Argenton l'Eglise 2016. The D162 is hardly a superhighway.but it does go straight through the middle of the town: quite a system of detours is required when the road is closed for a vide-grenier.
It is all but impossible to explain what a good vide-grenier is like. You have to visit at least one, and preferably several, to understand. The name comes from vider (to empty) and grenier (an attic), but to compare a vide-grenier with an American yard sale, a British car boot sale or even an American swap meet does not do it justice.
Perhaps the purest form is an annual village-wide event where much of the village is closed off and stalls line the streets. Many of these will indeed be manned by locals selling off unwanted goods, though some will be run by professionals and often there will be people selling food, plants, sausages, cheese, wine, bread, cheap clothes, T-shirts, junk jewellery and lots, lots more.
Quite often, there is enough room for emergency vehicles to get through. If there isn't, it's normally only a short stretcher ride. Come to think of it, though, I've never seen a medical emergency at a v-g.
Then there are the refreshment stands: at least one buvette (drinks stand) and usually somewhere selling frites (genuinely French fries for once), sausages inna bun and all the other dubious food that smells so wonderful and is usually so disappointing when you try it: the sort of thing you normally find only at street fairs. The only things we normally eat are fouaces or hearth-cakes, preferably stuffed with rillettes or boudin noir. They are a couple of euros each. There are bouncy castles, rides and games for children, stands selling sweets (candy) including liquorice bootlaces (reglisse américaine) and candy-floss (barbe-à-papa or “father's beard”) or roast peanuts or nougat... The list goes on.
Entertainment is provided for both adults and children. The wine is rarely very good, but look at the price. For comparison, a quarter bottle is just under 19 cl
There are collectors and bargain-hunters and professional dealers looking to stock their shops and poor people who have to count their pennies but still want something beyond a bare, bleak existence; and who, thanks to the magic of vide-greniers, can afford it. About the only thing that's missing is find-the-lady men: minor confidence tricksters of the kind who hide a dried pea under one of three walnut shells. As far as I am aware pickpockets are rare too, but anyone who tries to pick the pocket of the average French villager would be well advised to count his fingers before and after each attempt.
Signposting is variable. If the whole village is closed off, it's easy, but if it's at a sports ground or in a car park you can sometimes drive around for quite a long time as you hunt for the locale.
Arguably the greatest thing about a vide-grenier, though, is the sense of community. People are there because other people are there. It's an affirmation of common humanity: a bit like a football crowd or a religious festival or a street fair or a parade or a university rag week, or, well, anywhere people gather as much for the sense of gathering as for a particular purpose.