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Knowing Your Onions


Many of our customers are intrigued about how we find their precious pieces so here’s an insight into one of the amazing markets we visit every year.

It’s frantic, it’s frustrating and it’s stressful – but we wouldn’t miss it for anything. We’re talking about the famous Déballage at Béziers in Languedoc Roussillon, one of the most exciting and busiest antiques markets in our calendar.

Whilst most people head to Béziers to enjoy the sun-kissed sandy beaches, some wine tasting in the vineyards or perhaps a leisurely trip down the Canal du Midi, our satnav is taking us to the less romantic location of the convention centre on the edge of town. In the shadow of Béziers’ magnificent 13th century cathedral, stand two huge exhibition halls surrounded by an enormous car park.

The Déballage is more of an endurance test than a holiday. Lorries and vans gridlock the approach roads from the wee small hours as everyone gets into best position for the grand opening. And spectacular it certainly is.

At 8 o’clock on the dot, a loud hooter is sounded, the gates grate their way open and the stampede begins. This is not an event for the faint-hearted. This is serious dealer shopping on an Olympic scale. Some deals are being struck even as items are coming off the vans.

Comfortable trainers are a must as only the fleet of foot will bag the best bargains. We’ve learned through experience that the first hour is the most crucial. This is where experience and knowledge, quick evaluations and smart negotiating are essential to get the very best items. Otherwise it’s easy to come away empty handed.

On more than one occasion, our pedometers have registered 15,000 steps before 11 am so it’s a fitness programme in itself.

The hustle and bustle is unforgettable as everyone gets down to business. The word Déballage literally means unpacking. Well there’s certainly a lot of that, followed by a lot of packing up again as people triumphantly claim their favoured pieces.

After an hour or so, the best garden pieces will have been snapped up. At that point, we can relax. We’ve either found loads of fabulous things – or just occasionally nothing much takes our fancy. We only ever buy things we’d want to love and cherish ourselves. And sometimes, we will admit, we find it hard to part with them.

This time we’ve been in luck. Amongst our new treasures are a fabulous heron, these stunning green urns and some wonderful garden seats.

So the deals done, it’s time to relax over a grand crême and make arrangements with our shipper. Often we’ll have sourced something for a client so we email them some quick pictures to see what they think.

It’s always a very exciting moment when our pieces arrive back in the UK a week later – confirming that we made the right decisions in that frantic hour of bargaining in a French convention centre.