Outside of Paris, to the west, in the middle of the Seine is a small island called Ile des Impressionistes. Twice a year, le Syndicat National du Commerce de l’Antiquitie, de l’Occasion et des Galeries d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (SNCAO-GA) rent the island and stage the Foire de Chatou. I wrote about Chatou a year and a half ago but focused on two women who make a living going from Brocante to Brocante.
This year, The 96th Foire de Chatou opened Friday, March 10 and ends Sunday, March 18. There are 700 stands selling nic-nacs, good silver, good bone china, paintings old and new, vintage clothing, furniture old and new, beautiful old books that one buys for the way they look on the outside and many many other things that you didn’t even know existed. The first time I went to Chatou was with a friend and her mother. My friend, Alicia, knew to take her caddy along with her. Smaller purchases went inside the caddy. Alicia took her time at every stall. She picked thru all the boxes laden with goodies, she stood in front of paintings one at a time and carefully thought through her purchases. Sometimes I would skip ahead of her but always find her again as she would leave her caddy outside a stall for me to see. I don’t have Alicia’s patience. I did come home with some lovely purchases that year. My favourite was a small Afghani rug that is probably a prayer rug.
Alicia and her family went back to California that summer and I went alone to Chatou the following Fall. Alicia and I had made a friend of one of the women who run the stalls: Mary Cook. Her stall is Tinker Tailor. She goes to the UK where, I believe, she is from and brings back lovely bone china and beautiful silver. I have bought some wonderful things from her that I use every day. I had bought a sugar bowl that I loved and dear Bijou broke it in her phase of “let’s break everything that Sara owns”. I told Mary and I’m sure I looked very sad. So that Fall, I went to her stall first thing to say hello. She had a sugar bowl with a small crack in it and had saved it for me to buy at a small price!! Now when I go by myself, Tinker Tailor is my first stop. I feel like I have a friend there and I can come chat if I get tired of walking around.
There are brocantes all over Paris every weekend and they often will spill over into Mondays or start on a Friday. Now that Spring is supposed to be arriving, there will be any number to go to. But Chatou is the largest by far. One time as I was chatting with Mary, I met an American woman who had brought over five other women just to shop at brocantes, particularly Chatou and the famous Flea Market at Clignancourt which I’ve never been to. Either they find things that cannot be found anywhere in the US or they just like to shop in Paris but Chatou is not cheap and neither is shipping back to North America.
I’m partly writing this blog for Alicia as she will be sitting in San Francisco reading it wishing she was here spending money at Chatou. And I miss her. Chatou is more than twice the fun if you go with another person. Alicia is the best of all persons to with!
At the end of a tiring day, Chatou provides a navette (shuttle) back to Reuil-Malmaison where I can take the RER A back into Paris. This year, I only bought a vase and a wooden duck. Both I love!! I didn’t see much else that grabbed me. But that won’t stop me from going again next September when Foire de Chatou returns to Paris.