Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Where to Buy What: The Best Places To Shop For Antiques In Bordeaux


John and I discovered rather late into our trip that Bordeaux is a treasure trove for antiques - and often at bargain prices. In fact, we vowed to bring an empty suitcase next time (and possibly even an empty van)! I fell in love with the beautiful furniture and decorative objects that we saw, like old French medicine bottles and cannisters, which often sold for something like €24 for an entire set. A whole set! Prices like that in London just don't exist.

From pop-up flea markets (great for vintage tableware like china and glass decanters) to never-ending shops filled to the brim with knick-knacks and furniture (perfect for side tables, chairs, and artwork) to stores specializing in authentic, high-end antiques (wonderful if you're missing a complete set of Versace dinnerware or a pair of oversized 17th-century porcelain vases), all of the fun is in the browsing. We almost ran from room to room in some of the larger shops, pointing at things and excitedly waving each other over to look at our newest discoveries.

Here are some of the best places to shop:

Chartrons district is excellent for antiques and cafe hopping - there are plenty of modern homeware boutiques tucked in next to antique shops, so you're likely to find hand-poured candles and Scandi-inspired design as you are an authentic Louis XIV side table.

We found a sweet little wooden stool at Cabanes et Chateaux on Rue Notre Dame - a ramshackle shop with the most beautiful furniture and findings, blasting classical music at the highest volume. I fell in love with nearly every single item in the store, but we only had room for that tiny stool (as seen in our second guest bedroom below, next to a poster we picked up at the Arcachon tourism office). Next time.


Village Notre-Dame (also in Chartrons and often simply referred to as "Le Village") is somewhat of an institution and should be browsed if only for the wow-factor. It specialises in upscale antiques but you're left to browse the many rooms and corners without any interruption (though I was incredibly paranoid about knocking into a £5,000 vase and kept having to tell John to, "Watch out! Behind you!"). I squealed with excitement over the perfect rug for our living room and John said, "Okay, you can get it." Then I lifted up the corner to find the price: €7,500. John gulped and said, "Okay, you can't get it." I was like, "Maybe it's a mistake ... maybe there's just one too many zeros ..." Nope. Not a mistake - still €7,500. I bade it a sad farewell and made my way to the exit.

Sidenote: the streets of Chartrons also have some of the most beautiful doors I've ever seen! Case in point:


Might have snapped a few pics of those.

Heading up toward Place des Capucins, Les Brocanteurs du Passage Saint Michel was our favorite of all the antique shops. We loved nearly everything they stocked and the staff was so nice. John fell in love with two oversized antique maps (we chose maps of the US and UK, naturally) which he puzzled over in French with one of the sales assistants about transporting it back to the UK. I didn't catch a lot of the conversation, but at the mention of "British Airways" there was a lot of nodding and affirmative gesticulation and teeth sucking and shrugging when "Easy Jet" was uttered. In the end, the wonderful lady who helped us actually ran from stall to stall outside the store to find a box, which she then fashioned into a long, protective tube for the maps. We were so grateful. I stuck a few homemade "Fragile" signs to the box and the maps arrived back in one piece: intact and unharmed.


They've got a wonderful Wes Anderson feel to them (they remind me of Moonrise Kingdom - one of my favorite Wes Anderson films!) and we've put them up in the guest bedrooms.

The flea market of Quai de Salinieres, which is just a short distance from the Marche Des Capucins (the most wonderful food market) is fantastic for finding hidden treasures - if you're prepared to look. Amongst the bric-a-brac and tatty old shoes, you'll also find beautiful vintage keepsake boxes, glass decanters, and art prints (like the ones I bought above). Sellers are most likely prepared to bargain (though I took the lot of prints for €15 because I was too lazy to barter) and if you're looking for vintage plates or other decorative objects for your home at a fraction of the price of what you'd find in, say, Broadway Market, then this is the perfect place to go.

Are you a fan of antiques? I think it's fun to look even if you're not intending to buy anything - it's incredible to think of the history behind some of the things you see!
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14 comments

  1. That's a great tip. I always assumed antiques would be far out of my price range, and whilst some of them are (yikes that rug!) I reckon I could stretch to €24 for some medicine bottles. And French antiques just seem so effortlessly chic, I love the tiny stool you got.

    That and gorgeous doors for days? Booking a van now...

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    1. I know, me too, Rachel! Even the auction houses here in London are a little intimidating/out of my price bracket. But there are a few dealers and I think that France is famous for bargains in their flea markets. I hear stories of women picking up authentic Chanel handbags at ridiculously low prices, etc. but I was just thrilled to see all these decorative objects that I've previously lusted after at such reasonable prices! I need to be careful that our house doesn't turn into an antique store ... haha!

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    1. It's the first time I've ever preferred something to hang as it is, rather than be framed!

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  3. Ahhhh stunning!! You've found some great treasure troves it seems! You can't beat browsing through antique stores, especially in a foreign land, you really never know what you may stumble upon!

    Gemma
    Faded Windmills

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    1. Thank you, Gemma! Yes, I've often stumbled on similar prints here (at extortionate prices) so at least I know that the ones I bought at the market were genuinely French - ha!

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  4. I'm not sure I have the cool cajools for some of these, but they are so beautiful!

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    1. They're wonderful additions to our home. It was fun seeing John getting so excited about them - they were totally and completely his pick!

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  5. I love everything in this post. The maps, the prints, the door. I would definitely "acquire" someone's door.... ;)

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    1. Thank you so much, Frankie! I'd bet you'd have an excellent time exploring the markets - there are so many beautiful, amazing, wacky, crazy things for sale! I wish I could go back every week to see what new things they had.

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  6. I agree that antiques are a lot cheaper in France. I've got an old bakelite phone I brought back from when I lived there. Did you ship the stool back?

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    1. Amazing, Suze! We took the stool in our carry-on - it fit into John's tote perfectly!

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  7. Ah, France is a great place for antiques and flea markets, it's almost embedded in our DNA! :) Glad you could find some treasures in Bordeaux. Your maps look amazing!

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    1. It's the best, Charlotte. We're already making a wishlist of things we want to buy when we're back! Luckily, we have an antiques dealer down the road from us in Walthamstow who is French and travels back to buy furniture to bring back and sell in his shop - a lot of our antique dressers and tables are from his shop!

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