Waterloo Brocante, Belgium
Just over the border of northern France and into neighbouring Belgium you will find that the brocantes so loved by the French are also loved by the Belgians.
For a great shopping expedition in an historic location Waterloo ticks all the boxes and can provide a rich hunting ground for a Christmas present that is may be unique and very different…
As we drove through the deserted main street of Waterloo I felt that niggling pre-brocante anxiety about whether I had got my ‘Google translated’ dates and facts right. I had visions of arriving at our destination and there, instead of a bustling market would be barren, trolley-peppered tarmac and a stony-faced companion sitting beside me. Waves of relief soon washed over me as we turned one final corner to behold a horizon of van roofs and the pleasing, clattering sounds of goods being unloaded.
At this time of year, boot fair and brocante lovers can suffer severe withdrawal symptoms at the dearth of events. If you, like me, can’t wait until spring and are prepared to face the 2 ½ hour drive from Calais, then Waterloo provides several hours of good hunting. Every Sunday throughout the year (except the two weeks flanking Christmas) the Carrefour car park on Chaussée de Charleroi, Mont St Jean, 1410 (minutes from the famous battlefield) hosts a hardy and well-established flea market.
On one of the coldest weekends in December it was a more compact affair than previous visits but despite the frosty conditions dealers were out in force. Buyers utilise the resident shopping trolleys as a means of lugging around their purchases. Ambling down the orderly aisles, they lean languidly over their trolleys, eyeing the produce either side, as if on the weekly grocery shop – a charming idiosyncrasy.
Ideally located between the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK, goods come from all over Europe. Steve Dejonghe, based in Ostend, is a regular seller here and at many major French markets throughout the year. Two days later I bumped into him at Kempton; where yet again all of his unique decorative bobbin pieces had sold out.
If you are a collector of Jesuses, Jesi, (What is the plural for Jesus?) and Virgin Marys then you will find supplies at Waterloo plentiful. Vintage toys, games and comics too seemed to be abundant and I saw numerous fantastic oil paintings and pastels. However, prices do vary considerably; one pitch would seem exorbitant whilst the neighbouring stall was like Pound Stretcher in comparison. This can lead to euphoric buying of things that you don’t actually want because hearing vingt instead of quatre-vingt is such a thrill.
Treasures are here for those with any budget. In fact this was the site of my most triumphant in recent years – a spectacular male profile in pastel on a piece of tatty old board for a trifling 5 Euros. Every time I look at that magnificently rendered nose I think fondly of Waterloo.
So if the shed is looking bare of stock and you would rather be filling your shopping trolley with antiques instead of bread and milk then dig out those long johns and book yourself a mid-winter’s jaunt to Belgium!
By Lucy Naughton, flea market expert.
The Waterloo flea market is held most Sundays from 07.00 to 13.00 (please check the brocante de Waterloo website for details and times as the brocante is shut on some Sundays in December and one some national holidays).