Most weekends, after checking the “Loisirs” (pass-times) section of your local paper, you’ll find dotted around the countryside various vide-greniers. Vide-grenier literally means something akin to “empty your attic,” and that’s exactly what people do—pulling out everything from unwanted heirloom china to old champagne corks. Your job is simply to drive through the exquisite countryside to the town in question, park clumsily (like everyone else) on the side of the road, and browse in as leisurely a fashion as you wish the would-be discards of a townful of people, usually on sale for give-away prices. In lieu of reading a notice in the paper, you’re looking for signs dotted around the roadsides which typically are written like this and including a date:
Equal parts history lesson, museum tour, anthropological dig, Saturday-or-Sunday outing, bargain hunt—the vide-grenier satisfies most human needs. And if scrounging through antiques and cast-offs whets your baser appetites, most towns host a graciously affordable buvette (wines served) or a grilled lunch. On many occasions, we’ve emptied our pockets of what few euros we came with, returning home with entire sets of porcelain, antique typographers’ drawers, paneled screens. On others, we’ve spent nothing, but have come home much the richer for the experience.