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I wanted to see the largest flea market in Europe, "Le Grand Braderie", held in Lille, France the first weekend in September.
Reported to attract 2 million + visitors, I imagined it hid all of the hidden treasures of the North of France and perhaps even the Benelux. What wonderful things might come to light - a fantod under glass perhaps?

FRISKYHITSLILLE 1So I made reservations, and off I went, with plans to meet some art market colleagues on the spot. I traveled 1st class from Gare du Nord to Lille Europe (only the best for AAD correspondents). Sitting next to me was a Paris dealer who confided he goes to the fair every year to look for "smalls". My anxiety increased. Would there be enough wonderful things for all of us? What if he spotted the enigmatic fantod before I did? Would there be enough of my favorite refreshing beverage ( rhymes with rose) left?

I needn't have worried. Le Grand Braderie was indeed Grand. And a Braderie. And rather international. There were the locals, selling rubber boots that still had some (limited) life in them. There was a selection of English dealers with (sorry) English tat. Flemish dealers with Flemish tat and French dealers with (you guessed it) French tat.
Best things I saw? Antique books and movie posters by the Town Hall. And some good-looking kittens (sorry, almost gone). Other things? A taxidermied magpie, a plastic cuckoo clock (with a sinister looking cuckoo), a 1930's typewriter, handbags of uncertain provenance, and slightly used Levi's.

Oh, and did I mention the 2 million visitors? All of whom seemed to be on the very same streets I was trying to get down. At one point the crush was so bad that we all came to a complete stop - a heaving, pulsing very warm stop. For probably some of the 15 longest minutes of my life. Which is when the guy in the Wheelchair , with a pram , decided to push through.

On the plus side, because most of the visitors drank beer, there was plenty of rose for moi (see, I knew it would be ok in the end). Smalls - or anything else I'd like to see, buy or even agree to take with a pound of delicious French chocolate- not so much. Oh and the other dealers? Long gone, declining to be pushed, shoved and stepped on by the thronging bargain hunters. Leaving the rest of the rose for me - cheers!

Maura Haverly