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What Do the French Do with Their Bargains/Junk?

Bon Jour!

I am a brand new grandma.

It snuck up on me last Tuesday when I least expected it. Well, everyone else was expecting it, especially my daughter. Yet, in spite of her basketball shaped blouse, I hadn’t a clue.

Obviously I knew there was a baby in there. What I wasn’t expecting, (and let me underscore this: not at all) was the resurgence of overpowering maternal instinct I experienced when I heard the first kitten mewing sound Cameron squeaked out when being manhandled by the doctor. You see, I have two grown daughters and had assumed that being a grandma would be different.

It’s not.

My subsequent behavior was most certainly annoying to the new parents. I inventoried their baby stuff.

What they had, what they were receiving as gifts and what they still needed for this baby boy to have the perfect childhood I was planning on procuring for him. As if I could control any of that.

But I took no notice; it’s physically impossible to slow down a “super-nana” when she’s on a roll.

So Off to Go Shopping!

So, on the post delivery Sunday I was up at dawn and on the road with a list of “foire-à-tout” in the area.

It being the end of summer there were three within a 15 mile radius.

I could hit two in the morning and do the third in the early afternoon, with a baguette sandwich in hand as I walked among the various stalls, and be home before supper.

What is a “Foire-à-Tout”?

What the heck is a “foire-à-tout” you ask?

The literal translation is an “everything fair”. What it boils down to is how the French rid themselves of their junk.

First they disguise it as “bargains” by dusting it off and spit shining it. Then they sign up with the local village hall for the yearly “foire-à-tout”, break out the card tables and picnic baskets and make a day of it.

What is one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Or so, we lead ourselves to believe. Quite often it’s mostly junk to everybody.

Empty wine bottles?

Bent hangers?

Globeless ceiling light fixtures?

Broken chairs?

Colored in coloring books?

Puzzles with 992 pieces instead of the original 1000?

Barbie dolls with missing limbs?

Only 1€ each! Wow! What a bargain!


Visiting the Foire-à-Tout

Still, I was among a horde of bargain scouts tramping up and down the main drag in Quiberville at 8am on Sunday, elbowing my way to get a view of the tables with the most people clustered around them.

There had to be at least 100 different families grouped along the street, closed to traffic for the day, displaying their stuff, and hoping to go home with the trunk of their car blissfully empty, pockets full of cash.

I was on a quest for baby stuff. The kids needed a stroller, a bottle warmer, and a high chair. The high chair could wait, but I was on the lookout just in case.

These events bring out a slew of onlookers, some who devote every Sunday to this pastime. I realized with some amazement that it’s quite a social event, designed for neighbors to hang out together when they wouldn’t ordinarily do so.

Personally, I ran into 8 different acquaintances with whom I shared a chat in the middle of the road, and observed everybody else doing much the same. Mind you, I live about 13 miles from Quiberville, and the people I ran into were from Dieppe, also about 10 miles from Quiberville.

Thus, I concluded that people travel to attend, and part of the motivation is being part of a mass event. The other part is to stock up on more stuff to sell at next year’s “foire”.

Several times throughout the day, the wife or husband would take a break from standing behind her mountain of goods to have a wander and check out the competition. Rarely did one or the other come back empty handed. They’d found something for sale at one of the neighboring card tables which tweaked their fancy. Wouldn’t do for the car trunk to be completely empty when they got home! What would one do with all that space in the garage?

My Results!

The nice thing about this system as opposed to the garage sale system of the USA and Canada is that you can see everybody’s junk in just one viewing. An entire village worth of disposables to ogle in just one trip! Now that’s the real bargain!

I came home at three pm with sore feet, a book of woodland walking tour maps: looked interesting although I never do woodland walking tours, a picture frame which I think Jp can fix for me, and some swimming shoes for a two year old. Alas, Cameron is 6 days old.

Come Monday, I got in the car and drove to the local baby outfitters shop in the mall to price strollers. A bargain indeed.

But I’d had a heck of a good time on Sunday, along with the rest of France.

Joyeux foire à tout!

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Thank you, Diane – alias “super-nana”