20 Feb 2013

Provence And The Flea Markets

I still feel covered in dust.

This past weekend we have been hunting the flea markets to begin furnishing Le Petit Bijou… It is still a way away… and sometimes I can’t begin to imagine that I will ever get to the point of making beds and fluffing pillows… Flea markets, if you are full of intent, are quite exhausting but also exhilarating… one man’s junk another man’s treasure… all that… It’s the search, the bargaining… getting the goodies home

I have a list a mile long… a kind of in-my-perfect-world-I-will-find-this list… that stays in my bag, along with a tape measure and a set of plans….  I am not all that practical when it comes to buying… I only see what appeals, not necessarily what I need… but I do believe that if I am simpatico with something I will find a home for it.

Saturday morning very bright, very early we started our search in Villeneuve-les-Avignon… This is probably my favourite flea market in the region… There are always plenty of dealers with interesting goods…  you never know who will be there and what they will be selling… I found plenty… wall lights… these are always a tough one… but I bought several pairs that I can restore, paint up to look pretty and that will work in Le Petit Bijou.

I stocked up on crystals… not sure why… but they just looked so charming all together… and I found beautiful old Provencal fabrics… faded and bleached that will make sweet cushions for somewhere… That’s what I mean…. I don’t know exactly where they will go, but I know they will.

A pair of outdoor tables caught my eye… they were a perfect size for our little terrace… but by the time I saw them, the car was full and it was all too hard ( you know that feeling)… As luck would have it, I found them at the Sunday market in L’Isle sur la Sorgue.

L’Isle sur La Sorgue is the most famous flea market and antique town in Provence… like the Parisian Clignancourt of the south… I do love to spend the day there but it can be both exorbitant and disappointing. Last weekend the market was fantastic… loads of stalls and the prices were much more realistic than they have been ( a sign of French times… the dealers are always a great barometer for the economy)

We came home with a fabulous mirror frame ( you can see it in the top photograph)… lots of vintage jam jars that I can fill with flowers or candles… the tables I mentioned and a big bell for our front door… We have been searching for an old bell for years… and on Sunday we found it… It’s peeking out of one of the photographs below

The pot stand above was originally used in a florist’s shop… the patina is wonderful and I can imagine many potted geraniums lining the shelves… or clipped box… or a mixture… that’s arriving this week.

I couldn’t resist it… the hardest part is going to be putting all these gorgeous bits in Le Petit Bijou… and not keeping them here… Books with leather bindings… I found a few… and cutlery with decorative handles… knives and spoons… pictured below.

Monday meant Avignon and the deballage…  A massive fair for dealers and antique buyers… but if you know where it is and when it’s on, it is easy to walk in… I can’t begin to describe the mood… People everywhere wanting to be first in and the first buyers… it’s a case of the quick and the dead. The market only runs for the morning and it is enormous… six or more large exhibition halls plus an outdoor area the size of a couple of football fields.

Without a plan and understanding of how the market works, it is overwhelming. The way to conquer is this…  you like it, negotiate the price, buy and move on… there is no time for deliberating… If you are looking for large items it is important to register with an on site removal company before starting. It’s all very well organised, you just need to know the system. I was on a mission and found some of the pieces on my list… my best buy being a chandelier… it will be over scale for Le Petit Bijou… but that’s ok… a little drama never hurt anyone… and chairs… I seemed to go long on chairs.

So that was my longish weekend…flea market and treasure hunting… my idea of heaven… not everybody’s plan for a relaxing few days… but it is mine.

Claudia Strasser, my lovely friend who writes The Paris Apartment has a new book out next week…  Claudia knows all there is to know about flea markets…  and I can’t wait to see what she has to show and tell… xv


Flea Market Style

Paris: Flea Market Style by Claudia Strasser

French Home by Josephine Ryan


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Everything looks so wonderful. I wish we could find such lovely things here. Your little cottage sounds so lovely,I can’t wait to see it finished and furnished. It would be such fun to do that. xx

Anita Rivera

I am sitting here smiling, nodding my head in agreement that there is NOTHING like a French flea market to give you the full experience of La Brocante. The articles you share here my friend are some that live in my home, and I mean “LIVE.” The sweet memories of hunting and then gathering them while in France and HAULING them across the ocean give me tingling sensations of having been in France. Don’t you just find joy in the patina of those gold ornaments, the rust in the garden chairs?

Sounds like an exhilarating weekend and what is equally fun, is coming home, putting your feet up and dreaming of your day. Enjoy. Anita


My kind of perfect day too! We stayed a weekend in L’Isle sur La Sorgue a few years back when touring through PROVENCE, specifically to visit the Sunday market! Loved it, overwhelmed and amazed at the prices, bought a few small items we could carry, but mostly just loved browsing and getting wrapped up in the atmosphere of the real French antique market……and of course the beauty of the town on a perfect sunny Oct. day! You found some beautiful items Vicki – know you are going to have fun decorating with them.

I will watch for Claudia’s book, looks wonderful.

Happy week – Mary

A Gift Wrapped Life

I would love to be covered in some dust! Sounds like my idea of heaven as well so don’t forget my job application. And yes……………I can get out of bed in the early dark if I have to (lol), I know what you are thinking. Much love and have fun with all your new market finds. xx


I love this post! Sounds like a terrific weekend full of success! The purchases you made sound amazing! I feel very blessed to have stumbled upon a Sunday morning flea market two years ago with one of my daughters in Chateau Neuf de Pape. We had driven there from Avignon which was a success in itself! (The driving part) I was amazed at the beautiful linens and only had room for a few. How often are the markets? We will be traveling there in late April, early May and wondered where would be best to go in regard to flea markets? Lovely, lovely, lovely……everything you post!


