Normandy is a rich source of brocante emporiums but as every seasoned explorer knows these shops can be very hit and miss.
Purveyors of old France range from the overpriced and precisely labelled self-important little shops that dream of American visitors with no idea of the exchange rate (near Deauville, you know who you are), to dark and dusty silent barns with heaps of unwashed, unwanted broken things and odd noises coming from the roof (just outside Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives if you’re asking).
Somewhere in the middle are gently lit Aladdin’s caves of warm, once polished wood furniture, intriguing boxes of bric-a-brac, ridiculously cheap elegant garden ironwork and a scent of possibilities.
From these we are pleased to share our top five for the year in no particular order. Each one has been the source of fabulous treasures.
A l’Horloge Penchée, just outside Caen
59 Rue Pierre Mendès, 14120 Mondeville
Two huge hangers filled with a vast range of well presented goods with a wide range of prices. Treasures range from furniture (including interesting Asian pieces) to architectural salvage to clocks, guitars, 1960’s celebrity photos and everything in between. Need some ancient doors? fancy some authentic bagette baskets? Start here.
Our best buys include a very elegant decanter and some stylishly aged shelving. Have a look online. Opening hours: 9:30am-12:30pm, 2pm-7pm
La Brocante de Bâlines, Verneuil-sur-Avre
Emmaus at le Chateau Tailleville near Sword Beach
A good size Emmaus with low cost second hand goods sorted into kitchenalia, furniture, bric-a-brac, clothing etc. Excellent for vintage cool. We love the cheerful atmosphere on sales days as everyone finds a bargain. The staff are friendly and helpful; pick up a ticket, choose your items and pay in the brightly coloured huts. Your treasures will be carefully packed and waiting for you. Best buy this year? Amazing 1970’s Sheringham style green glass candlestick.
All for a good cause, Emmaus is a charity that combats poverty and homelessness. Opening hours: Wednesday & Saturday 9:30am-12pm & 2pm-5pm, Thursday 2pm – 5pm. Check on their website for updates.
Jes, Saint-Pierre-la-Garenne north of Vernon
Route Nationale 15
Lots of garden ironwork maturing nicely out on the front yard, heaps of goods inside and a vast barn at the back full of furniture. Speaking a little French is handy if you want to bargain. Best buy this year? Twisted and curled ironwork garden table. Opening hours-ish: 8.30am-12pm, 2pm to 6.30pm
Graindorge Aurélieis in the Orne
Rue de la Petite Madeleine, Sées
The best sort of brocante emporium lets you walk around un-fussed while their friendly owners are happy to wait to do a little business when you are ready. This is just that sort of brocante. A great place not to rush as you explore vintage farm items, garden furniture, kitchenware, furniture, papers and books. We discovered this brocante just as we left Sées for the first time some years ago, attracted by ancient statues in a field opposite and some handy ‘Brocante’ signs. A gem.
Mentioned in dispatches
So many wonderful brocantes have not made the list but we are stretching it for just one more. Not because this place has made our fortune, or because it is particularly flashy. Just a small brocante on a Calvados crossroads. Open all hours and we always come away with something. What more could you want. Do you recognise it?
For help finding more brocantes, flea markets and vintage, have a look at our brocante lover’s guide.
*A word of warning: Sometimes without any warning brocante shops close down and in minutes look as though the place was never in business. We have lost a couple of old favourites this way and still look hard at their buildings as we drive past, in the hope that the owner or inheritors will change their minds.
* A word of advice: Between 12 and 2pm all are closed.