Monday, 29 September 2008

Flea market Paris

For three preceding days, the excitement built as I made preparations to hit the Paris flea markets. I anxiously tried to recall my GCSE French so that I could understand basic numbers. Five years of French and all I had to show for it was an enthusiastic Bonjour, Merci and the requisite "C'est combien?" I mean really, that was almost it.

Still, I revised my numbers and practised the tone in which I could say "C'est trop cher" - even though I doubted my ability to haggle en Francais.

On the Friday, I went to the Marche aux Puces d'Aligre, a small outdoors market in the Bastille area which is open Tuesday - Sunday, and is part of a vibrant market selling lots of fresh produce. This market was just lots of cheap junk, with very few redeeming features - I hardly saw anything anyone would buy - even someone with completely different taste to me. But, I think this was my favourite market as there was the vain hope that somewhere, there might be a hidden bargain. This was the most like a car boot sale - just lots of tables with their wares displayed. And I quite liked this area of Paris - it's within walking distance of the Marais. I'd definitely go here again.

My view of the Marche aux Puces de Vanves is slightly skewed by the fact that I dragged myself out of bed at some ungodly hour (6.30am, that's 5.30am to the Brits) to go to this market. This market is frequented by dealers, so I followed Time Out's advice to get there early, although at 7.30am there were quite a few stalls who were just starting to set up. Apparently there are 350 stalls (to me, it seemed a lot less.) A lot of the stalls sold pictures, ceramics, glassware - but I didn't see anything I wanted to buy. All the guides I have read recommend this one as the best to find small items - but I didn't see a thing.

Finally, I joined the throngs of thousands and went to the Marche aux Puces de Clignancourt, where there are 2,500 stalls. Time Out recommends not getting there before 9am, but I think 11am is a more realistic time - I had to go for coffee as there really wasn't anything happening early on. Make sure you persevere with finding the right area - I almost went home as there were so many stalls selling cheap knock-offs and then the occasional antiques stall interspersed - but this wasn't the right part of the market. My favourite part of the market was the Paul Bert market - mostly expensive furniture with the occasional smaller item, and a great selection of lighting.

This mirror, on the side, was the closest I got to making a purchase. Except there wasn't a stallholder in sight - I went back twice and there was still no-one there. It was a very sunny day!

At the Paul Bert market especially, a lot of the stalls were decorated really nicely, and simply, with colours I like to call Smithsonian chic.

My overriding opinion of the French flea markets is that they are expensive. Everything was at tourist prices and I really didn't see anything much that I wanted to buy. I was looking for paintings (I didn't see any unframed under 100 euros), vintage glassware, old tins, jewellery - it was quite disappointing. I bought 24 vintage watch faces, and that was it. It wasn't even as if I really saw anything I loved which was unaffordable - I just didn't see anything much I wanted.

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