Drive anywhere in the Dordogne region of France and you will see flyers advertising a local “brocante” or “vide- grenier” offering up some wonderful antique finds.
My first job was as an auctioneer in the UK, running the fortnightly general sales. Everything would come into the saleroom, and from there be valued and either sold in the general sale or in a specialist sale. Handling ceramics, silver, furniture, researching paintings and books, and going through the jewellery with a specialist was the best way of learning about art and antiques.
I then moved to Amsterdam and opened an antiques shop on the Prinsengracht, just across from the Anne Frank House. I sold English furniture, asian ceramics and works of art, and contemporary art. After 5 years of being in the shop 6 days a week, I decided it was time to try something new, so worked as a corporate fundraiser at two charities.
My love of antiques has never left me though, and I am happy to advise guests on where to go antiquing in the Dordogne.
If you do decide to plan a future antiquing holiday in the Dordogne, here are some useful phrases you will need to know:
The word brocantes comes from the French verb “brocanter” which means “to deal in second-hand goods”. They’re not your usual flea market (Puce) however. Set I some of the most charming villages in the Dordogne, Brocantes often feature antiques and antique furniture sold by professional dealers.
Literally it means “empty attic.” Like North American garage sales, locals take unwanted household items to the vide-greniers that dot the Dordogne rural countryside throughout the summer. This is where you are likely to make some of your most under-valued discoveries.
A braderie is a step up from ordinary flea markets, though. More like a local fair, braderies combine antiquing with food stands, live music, and even street theatre. It’s a great way to taste the local culture while you unearth a precious addition to your collection of vintage perfume bottles or French memborabilia.
Towns with evocative names like Sarlat and Bergerac, St Cyprien and Belves, Les Eyzies and Siorac, Eymet and Sainte Alvere, Tremolat and Le Bugue, Le Buisson and Limeuil all have coveted surprises waiting for you.
See you out there!