Nothing quite prepares you for the craziness of the braderie in Lille. This weekend’s annual street market traditionally stretches over a whopping 100km throughout the city.
The braderie has been a feature of the city’s calendar since the 11th century. In 2016 it was cancelled for security reasons and this year, I’m told, it’s a bit smaller than before.
Nevertheless, it’s massive. In the week we came to Lille, so did the rest of the world, it seems. More than 2 million people are expected to have visited the city by the end of trading this afternoon.
Some of the visitors are experienced bargain hunters. They’ve come with trolleys ready to stuff with their purchases.
There is plenty to buy – though not all of it is good. Among the more questionable items I saw for sale yesterday were a box of clock pendulums, a string of Smurfs and more stuffed animals than I have ever seen in one place.
Clearly, one man’s piece of toot is another man’s treasure.
One of the most imaginative displays we spotted was of showroom-dummy children being used to sell old-fashioned school desks. Full marks and a gold star to whoever came up with that idea.
We spent the day making our way round the stalls – well, some of them. We couldn’t get to all of them, of course.
We fell in love with a pair of Art Deco cream leather armchairs but couldn’t quite justify the asking price. There was a trunk we liked too, but its price seemed to increase as we stood admiring it. No one likes to be taken for a mug, so we left it.
The high street shops don’t want to be left out in the cold, of course, so they all run sales during the braderie. Damon and I both bought macs for the autumn – for a whopping €20 each. Bargain!
“In the week we came to Lille, so did the rest of the world, it seems. More than 2 million people are expected”
Moule frites is the traditional dish of the braderie. This year, Lille is aiming to beat the world record for serving the most moules in a day – 500 tonnes of mussels in 8 hours. They could easily reach their target: everywhere is selling moules.
We even saw a print shop that had become a pop-up eatery for the weekend.
Live music and DJ sets kept the party atmosphere going well into the night. This morning, the city is quietly surfacing, ready for more of the same today.
If you haven’t been before, you should come. It’s full-on, it’s mad, it’s a carnival. What a way for us to start our new life in Lille. We’re loving it.