Flea Markets & Antiques

Swapping by Moonlight: Swapmeets are Fun - and Romantic

Decorations at swap meet stall
Decorations at swap meet stall

Updated December 05th, 2018

When my new husband and I followed our dreams to California, we didn't have much else besides dreams in our pockets. We knew we wanted to settle down in East Bay but the San Francisco rents were untouchable for us. Instead, we hightailed it to Berkeley where we found a rundown loft that, while ratty, was comfortably spacious. Of course, we didn't have much to furnish it except our suitcases, which, in retrospect, were rather ratty too.

So, after finding entry-level jobs, we started shopping for household odds and ends at night swap meets. Not only did we furnish our home by perusing swap meets at night, we had loads of fun and some of the most romantic dates we've ever enjoyed. We may have more money now thanks to our budding careers, but I can tell you—I love nothing more than those treasures we discovered at night swap meets while walking hand in hand. My favorite picture—two swans in moonlight that dates to 1902—cost me just $15 at a swap meet at night, and it even came in an antique frame. It hangs in our bedroom and reminds me of being together.

Date Night Fun: Swap Meets at Night

When some people think of swap meets at night, they may envision tables filled with brightly hued socks and vendors pedaling handmade jewelry. Until you've experienced a swap meet at night for yourself, you have no idea just how romantic it can be. Imagine rows strewn with outdoor lights and lanterns that infuse vendor stalls with luminous charm. Imagine pleasant breezes wafting eastward from the bay and musicians strumming guitars by lamplight to the delight of all. Best of all, imagine the delightful smells of outdoor cooking—grilled foods and delectable treats all sold at affordable prices.

When we visited swap meets at night for a romantic date, we just wanted to get out after a long day on the job and let off steam. We knew we could mingle with others but still enjoy each other's company. We also knew that we weren't in danger of breaking the bank by dining at a picnic table and shopping for this and that with vendors who set up shop. Those night swap meets weren't glamorous. We wore a t-shirt and some jeans. When it was cold, we wore sweatshirts. Even so, our swap meets at night were romantic because we had fun together in a setting that was conducive to relaxation.

We also met so many interesting people. Vendors sold everything from spice rubs to yard art. Those swap meets at night were frequented by other people who knew exactly how to have a good time on a $20 bill. Sometimes we danced when performing artists played a love song. Sometimes we just camped out at a picnic table to share a bag of caramel corn or talk about our future. We went through so many changes in those days with work and moving and eeking out our California lives, but it was so worth the effort—and those swap meet date nights meant we always had something fun to do even if we were broke.

Swap Meet Décor

As a young couple shopping swap meets at night, we needed quite a bit to set up our Berkeley household. As soon as we got jobs, we felt comfortable dipping into our savings to purchase items for our home. Even so, we needed to make sure our money stretched. Penny pinching might not seem romantic, but shopping for our home at swap meet at night drew us closer. So often, we laughed at each other's questionable taste. He was convinced that a neon yellow shag rug was perfect for our bedroom. I insisted that a tie-dye shower curtain would add a cheerful touch to bath times. I don't think we had what it takes to be interior designers. But, we did so enjoy hunting for treasures at swap meets at night.

In the end, we managed to agree on some excellent and affordable household essentials. For twenty bucks, I picked up a dazzling lapis-blue set of stoneware dishes—a set for eight! He spotted a Mid-Century Modern settee that had been reupholstered in a chic leopard fabric; it earned pride of place in our living room area. In fact, we still have that beloved settee in a corner of our bedroom. It's my favorite place to read a good love story. We found several other essential household finds while visiting swap meets at night including a four-piece chrome dining set (with a yellow top because he insisted), a vintage Art Deco vanity with its mirror perfectly intact, a pair of brass nightstand lamps, and a mahogany writer's desk with a matching carved chair. Night swap meets in and around San Francisco furnished our home and allowed us to spend quality time together.

Dine in Style

Now that we have better jobs and are able to live in San Francisco, we do sometimes like to celebrate a special occasion like our anniversary in one of the seaside eateries of the city. Of course, I can honestly say that those several-hundred-dollar meals are in no way more special to us than the ten-dollar meals we enjoyed at night swap meets. In fact, we still love to visit swap meets at night to see what the vendors have on offer. There are few places in the region where you can find so many different types of quality cuisine at an affordable price.

At our first swap meet at night, I remember he had fish and chips made with a spicy batter. I had jerk chicken tacos. We both enjoyed craft beers brought by a local brewer. Vendors take extraordinary pride in their offerings—and you can taste it with each sip or bite. There's nothing like enjoying the tasty treats at swap meets at night after you've had fun shopping. On our many dates to swap meets at night, we've eaten like kings and queens on made-from-scratch corn bread, lump crab cakes, duck burgers on oat buns, pulled pork quesadillas, vegetable tempuras, shrimp pad thai, curry-covered waffles, and so much Napa wine! Then there's desert—maple fudge and lemon gelato, raspberry churros and chocolate-coated bananas. We didn't go hungry on our swap meet dates.

What we loved about those swap meet at night dates is that we could be carefree knowing that we weren't obliged to spend anything. We could get away with buying a delicious meal for the price of fast food. We got to listen to musicians play and sing their hearts out under the stars. We got to plan how to decorate our living room, how to save for a vacation, and how to make the most of our free time together.

In those early days, he worked as a courier. I did temp work anywhere I could get it. Between the two of us, we managed to furnish that splendidly ratty loft with atomic bark cloth curtains, a Spanish colonial candelabra, and a carved clock from Germany's Black Forest. Swap meets at night furnished our home and left us with many tender memories. Of course, there are high-end swap meets at night that feature upscale items and antiques. We frequent these as often as we can. If you're looking for a romantic place to spend an evening, try dating at swap meets at night.

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