I love a bargain – it gives me a warm fuzzy glow to find something I need at a very much reduced price – but generally if you want something brand new at a good price you need to wait for the ‘sales’. Sale-time in France occurs just twice a year, and for very restricted periods – Allied Carpets would definitely struggle to hold their year-long closing down sale. However, if you are looking for a warm fuzzy glow at other times of the year, may I point you in the direction of the Troc.
Troc comes from the french word ‘Troquer’ which means to exchange or barter goods or services. Nowadays you exchange money for the goods, but the name remains the same. These are usually to be found in large industrial units on the outskirts of towns and are full of strange and wonderful things. Sellers leave their goods ‘on consignment’, the Troc sells the goods and takes a pretty chunky commission, but there is a real mix of second-hand ‘junk’ (old bicycles, large ‘brown’ furniture, kitchen units and appliances), and also some brand new items from (I imagine) bankrupt shops. If ever you need a rail of carpet samples, a 3 metre run of metal shelving or 50 pots of paint in garish colours I can point you in the right direction.
We also have charity shops here but they are nothing like the lavender-scented shops run by lavender-scented old ladies that you find on every High Street in the UK (obviously I’m talking about places like Dorset!). These ones are, again, in out of town areas in purpose built units. The biggest one is Emmaus and the concept is to help people on the outskirts of society (ex-offenders for example) to find their place in the world by living and working as a community recycling people’s unwanted goods. Everything is neatly presented in 4 large sheds and it is a great place for a bargain (I came away with a rotary clothes dryer for just 4€). There is also another place I’ve just discovered (the Recyclerie d’Elne) but they seem to go one step beyond recycling – rather than just cleaning and repairing items for sale they completely convert them and I was very tempted by a piano which had been turned into a drinks cabinet. And if anybody has every heard me play the piano, you will understand!
And finally, we can’t forget the french equivalent of the Car-Boot sale – known as Vide-Greniers (literal translation is ‘empty attics’). This appears to be a national pastime with lists published in the newspapers of where they will be held. You don’t have to drive to a muddy field in the rain, these events are held in the streets of the villages (hopefully closed to traffic), (usually on a Sunday morning), and trestle tables are set up on the pavements outside the houses. These can be very social affairs – sometimes there will be musicians and often there will be the ‘wine-man’ selling plastic glasses of dubious quality wine from a large box.
So, if you have romantic ideas about strolling around a typical french flea-market with an accordionist playing ‘La Vie en Rose’ in the background, forget it – but if you are searching for a bargain, there are lots of places to choose from. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – and I am very proud of my clothes airer (and the cushions, the vase, the wine glasses, the slightly cracked mirror, the rug and the pot of shocking pink paint)!