off to Lille for the mother of all flea markets


jellyfish trapped in paperweights


It’s that time again! Always on the first weekend of September, rain or shine, the gigantic flea market starts tonight in the northern city of Lille. Lucky for us, the weather forecast for this weekend is sunny and warm.

One million visitors from all over the country and from neighboring Belgium, Germany and the U.K. descend on Lille which transforms its city center into a giant pedestrian zone. To give you an idea of previous flea markets, here are two links from previous years (lots of photos.) When I return Sunday night, I’ll post new photos from this year.


We are quite literally, as the Brits say, gobsmacked. We learned today that the gigantic, annual, much-loved flea market of Lille will be cancelled this year. I saw the news on the TV screen this morning and stopped dead in my tracks. Then I ran to the phone to call my friends in Lille. They already knew. We’re all shattered by the news.

lille brad two

Because the Lille flea market, otherwise known as La Grande Braderie de Lille which takes place every year during the first weekend in September and welcomes between two to three million visitors, is a tradition dating back to the 12th century. I’ve been going every year for the past 5 years. I had already purchased my train tickets for this year.

The BBC says – One of Europe’s biggest flea markets, in the northern French city of Lille, has been cancelled because of security fears after recent Islamist violence.

Martine Aubry, Lille’s mayor, says – Cancelling the event has been a painful decision but there were “risks we cannot reduce”.

Juliet in Paris says – So I guess this means that the jihadists have won.


Here’s what saddens me the most – having to tell the kids why their favorite annual event has been cancelled. They, like everyone else, loved the flea market. Each year they staked out their own little spot, set up a stand and sold the wares they had collected over the year (old toys, outgrown clothes, games, books, etc.)  It was a good education. It taught them not only social skills, but how to sell, barter, make change and handle money. They also practiced their English because visitors came from all over: the U.K., Germany, Belgium, etc.

Thank goodness I’ve got archives of past flea markets, the links are below. Because who knows?  Maybe the Lille flea market will be no more…forever. I said to my office colleagues today – we are witnessing the sad transformation of France right before our eyes.


giant flea market in Lille – 2014

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Always on the first weekend of September. The center of Lille turns into a giant pedestrian zone and nearly one million visitors come to buy, sell, barter, stroll, chat with strangers, drink beer and have a good time. Called La Grande Braderie, (braderie comes from the verb “brader” which means “to sell off”), it’s a festive tradition in this northern city.

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The sky was leaden on Saturday and the atmosphere slightly subdued. But the sun came out on Sunday.

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“How much for the dog?” I asked.  He was sitting on a large postcard collection.

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Alpha males (below)

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This is the only item I bought for 8 euros from a German seller. Its purpose is to drain rinsed strawberries, radishes, grapes, etc. 

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Here’s Martine Aubry, the Socialist mayor of Lille since 2001, much-loved by the Lillois citizens (in the middle wearing a red jacket.)

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And here’s the Socialist Party booth where beer and “moules-frites” (mussels and fries) are served, a speciality of the region. Traditionally a working-class city, up until the end of the 1970s the major industries of Lille were coal, mining and textiles.

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Every year the local Communist Party puts up their booth and sells their newspaper called La Lutte Ouvrière (The Workers’ Struggle). 

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I walked past the booth and took a photograph.

“Journalist?” the man asked.

“Capitalist!” I replied with a thumbs-up sign, and walked on.