|A store display at the St. Ouen Flea Market showing the variety of items offered|
Lately, I've been fascinated by the antique markets in Europe. I love the idea of hunting among seemingly discarded goods that may turn out to be a treasure, not necessarily to re-sell but to have around your home as a memento or even an heirloom piece to hand down through generations. What I like about scrounging around in Europe as opposed to here in the States is that there seems to be a real appreciation of preserving the historical culture there. Granted, the European countries being so much older than the United States, there are hundreds more years of history and millions of beautiful items created for secular and religious purposes. It seems that everywhere in Europe there are antique and flea markets that open on regularly scheduled days.
We happened to be in Paris on a Sunday when the Marche Aux Puces de Saint Ouen, the largest and most famous antique and flea market in Paris (if not the world) was open and of course, we just had to schedule a visit there. We took the metro to Porte de Clignancourt on Line 4 and as we exited, we followed the crowds towards the large concrete overpass. A "Les Puces" (The Fleas) sign points in the direction we wanted to go. Along the way, you see hawkers of all sorts of items including knock off of designer goods - surprising since there were plenty of policemen in the area. There are also outdoor stalls selling African goods, clothing, shoes and household items. We chose to move on as our real target are the marches where the antiques are sold.
|Walking from the Metro station to the St. Ouen Flea Market|
|Stall with African carvings|
It is really overwhelming with all the outside stalls, sidewalk vendors and crowds but luckily the weather was extremely pleasant for late October, I am told that there can be as many as 120,000 to 180,000 visitors to the market on a weekend. There are 16 distinct markets with more than 2000 stores selling art work, antiques, housewares, furniture, clothing, books, porcelain, jewelry and what have you. We finally got to the marches but had no real plan of attack. All we wanted was to soak in the ambiance of the place and look at the items being sold in case something strikes our fancy, So we decided just to follow one passageway into the next and meander through the stores that way. Here are some of the stores and items we came across:
|Silver and porcelain|
|Fine china and collectibles|
|More items for the house|
|A store front display|
|Kitschy 60s stuff|
|A sign for a doll store|
|Asian and European antiques|
As you can see, if you are looking for something, you are most likely to find it here and will be guaranteed a fine time doing so. I found the store owners to be very knowledgeable and helpful with information even if they sense you are only browsing.
After a few hours of rummaging, our eyes were full but our bellies were grumbling, so we embarked on finding a place to rest and eat. There are plenty of cafes and bistros around and we ended up at a sandwich and pizza place owned by a friendly French Algerian guy. The sandwiches were really good and reasonable.
Oh, and let me show you what I bought. When we were touring Northern France, I've been eyeing some French faience pottery by Quimper which features Breton figures on their wares. I did not buy any there. So I was excited when I spotted this cute little old plate at the market and at 8 euros, it is a worthy memento of both our trip to northern France and the Paris flea market. I am happy!
|The stall where I bought my Quimper plate|
|My Paris flea market find|
Au revoir Les Puces de Saint Ouen. Au plaisir de vous rendre visite à nouveau un jour
For more on the history of the Paris Flea Market, please visit http://www.discoverfrance.net/France/Paris/Shopping/Paris_fleamkts.shtml