October 22, 2017
Wherever I go, one of my favorite things to do is wander the local markets. Each market has it’s own charm, character and style where you’ll find different products and locally made specialty items. I had the opportunity to explore a few markets over the past few weeks, some old and new favorites in various parts of the world. Whether a sprawling market in a small east coast town, a bustling big city in the UK, or a small provincial village in France, there are so many things to love about each.
Brimfield Flea Markets
One of the biggest flea markets in the United States, held 3 times a year in July, September and the largest in May. It’s held in the beautiful pastoral town of Brimfield Massachusetts, surrounded by trees, lakes and old farmhouses with wraparound porches. Life slows down a bit here and the market has a country charm to it. The Brimfield Flea Market is home to multiple independent markets combined into one, along a 1-mile stretch of road, with vendors sprawling out acres deep on each side selling their wares. In the September market, there are hints of fall in the air with the leaves just starting to turn. The weather can be a bit unpredictable this time of year, which makes for quite an adventure wandering through the fields and getting caught in an unexpected downpour of rain!
The town of Brimfield is small and cozy, with a few Bed and Breakfasts or smaller hotel chains nearby. As a first-timer to the Flea, I stayed in the town of Sturbridge, just a few miles from Brimfield, at the Old Sturbridge Inn & Reeder family Lodges. In a park like setting with green grassy fields and tall leafy trees, the individual cottages and main lodge were spacious and well appointed in that country cottage décor. Across from the Inn was Sturbridge Seafood where I spent my evenings documenting the day over a St. Germaine Smash and local fare.
The Brimfield market is a designers and merchandisers haven with some of the bigger names in the industry coming to hunt for treasures. If you are looking for furniture and home decor, especially antiques, this is the place. Make sure to allow time to stroll through the little town on your way in or out, stopping in at the various antique shops along the way.
Always a stop when in London, the Portobello market is vibrant, diverse, and bustling with shops, stalls, restaurants and street performers. In the Notting Hill neighborhood along Portobello Road, it’s the largest antiques market in the UK. Here you’ll find a bit of everything: vintage, silver, jewelry, Bric-a-brac, clothing, home decor and furniture. Like Brimfield, it’s several markets combined into one, and open every day of the week for different vendors, other than Sunday when the market is closed. For the full trading day, come on Saturday when everything is open and the streets come alive. Make sure to grab a bite from one of the food vendors in the delectable farmer’s market, and take a detour down Westbourne Grove for some local boutiques and specialty shops. If you need a place to rest your head nearby, The Portobello Hotel is a local favorite of mine, and easy access to the market and shopping areas of Notting Hill.
No matter where you go in France, one of the many charms of life here are the daily markets. There is a certain romance and a familiarity that always feels like home for me. In Aix, an old favorite of mine, the big market day is Saturday. Along the main street of town, the Cours Mirabeau, you’ll find a mix of Bric-a-brac, antiques, clothing, pottery, and loads of Provençal linens and locally made goods. A delightful Farmer’s Market begins at the Fontaine de la Rotonde, following the Boulevard de la Republique, and on up the Cours Sextius. It’s a colorful array and a feast for the senses where you’ll find pretty much everything you need for your next homemade meal. When you need a break from shopping, grab a seat at one of the many cafes’ that line the streets and enjoy a Provençale dish.
St Tropez: Places des Lices
Another favorite of mine, especially in the off-season, is the enchanting and glamorous village of St. Tropez. In the beginning of town is the local square, the Places des Lices, a charming tree-lined setting with fountains and benches where you can watch the locals play boules. On Tuesdays and Saturdays the square becomes the site for their open-air market where you’ll find a wide array of locally made food and crafts, clothing, antiques, and textiles. I always find some incredible linens- thick and lustrous, and worth the weight to carry back if you have room in your bags! The market is compact and lively, and I love wandering the aisles taking it all in. From here you can venture off on any of the cobblestone streets which make there way to the famed port when you need that glass of Rosé while watching the crowd.