Contributed by Susan Schultz
When I first began traveling to Paris I was urged by both friends and the guidebooks to visit the famous French flea market, the Puces Saint-Ouen with its huge variety, multiple markets and permanent halls. My first visit to Saint-Ouen was just about learning to navigate the sometimes intimidating route from the Clignancourt Metro station to rue des Rosiers where the t-shirt and tube sock vendors finally give way to quality vintage and antique goods.
I returned several times to Saint-Ouen, introducing friends to my favorite cafes and explaining the layout of the market as well as I could. But for all my times up there, and all my ooohhing and aaaahhing over fabulous jewelry, fabrics, mirrors, lamps and more, I never bought a thing. It was just all too expensive for my budget and well, it didn’t quite feel like a real flea market.
I spent my money instead at some of the many open-air food markets, especially the ‘bio-marchés’ or organic markets that you can find on many of the boulevards early mornings. Finally, on one recent trip, I was determined to visit one of the other flea markets and decided on Vanves market, at the opposite end of the city from Saint-Ouen and just a short walk from the Vanves station on line 13.
I walk up to Ave. Marc Sangnier and I find heaven! Banged-up folding tables, crates and boxes all filled with goodies–jewelry, industrial items, lighting, tableware, flatware, clothing, books, décor and, of course, bric-a-brac–everything that makes a great flea market!
The vendors are casual and low-key, willing to bargain but no push-overs, for the most part they sip coffees and chat with their neighbors, answering questions in a friendly manner, even when asked by an American 😉
There are a couple of vendors who specialize in vintage buttons and other sewing accessories; several good vintage costume jewelry dealers and one of my favorites, a booth called Missy [firstname.lastname@example.org] and run by a young woman named Juila. Her stand typically contains a mix of vintage wine, cheese and butter labels, pharmacy packaging and dead stock, vintage linens, buttons and trims and much, much more. I could spend hours just at her stand. She’s usually on your right, about half-way down Ave. Marc Sangnier from the intersection with Ave. George Lafenestre.
The market continues down Ave. Marc Sangnier to the next intersection and around the corner, usually anywhere from 70-100 vendors. But get there early, this low-key flea begins to shut down around 11:30am, with discount clothing stands eventually replacing all the wonderful bricoulage, Saturday and Sunday only.
Photos and text contributed by Susan Schultz
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