Such beautiful things, I love those french jelly jars. Looks like alot of work and alot of fun at the same time. Good luck with your hunt.

Antonio C.

Love your blog, i just checked it..i would love to follow you! What do you think about follow eachother? :) come and take a look. xx

Veronica Roth

Vicki, it would be a shame to live so close to such a wonderful resource and not explo(it)re it. I remember the times when I lived in Paris, couldn’t get me out of the flee markets. Even now, whether in OXON or Vancouver, I’m in the vintage malls or car boot sales on a regular basis. My excuse is that I need the stuff for my work, (to photograph it), but the truth is I just love living with it. :)

the paris apartment

Hi Vicki,
What a weekend it was, thank you for taking us along with you! I can’t wait to see the Bijou! Thank you for the shout out! Sending sunshine and more good shopping your way!


I love looking at all these pictures and reading about your searches, it’s almost like shopping vicariously through you. We were in France a couple of years ago and managed somehow to only make it to one brocante, high in the hills. I think I was only out of the car 20 minutes when the rain started to pour and everything was packed up in no time and the streets were emptied. It was early days in our five week journey and I had a list of many other brocantes, all around the country (we had rented a car and were on a driving holiday) but we were always a day early or late…. the only disappointment in a wonderful journey. When I see and hear of all there is to choose from, perhaps it may not have been terribly terrible after all! And I did manage to find a few lovely, quaint old shops in several small towns where I found a treasure or two….
Your Petit Bijou will be a wonderful place I think, if as you say, it all manages to actually get there!

La Contessa

Well,all doubts gone you and I would have a ball scouting about!All your purchases are right up my alley too!Look forward to the PETITE JEWEL……..(spelling!)being completed!The BELL looks just perfect for your front door!

Barbara Lilian

Where have I been ? only just catching up on ‘Le Petit Bijou’ how exciting for you. Projects like this have kept me & my other half young at heart. Having helped to renovate 3 of our homes here in France I know only too well all the setbacks that could be thrown in your pathway by the French bureaucracy !! I’m really looking forward to following your project step by step, hiccups & all. Bon Chance I was in L’Isle sur La Sorgue last summer, I was in heaven after lots of sight seeing and the wonderful Lavender fields.


Oh, blissful sigh! I would be the first to admit that I’d likely find the flea markets a bit overwhelming on my own. So just add my name to the list of people who want to follow you around for a day. How about March 9th? ;)

Lissy Parker

Vicki, That sounds like the perfect weekend to me too! I will be heading out for a little ‘hunting’ myself this weekend. I can not wait to see the finished ‘Le Petit Bijou.’
xo, Lissy

Karen in CT

… it all looks FANTASTIC … good job … quite a detailed (and yummy)account of your journey … I think I have seen books that list flea markets in France, I hope I can find the “guide” when I am ready.

Cheers … Enjoy

Karen in CT

Susan Niblo

If I lived in France I would be so busy antiquing that my family would never see me. How lucky you are to have all those resources so close!


So beautiful, I realized I was smiling while reading it was so pleasant. Not quite like my hunts at Goodwill but I think I know the thrill. Your blog is always inspiring and I thank you for your efforts and beauty-sharing.

french cravings

We visited L’Isle sur la Sorgue last summer and had a great time browsing, which led to a bit of buying; sampling the fromages et saucissons on offer was a joy! I found the most delightful little blue campaign bed at the market in Vaison, but had no idea as to how to get it home! I must learn the ropes of international shipping before my trip to Paris next month. (A Sunday visit to Les Puces is on the calendar…) Thanks for another lovely post, and we look forward to see Le Petit Bijou. x Katie

Corrina Tough

This sounds like an amazing weekend Vicki! Buying a little piece of history to share with others. Those markets are a visual feast- great for photography must go next visit to Provence. x Corrina Tough

Beadboard UpCountry

Looks like you got the motherlode…… I just commented on the other post about your new jewel….. Not too late only 9 months….Oh well…… Love the mirror frame the chandelier and can’t wait to see you work your magic……. Maryanne.xo


Lovely photos Vicki and so inspiring. I will be in Provence in April and May escaping the West Aust heat by doing a language immersion course. I was wondering if there is a directory of local flea markets?


There is Louise and I shall find the name for you… it escapes me tonight but I will remember! xv


My partner and I are fortunate enough to have two Le Petit Bijou in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. One is already rented out as a vacation rental and the second is ready to be renovated. We like you will be touring the markets looking for those individual and quirky pieces that help give character when we are back in France in June. The markets and permanent stalls and stores have such an amazing mix of the old and antique, some treasures, some little more than junque – but all fascinating. In addition to wonderful shopping, as your post shows, the markets provide a wealth of photographic opportunities.
Thank’s for helping me get a regular dose of Provence when I am at home in Perth, WA.

Francine gardner

I love Villeneuve les Avignons, I always stay at Le Prieure, I just feel at home in this charming note, but unfortunately, i have never been there during the “”brocante”. As for Isle sur La morgue, i used to import containeurs every other months,years ago, but it has become so ordinary with high prices to boot. Luckily, you found some treasures for le Petit Bijou. I cannot wait to see it finished, and will have to check it out in person!!


It was a surprise last weekend… as I agree L’Isle sur la Sorgue has changed a great deal in the last 15 years… we must have crossed paths without even knowing Francine.. :)


The important part is that we find peace in our surroundings… either minimal or abundant… a question of personality and taste I guess… I think I fall somewhere in the middle… :)


Hi there this year I was lucky enough to obtain a list of all of the flea markets going in through the streets of Belgium within a 20 mile radius of Veurne . do you possibly know of a list that might be available for France in the same radius around Calais ? I`d be forever in your debt if you do .
thanks and best wishes Glenda


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