Fur­nish your home with a few days in for­eign flea­mar­kets

Yorkshire Post - Property - - FRONT PAGE - Sally Coulthard

THERE are few things us Brits love more than sniff­ing out a bar­gain. But what if you could com­bine this love of trea­sure hunt­ing with our other na­tional pas­sion – the week­end away?

For­eign flea­mar­ket or bro­cante breaks are fast be­com­ing one of the most fun and pocket-friendly ways of stock­ing up on an­tiques, fur­ni­ture and other homely trea­sures and the ideal way to fur­nish a house for less.

If you’ve a sense of ad­ven­ture and a few quid to spare, a week­end away with a van can be a hoot, es­pe­cially if you’re well pre­pared and ready to hag­gle. It’s even more fun if you take a friend and they can help you lift bulky items.

It’s also an ex­cel­lent ex­cuse to grab some much needed sun­shine af­ter what feels like weeks of rain. In­ter­ested? Then fol­low our top tips for pick­ing up a lorry-load of fan­tas­tic finds:

France is the ob­vi­ous choice for flea­mar­kets, but check out Hol­land and Bel­gium too.

Se­ri­ous about stock­ing up on bar­gain an­tiques abroad? Start plan­ning even be­fore you leave the UK. Ask the lo­cal tourist of­fice for de­tails of any flea­mar­kets you in­tend to visit – open­ing times, maps, spe­cial­ist stalls – any­thing to give you a head start. Don’t rely on the in­ter­net alone, as times and dates can change and it’s a long way to travel for noth­ing.

Book your trans­port. One of the eas­i­est ways is to fly out and drive back. Europ­car, for ex­am­ple, let you col­lect a ve­hi­cle in one coun­try and drop it off in an­other (www.europ­car.co.uk).

Al­ways over­es­ti­mate the van size you’ll need – you can drive a Lu­ton van on a nor­mal car li­cence so there’s plenty of room for all your trea­sures. Don’t be afraid – they are quite easy to han­dle.

Take mea­sure­ments of ev­ery room in your house be­fore you fo. You might be plan­ning to buy a din­ing ta­ble but what if you see a French ar­moire you sim­ply can’t re­sist? In­clude door­way di­men­sions too. These mea­sure­ments are ab­so­lutely cru­cial as if you can’t fit your find through the door you’re in trou­ble.

An­tique deal­ers ar­rive at the crack of dawn to bag the best bar­gains at flea mar­kets. Beat them at their own game and get there as early as you dare. Bring a tape mea­sure, for­eign lan­guage dic­tionary, cur­rency con­verter and a few plas­tic bags for any small pur­chases.

Do a quick sweep of the flea mar­ket to get your bear­ings and suss out what’s on of­fer. Then do a sec­ond, more thor­ough tour, tak­ing time to browse at your leisure. If some­thing re­ally spe­cial catches your eye on the first cir­cuit, how­ever, get it. Leave it un­til later and sure as eggs is eggs, it’ll have been snapped up by an­other keen-eyed bar­gain hunter.

Use your imag­i­na­tion when it comes to fur­ni­ture. Look at the de­sign and the prac­ti­cal­ity rather than the colour. You can al­ways paint or re­var­nish.

Avoid an­tique firearms and weapons, ivory, furs, bone and other an­i­mal prod­ucts – you can get into all sorts of bother at cus­toms or air­port se­cu­rity and you might be sup­port­ing an il­le­gal trade.

Leave the credit card and trav­ellers’ cheques be­hind. All but the big­gest stall­hold­ers will want cash. Take small de­nom­i­na­tion notes as ven­dors don’t carry lots of change. Keep any cash in a money-belt or cross body bag as flea mar­kets are a favourite with pick­pock­ets.

A few words will go a long way with stall­hold­ers. Learn key for­eign phrases to help you hag­gle. This is ex­pected and all part of the fun.

Re­mem­ber to fac­tor in over­seas freight if you’re not driv­ing back to the UK – the stall holder may be able to or­gan­ise this for you but it’s more likely that you’ll have to get a re­li­able in­ter­na­tional courier such as Fedex to do ar­range col­lec­tion and de­liv­ery.

If you have any left over buys then think about sell­ing on ebay or hir­ing a stall at a vin­tage fair. There are lots of fairs and French vin­tage items are es­pe­cially saleable.

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