(Welcome to Kristin, Parisian resident, who is testing the waters with us of blogging must-see furniture sites in Paris. Let us know what you think!)Browsing the brocante (the French word for second-hand goods and the roving street fairs that sell them) is one of the top leisure activites of French life.
For more than 70 years, the bi-annual Foire Nationale a la Brocante et Aux Jambons (National Ham and Antiques Fair), now until March 18, has drawn antique dealers and pork vendors from around France to the Ile de Chatou just outside of Paris -- an island on the Seine made famous by the Impressionists. Here you can find everything from bric-a-brac to fine antiques, plus an alley of lunch stands offering ham and other regional specialties. Strolling around in the open air discovering several centuries worth of recycled French goods is a pleasure in and of itself. If you find something you want to take home, be sure to bargain, as French brocanteurs expect to lower the price by at least 15 percent.
There is a house expert on hand if you want a neutral opinion about the merchandise. Keep in mind that anything more than 100 years old is considered an antique and is not subject to customs duties and dealers can give you a statement to that effect.
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France