If you have visited La Braderie de Lille in northern France, you can count yourself lucky. The antiques and flea fair is one of the most anticipated and innocuous of annual gatherings in Europe. La Braderie de Lille has been attracting treasure hunters since the 12th century. Last Friday, however, it was announced that the 2016 fair, slated for September 3-4, has been cancelled due to security concerns. La Braderie proclaims to be the biggest antiques and flea market in Europe, attracting upwards of 2 million visitors. The only other time it was suspended was during World War II. Lille’s mayor Martine Aubry called the decision “gut-wrenching” but said it was “impossible to ensure security.” The head of Lille’s Chamber of Commerce described it as “an economic and cultural disaster.”
In Provence, which lies at the opposite end of the country in southern France, the reverse decision was made. It has been less than a month since a man used a truck as a weapon, driving down the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and indiscriminately killing people of diverse ages and faiths. The Provençaux are still reeling from the shock of this shattering tragedy. Provence hosts a couple of major antiques fairs each year, with one of the largest in the town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in mid-August known as La Foire Internationale Art & Antiquités de L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (the International Art & Antiques Fair). This year’s fair will go forward as planned from August 12- 15, 2016. (On Aug 11 it’s open to professional dealers only.)
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a haven for flea market and antiques enthusiasts all year, thanks to its Sunday market which combines a food market with a brocante (flea market), and antiques dealers in shops along Avenue des Quatre Otages and Avenue de la Libération.
In mid-August the ranks of dealers and shoppers swell several-fold for La Foire. I highly recommend this fair to anyone who is in, or can easily get to, the south of France. Dealers bring their wares from all over the world. Plus, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a charming town with moss-covered waterwheels and a bevy of shops and good restaurants. It’s great fun to wander the shops and streets.
L’Isle has much to recommend it as a destination spot in Provence. The annual floating market, which took place last Sunday (always the first Sunday of August), went off without a hitch.
The difference between Lille’s decision (the show won’t go on) and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s (it will) is symbolic of the contrast in individual responses throughout France and around the world. Is it playing into the hands of people who perpetrate evil acts when we give into fear? Or is it appropriate and adaptive behavior? France is struggling with how to keep itself safe. Heightened anxiety is real, rampant, and rational. It’s no longer predictable where the dangerous areas are. So, what’s the best response? To abandon the normal routines or to carry onward?
There is no single answer that’s right for everyone. Personally, my response aligns with defiantly carrying onward. I never considered canceling my plans to return to Paris after the November 13 attacks. I will be going back to the south of France in the upcoming months, and I am very much looking forward to that. I continue to enjoy markets wherever I go, no matter how crowded. Engaging in social activities and, in particular, seeking out marketplaces feeds both my belly and soul.
May all who attend this year’s antiques fair in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and every subsequent one, be safe and enjoy a fun time. And I look forward to La Braderie in Lille resuming in 2017.