I first came across the notion of a “trocante” on a particularly memorable trip to Provence. I was staying in an apartment on a beautifully converted farm near Avignon; on the outskirts of one of those delightful French villages that appear to have very little going on until you discover an outstanding restaurant tucked away in a back street, buzzing with contented diners.
Unusually, two Canadians owned and ran the gites complex I was staying at, and on one occasion we were discussing the wonderful furniture in my apartment. The pieces were all huge, solid oak and ornately carved. They told me they had purchased them all in Normandy at various “trocantes”. The concept of a trocante is that sellers can display their furniture, or other household goods, for sale in a huge warehouse and the trocante owner takes a cut of the profit when it is sold. The advantage to the seller is that they know large numbers of buyers are attracted to these warehouses by the range of goods for sale in one place.
Since then I have visited various trocantes on my travels through France. Many times I have been disappointed when I saw a perfect piece of French oak furniture but had no cost-effective means of getting it back to the UK. So now I organise my trips better and make sure I have contact details to hand for cheap shippers who do regular runs to France or cheap van hire for items I can manage to get back to the UK myself. Although trocantes will ship items for you it is almost always prohibitively expensive. Whereas the cost of hiring a van for a long week-end more than makes up for the savings on whatever you buy in France.
And, remember, if you don’t like all that dark wood there are amazing paints around now so it’s not difficult to transform an old piece. I have a beautiful carved wooden double wardrobe in one bedroom – now painted white – that is unique, provides loads of storage and, better yet, it was a bargain.
Here are my 5 favourite trocantes in Northern France where I have always managed to pick up a wonderful gem at a bargain price:
- AMIENS (Rue St Fuscien)
- ROUEN (Le Grand Quevilly)
- LISIEUX (Boulevard Sainte Anne)
- ALENCON (Rue Bretagne)
- SAINT LÔ (Rue Jules Vallés)
You can find more details of all trocantes in France on these 2 websites: