Mid August means the Hesdin Brocante (flea market) – perfect for anyone who loves a bit of a bargain hunt, a beautiful French country town and a wonderful atmosphere amongst warm and welcoming people.
I go every year and have done since I first discovered it. It may not be the biggest, it may not be the best but it is one of the friendliest and fun flea markets in the area and with more than 500 sellers there is something for everyone here.
The weather was a bit wet but it didn’t dampen the spirits. I got there by 9.30 – the serious buyers, local dealers and several from the UK and Belgium had already been round. The browsing crowds had not yet arrived so I had plenty of time to wander in uncrowded little streets in this lovely town known as Hesdin (pronounced “eydan”), about an hour’s drive from Calais. It’s an old country town, once a very important place that was inhabited by noble families but much of it was destroyed on the orders of Charles V during the wars of the 16th Century. Nevertheless impressive ancient buildings are on every street, grand hotel particuliers (aristocratic houses), wonderful old shop fronts are plentiful and the main square with its centuries old town hall (which has a Spanish coat of Arms, a hangover from those wars of the 1500s) is splendid. The river Canche runs through the town flanked by ancient houses, hanging flower displays making it a beautiful sight and there is a huge choice of boulangeries, patisseries, bars and brasseries.
Today the fabulous little butchers on the main square (Matthieu Lesoing) had a barbeque going on outside their shop – they typify Hesdin for me. Jovial, warm, passionate about their produce – and I have to say their boucherie/charcuterie is amongst the finest I have ever visited anywhere in France. I went in to buy some freshly made up burgers from a lump of beef to take to a barbecue in the evening and the butcher spoke a little English as do most people in this town. Hesdin is incredibly popular with the British, Dutch and Belgian – because it is a little bit of French rural paradise.
Another reason I like this brocante is because people open their grand wooden doors to their private courtyards so I get to have a bit of look around! Yes I know it’s nosey but wouldn’t you like to look too?
At 11.00 am the bells pealed for Mass, lots of people were making their way in through the huge Gothic church doorway, the rain stopped and the sun came out, the butchers with their barbeque were calling out to people to come and try their wares, the little kiddie funfair played dreadful music, people were clutching their new/old treasures to take home and love all over again…
This is what it’s all about for me in France – real life, taking the time to appreciate the finer things in life, a coffee in the square watching the world go by, picking up a €5 bargain and a fresh baguette and greeting friends with a kiss on the cheek…