books, toys, artwork, clothing, signs and much else, and then try to sell it on to others at these special markets.
For instance, all the stuff across from us had been set up by an experienced Dutch woman, who turned out to be quite friendly, and willing to share some of her knowledge of selling second-hand goods. A French man, driving quite a huge van, had unloaded his wares right at the end of our quartier — the Place de la Fontaine — and had surrounded the natural spring with all kinds of goods. By 7 a.m., he was already set up and was pacing up and down the streets.
Apparently this is quite normal. What was different is that the organizers had, quite cleverly, decided to spread out the vide grenier tables throughout the village, rather than concentrating them in a place like the parking lot of the salle des fêtes, or community hall. The goal was to encourage tourists and other shoppers to walk through Daglan and explore. And you know what? It worked.
Admittedly, things got a bit tight, because of Daglan’s narrow streets. For instance, here’s a car making its way carefully along the street immediately in front of our steps, negotiating between our house and the Dutch woman’s goods:
What worked especially well, I thought, was that the various vide grenier tables flowed out in lines from the village’s central square, where Daglan’s weekly Sunday market was taking place. This meant that tourists and local shoppers could visit the bakery and the convenience store, buy vegetables and other goods in the central market, and then explore the vide grenier tables for bargains. Here’s a view looking up our street towards the main square, where tables were already well set up before 8 a.m.:
Here’s a closer look at some of the stalls, at the point where our street meets the main square:
Naturally there was a lot of junk, but also some interesting bargains. For instance, here’s a fairly nice table-and-chair set, with two of those old fashioned insect sprayers sitting atop the table:
Extending further out from Daglan’s main square, there were tables set up in front of the main entrance to the church, like these:
And there were tables beside the church, like this arrangement of stands that had attracted two eager, early-morning shoppers:
As for our immediate area, we finally did get set up before 9 a.m., although we had to forget about taking showers and get dressed quickly. We were even ready when a friend of ours dropped off her daughter, who’s not quite three years old; we had agreed to baby sit for the morning.
I can’t say that business was exactly brisk, but we did manage to sell a number of items, including a portable radio, two lamps, several empty photo albums, two prints, and a few of Jan’s retired dresses. Sitting in the sun gave me a chance to work on my tan, and we did enjoy talking with people — mostly in French, but also in English — including some Daglan residents we don’t normally see.
The excitement picked up a bit in the late morning when some loud music came blasting down our street. It turned out that the music was coming from inside the cart of this rather large clown:
Aside from goofing around and making noise, the clown also had a collection of balloons that he would twist into various shapes on demand. Here he is, interacting with the little crowd in front of our house:
Eventually Jan gave in, and paid the clown to make a flower out of balloons for the jeune fille we were babysitting.
By about 1:30 in the afternoon, we had had enough, and were ready to close up shop for lunch. (For dessert, Jan had bought fresh strawberries in the market.) Of course we could have tried again in the afternoon, but decided it would be more restful, not to mention cooler, to stay indoors. Besides, we had made more than 70 euros!