There are numerous weekly street markets throughout Paris, but the beginning of the Parisian open-air season of longer events does not begin until March. The 800- exhibitor, ten-day and 100,000-visitor event in Chatou, a town on the western outskirts of Paris, marks the start of that season.
The fair’s full name is “Foire a la brocante et aux jambons” †loosely translated as “flea market with ham.” It started as a cooked meat fair, a centuries-old tradition of French culture and cuisine. Interrupted only by the French Revolution, the brocante element arrived in the 1840s.
The dealers in bric-a-brac, secondhand clothes and scrap metal quickly outnumbered the butchers. In 1869 it was moved from Notre Dame to boulevard Richard-Lenoir, a road in central Paris connecting place de la Republique and place de la Bastille.
SNCAO, the French trade association for secondhand dealers, took responsibility for the event in 1970. It had become so large that it was relocated to a nine-acre site on Isle des Impressionistes, an area on the outskirts of Chatou.
France was hit by violent storms during the week commencing the fair’s opening. Chatou was affected so badly that it remained closed on Monday.
Merchandise at the fair was representative of all the goods you might expect to find at French trade fairs, flea markets and weekend salon events. The only items that seemed in relatively short supply were large furniture and fine jewelry.
Fields on the perimeter tend to be for bric-a-brac and larger decorative items. The covered area in the center has dozens of what are effectively small fine antiques shops. The rows of stalls between the center and the perimeter are predominantly midrange goods.
The next Chatou starts September 26. For information, 0033 1 40 39 90 75.