Brocante Shopping In France With Sharon Santoni

shopping the French brocantes

French brocante findsEver since I was a child, I’ve enjoyed perusing antiques shops, fairs, and flea markets. I’d hold up a tin cup, a ceramic figurine or monogrammed handkerchief and try to imagine the original owner, and what their life was like. One one of our trips to Paris we had the opportunity to explore the marché aux puces at Cligancourt, and I loved seeing the variety of items (from the sublime to the bizarre) in the various stalls and spaces. But how wonderful would it be to shop with someone who knows the vendors and merchandise, and can help navigate the brocantes to find the hidden treasures? Today I’m sharing an interview with Sharon Santoni, who not only pens the lovely blog My French Country Home, but also has a thriving business hosting brocante tours and private shopping excursions.

Can you give us an overview of the brocante shopping experience and services you provide? What does it entail?

I host two different types of buying tours here. On my group tours my clients are looking for treasure to take home, smaller items that will either fit into a suitcase or that can be posted home, they also love to discover Normandy, and we combine shopping every day with visiting gardens, learning to cook, visiting the landing beaches  and generally having a well filled but relaxing week. The professional buyers are different, they enjoy the countryside as we drive around, but  their time is really only taken up with shopping, and our days are quite long as we move from fair to antique dealer, and either fill up a truck, or arrange for purchases to be collected as we go. I love both options, the groups are fun because of the combined energy of people who come together from all over the world, and the professional buyers are fun because  they have such a clear vision of the style they love to create.

brocante in France

How did you get started?

It really was supply and demand! I started talking about the fairs on the blog and readers wrote to ask if they could come too!  A little bit of organisation and hey presto, the tours were put into action.

shopping at brocante in France

Are most of your clients serious antiques collectors, or do you also work with people who are new to brocante shopping and looking for more modest acquisitions? 

The professional buyers are generally pretty experienced, and most importantly they know exactly what they like. Among my group tour clients there are some people who have already bought antiques regularly and others for whom it is a new experience. Everyone is looking for different styles and items, and there is a lot of fun in the group tours comparing purchases and admiring each others treasure.

brocante shopping France

For your clients from other parts of the world, how difficult is it to get larger purchases shipped to their home?

It’s not difficult,  because we work with professional shippers who take care of everything, but it isn’t cheap either. People are often surprised at how much it costs to ship home furniture, that’s when they understand the price of european antique at stores in their home towns. Part of the service that I offer with my tours is to make sure that the whole shipping procedure runs smoothly.  I work with a lot  of the big shippers out of France, and can assist my clients for whom shipping is a new experience.

flea markets France

What is one of the more unusual, rare or valuable items you’ve found at a brocante?

I think the day I remember most clearly was when I stumbled over a big plastic bag on a fair. Nobody else was interested in it, but I opened it up to find dozens of pieces of beautiful antique clothing and house linen, all hand stitched and embroidered. The handwork was extraordinary. I purchased the whole bag, and later contacted a museum who was happy to receive much of the clothing for their costume collection.

blue and white porcelain

What is your favorite part of the business?

Without a doubt the contacts I have made, the human element, and the doors that have been opened for me.

brocante France

Are there certain times of the year that are better than others for brocante shopping?

The dealers are always open all year around, but there are no fairs to speak of here in the winter, it’s too cold!. The first fair of the season in this part of France is Chatou, in March, and the last big fair that I go to is in Normandy, at the beginning of November. Chatou remains a favourite because the atmosphere is so relaxed, and it lasts for ten days.


Thank you so much, Sharon for sharing your experiences! If you’re interested in one of Sharon’s brocante tours or a private excursion, more information is available here.

And do check out her book, My Stylish French Girlfriends, which will give you some serious decorating envy!

All photos are courtesy of Sharon Santoni.

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  1. March 16, 2016 / 4:50 am

    Me too. Go crazy I mean. Wouldn’t a brocante tour be fun?! We also visited a Marché aux Puces when we were in Paris last year. It was on my list of one of the “must do” things for me. I love going to antique fairs here in Canada… in the summer. They’re often held outside, in little towns, some in old fairgrounds. Such a wonderful day out! Love the photo of that blue china.

  2. Pamela
    March 16, 2016 / 8:15 am

    Also love brocantes in the South – particularly at Ile-sur-la-Sorgues, the much quieter market at Antibes and the more crowded one in the Cours Saleya in Nice. I’ve never had a guide and just love exploring in my own time for as long as I like (husband tucked up at a café/bar with a coffee and paper or his water colours). Because we’ve been visiting some of these fairs each year for several years some of the stall holders actually remember me and what I bought last time! Quite amazing. And they’re so nice and helpful. Have picked up some beautiful things including four truly lovely Bakelite bangles in oranges, butterscotch and red; blue and white china; silverware; a Celine handbag; some Third Empire jewel boxes; a darling Third Empire statuette of a young page boy – a candleholder; linen; brooches; and pendants; a Third Empire tray painted with roses and bordered with gold leaf; a Versace crystal candleholder with a medusa head decoration, etc etc. Such fun – and all just small enough to take home in checked baggage – well packed. Looking forward to next visit this year. Pammie

  3. March 16, 2016 / 8:25 am

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. (I ended up subscribing to the French Country Home blog). I look forward to the brocante in Cannes every summer. Honestly, I can spend hours just roaming around and checking each table filled with all those great little treasures. I’m actually glad you posted this because you’ve shown another side of shopping throughout France–it isn’t just about the semi-annual soldes in shops and boutiques. These flea markets are a year-round shoppers delight!

  4. Sharon Santoni
    March 20, 2016 / 4:01 am

    Hi Susan. Thank you so much for this fun interview and for the shoutout.
    looking forward to the next time we meet

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