Braderie de Lille

The tradition of Braderie, a giant flea market, is Lille's annual tradition. It is the largest in Europe and is said to have originated 500 years ago.  It is supposed that the tradition dates from the Middle Ages, when once a year the servant classes of Lille were given permission to sell – from dusk to dawn – old clothes and objects belonging to their employers. Over the years the Braderie has changed, becoming much larger and lasting longer. For two days and two nights a carnival atmosphere reigns, where everyone does as they please. 

A View of the Street during Braderie

The number of people was truly astounding - apparently, the 1mln-something population of Lille shoots up to 2-3 million as people flock from all over Europe to find their vintage pieces. Some people arrive a few days in advance and camp out in tents (some in sleeping bags in parks) to reserve the best spot for a stall.

Everything is being sold and bought here - huge furniture pieces, a rusted street hydrant, paintings, lamps, extremely used kids toys and worn clothing, 5-Euro Crocks and 30-Euro Keds (you get the idea). Retail stores join Braderie by having a 'sidewalk' sale and putting out sale items at very low prices: Salamander shoes sold for 10-15 Euros.

A Mussels' Mountain
The map Braderie shows a 100-km square perimeter with streets dedicated to various types of sellers: tradesmen, linen, pottery, etc., 2nd-hand occupying the largest area. There are also a few posts for lost children, which we surprisingly, but luckily, didn't use.

We contributed to Braderie by joining the hoards of hunters looking for a piece of treasure in someone else' garbage. Bought a very 'vintage' clock from West Germany for 1 Euro :) The older lady who sold it said that it had belonged to her mom. Now I feel awful about even thinking of leaving it behind in France

As with all events in France, gastronomy is certainly a big a part of the tradition. Moules et frites (mussels with fries) washed down with local beer is the food most representative of the fare. A few restaurants compete for the highest mussels' shells mountain, which they create by throwing shells on the pavement."Do in Rome as Romans do"-policy is easy to implement when it comes down to eating this well! Mussels were delicious and the beer very cool!

The next day on our way to Brugge we ran into our house owners who were headed to Braderie. The husband told us the locals' secrets of shopping at Braderie - apparently, you need to go early morning on the 2nd day, when stall-keepers, hung over and tired from the busy night can't wait to get out of town and are willing to sell stuff for pennies.

Shopping for treasure in a 3-mln crowd with small kids is somewhat hard. We did the best we could given the circumstances so we'll save the owners' tips till next visit! 

The Impression of the Day. High heels + cobblestone = bad combination!

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