The largest flea market in Europe: Braderie de Lille

I always used to say, “why would I go back to the same place when I could go somewhere I haven’t been before?” I’ve now officially found a city that I would happily return to same time next year. And that is to visit the Braderie de Lille which is 1 hr 30 mins away from London on the Eurostar.

Taking place on the first weekend of every September, the flea market is the largest in Europe. There are over 100km of sidewalks occupied by stallholders, ranging from professional ones selling vintage furniture to your neighbour selling their bric-a-brac. We enjoyed the convivial atmosphere while browsing the goods. Having seen our fair share of antique shops in U.K., we were impressed with the sheer amount and variety of goods on offer. It seemed like the whole city is out on the streets browsing or eating ‘moules frites’ (mussels with fries). We particularly liked that the event was not full of drunken people that you might see in a city-wide event. Just music on the streets and people out and about enjoying themselves!

Some seriously talented musicians could be found at the square!

No shortage of friteries ūüėČ

The first day (Saturday) is the busiest and probably the best day to be there if you’re hoping to find some hidden gems. As the market is very big, the key is to get a map of the market and identify the zone that you’re interested in and head there straight away.

It was fascinating to see all the goods on offer, even though we didn’t particular appreciate taxidermy.

Finally, we found our own hidden gem – this beautiful stool which is now multi-functional in our new home. After a few eyebrow raises from security as it was X-rayed, we breathed a sign of relief when we brought it safely onboard the Eurostar and finally home!

This stool served as a handy mobile rest stop after miles of exploring all the wares. Well worth it.

The food was nothing to write home about since every restaurant (even a Thai restaurant) was serving mussels and fries. The food was also not particularly vegetarian friendly. However, we did enjoy our fair share of pastries and patisseries!

We thoroughly enjoyed our first Braderie and we will most certainly be coming back. Hopefully the stall selling industrial pieces from dismantled Hungarian factories is still there!

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A winter weekend in Paris

The ¬†fine food, artistically presented boutiques and enchanting ambience of Paris made for an invigorating weekend away from the hustle and bustle of our work lives. Here’s what we got up to:

Day 1

    1. Lunch at La Belle Ferronniere
      After a walk from Madeleine metro station, through the back alleys of  Champs-Elysees, we stopped over at a bistrot for lunch. The outside was a stereotypical burgundy, and the inside full of old posters and brass railings. We had classics like escargots and onion soup and croque monsieur. The portions were huge and the bread fresh. Comfort food at its finest and just what we needed after a cold morning.
    2. A tour of the tour Eiffel
      We were told that we should climb up the Eiffel tower at least once, but we concluded that we were far too alternative to follow orders. Instead, we found excellent views of the landmark from the Champ du Mars park and enjoyed a stroll round the beautiful landscapes.
    3. A lesson in shop front presentation
      Walking through the Latin quarter and the Rue de Sevres revealed¬†numerous boutiques. Each one selling anything from artisan sweets to beautifully crafted wares. Despite property being a sought after asset in Paris, there seemed no shortage when it came to selling one’s wares. Whole centres of shopfloors were dedicated to selling cupcakes and individual shelves dedicated to displaying a single piece of chocolate. Parisians sure know how to make things look¬†classy!

Day 2

    1. Eric Kayser bakery
      The best kind of a morning involves fresh baked goods and coffee. It was a rare opportunity to enjoy fluffy croissants in our own sweet time.
    2. Lunch at Rue Montorgueil
      As we walked from Madeleine, we stopped by the beautiful grounds of Le Palais Royal. Here, on a crisp winter morning, you could find Parisians enjoying simple pleasures in life such as, reading a book or browsing the various boutiques that lined the perimeter of the courtyard. On this sunny day, we even spotted a modelling shoot happening in front of this fountain.
      From the palace, we stumbled across a bustling market street at Rue Montorgueil. Heating elements filled the rows of cafes as al fresco diners enjoyed their Saturday relaxation. Numerous delis and patisseries attracted a large crowd looking to indulge in all the fresh produce. Each independent grocer displayed their fruit and vegetables in neatly arranged and organised boxes. Think Whole Foods but for your typical grocer!
    3. One of the many things we loved about Paris is the numerous hidden passages, essentially shopping arcades lined with chic and quirky boutiques, often in beautifully restored buildings. One of our favourites was Passage du Grand Cerf not only because it was not too crowded but it had the most amazing antique shop, Rickshaw Objets du Monde. After spending nearly an hour in the shop exploring every single item, we walked away with an antique mirror which now looks slightly out of place in our modern flat.
    4. Rue Mouffetard
      The photos don’t do¬†justice but this street is really cosy and untouristy. Here, stalls sold¬†fine antique furniture and ornaments. Popular with local families, you could see people go about their daily lives – picking up a bottle of wine, getting a piece of cheese and sometimes indulging in a cheeky stand selling warm hot chocolate and mouthwatering waffle.Rue Mouffetard collage
    5. Montmartre and Sacre Couer
      Montmartre had a bustling vibe¬†when we visited in the evening. We climbed up the hill to the Sacre Couer where we were rewarded with panoramic views of the city. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to climb the tower within the building itself as we were told that it would have offered¬†an even better view :(.

Le Petit Parisien collage

Day 3

On our final day, we stopped over at Bastille to visit the Sunday market. It was large and fairly busy with a wide¬†selection of fish (so much that it makes you wonder how much we really take from the sea), cheese and meat (see a common theme?). Of course, we couldn’t leave without getting anything so we bought a Camembert cheese which we had the luxury of carrying it in our rucksack, to the delight of the salesperson at Longchamp.¬†

We finished off our trip with a final coffee and croissant before making our way back to Gare du Nord. The walking had taken its toll on some, but safe to say there were many enjoyable memories (and exclamation marks) to remember.

Honorary shots..

Paris collage