If you happen to be in the little town of Montreuil-sur-Mer on July 14, the major French public holiday of Bastille Day, you’re in for a treat. Every year on this day, the town stages a spectacular antiques market that spreads across the whole upper town centre.
Montreuil-sur-Mer is a very handsome French town that has become a popular place for those looking to relax, especially British visitors. It lies on the Cote d’Opale close to Le Touquet. It is no longer ‘on sea’ despite its name, due to the silting up of the marshland to the west of the town.
All of the streets of the higher area of the town on this day are closed to traffic. This is because everywhere is awash, literally every square inch, with the most extraordinary selection of stalls selling just about everything. The day I went I had to park my car at the bottom of the hill and stagger back up the cobbled roads to join the throng. The streets were full of people clutching enticing items they had bought from the traders.
Market stall holders were mainly French but sellers also came from Holland, Belgium, Germany and as far away as Australia. Expect a large amount of professional stalls when you visit here – and the price tag to match. But it’s not all expensive, locals also participate and many erect tables in their gardens to dispose of their no longer needed, but often classically French, household goods and furniture.
Visitors will find a massive range of desirable things. Furniture, pottery, art, household goods, medals, clothes and even mopeds are in abundance. I saw someone carrying two metal aircraft models of positively rare antique authenticity. I wished I had seen them first. If you buy large items leave them with the stall holder and pick them up later when the roads open again.
The streets are flooded with happy families and children strolling and the air is filled with a sense of anticipation as browsers look for the perfect item. The more wear the better somehow, and the price will often be just a few Euros.
Montreuil sur Mer is home to many bars and restaurants – they are all open on July 14 and enjoy much trade as they provide a friendly service.
Bob Lyons is an ex pilot turned travel writer who loves to discover authentic France.