Ask The Antiques Diva™: Antiquing in Provence

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Ask The Antiques Diva™: Antiquing in Provence
Dear Antiques Diva, My partner and I are going to be in Provence this Spring and our main interest is hitting the flea markets. We are arriving and leaving from Barcelona. We will be driving into Provence, visiting Avignon and l’Isle sur la Sorgue. What are the best days to shop at markets and shops for antiques? Do you recommend any other towns we should visit? Do you have any favorite places in Provence where we need to go? Thanks, Logan R, USA ——————————————————————————————————- Dear Logan, Antiquing in the South of France is an antique shopper’s dream come true. You can’t travel 5 kilometers without stumbling over another treasure trove of great antiques and bric-a-bracs. The first thing you need to do is buy the book The Flea Markets of France by Sandy Price. She lists every flea market imaginable and the days they run. I consider this book an essential companion for travelers wanting to discover the flea markets of France. You mentioned you plan to visit Avignon—their flea market is on Sunday mornings and has approximately 100 vendors and runs from 6 am-12.30 pm at the Place des Carmes. However, I personally prefer the flea market across the river on the west bank of the Rhone in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon—the “new city of Avignon” where the cardinals resided during the 14th century. Villeneuve is technically in the Languedoc region, but it’s so close to Provence you’d never know the difference. This market is held on Saturday mornings and has approximately 80-100 vendors. It meets from 6 am-2 pm in the Place du Marche along the Ave de Verdun. Perhaps it’s because this market gets fewer tourists, but I found the selection and pricing better than in Avignon itself. Some other mid-week markets you might consider are the one in Nimes—all day on Mondays along the Ave Jean Jaures or if you’re in town the 1st Wednesday of a month consider visiting the flea market in Arles at the south side of town below Jardin d’Ete along Blvd des Lices. A trip to Aix en Provence is always charming and their flea market runs Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday in the Place de Verdun. However, I find that the Aix-en-Provence brocante can be a tad pricier than some of the other locales. My comment above about pricing sadly holds true for the whole of Provence. Prices can be higher in Provence than in other parts of France because vendors know tourists like the romance of shopping in the French countryside. You’re going to have to bargain hard. I’d shoot for 25-30% off the price they quote you and settle for 15-20%. Finding brocantes in smaller towns, less “on the tourist path” towns will suit your shopping agenda. Ask at your hotels where good markets nearby the hotel are and go into a local Tabac and ask to buy a copy of the French flea market publication Antiquités Brocante which will list the best brocantes occurring that month. Antique shoppers who haven’t heard of the French flea market mecca l’Isle sur la Sorgue will bow at my feet in adoration for this city is heaven on earth with antiques spilling from every corner of the old town, literally causing me to stop, drop and drool and then spend some serious cash. L’Isle sur la Sorgue has to be, bar none, the best source for finding antiques in toute la France. On the other hand, the vendors in l’Isle sur la Sorgue know you’re there because of the antiques and if you don’t buy something, someone else will, which means they aren’t particularly motivated to make a sale. I’ve found in l’Isle sur la Sorgue I tend to only get a discount of about 10% off the quoted prices. Make sure to tell the vendor the item is for export and ask if you can be exempt from VAT. While you might pay higher prices in l’Isle sur la Sorgue, remember you are paying for the convenience of shopping in a town that practically guarantees you’ll find what you are looking for. The vendors there are accustomed to dealing with foreigners and are more likely to speak English and offer shipping services to your home country. Last but not least, I must share with you where I stay when in Provence—St Remy de Provence in the heart of the Alpilles. While they don’t offer a weekly brocante, they do have a typical Provençal market selling everything from olives, hand-made soaps, fruits and vegetables to gorgeous French linens. The town is like walking in a Van Gogh painting—in fact, he lived nearby in a mental hospital outside of town and painted more than 150 of his masterpieces in this area. Toma Clark Haines is The Antiques Diva™, author of the blog Antiques Diva and Chief Executive Diva of The Antiques Diva™ European Shopping Tours and the tour de force behind the online antique store “Treasures by The Antiques Diva™“. The Antiques Diva™ is the In-House Antiques Expert for Bonjour Paris. Bonjour Paris Premium Members will receive a 10% discount with the Antiques Diva™ Tours Please register HERE if you need a free Bonjour Paris user name and password and post comments. If you’re coming to France (or for that matter anywhere) you can reserve your hotel here. To rent a car, Bonjour Paris recommends Auto Europe. (Antiques Diva™ profile picture courtesy of Angelica Arbulu Photography )  
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