I’m sure like many of you reading this post, anytime I’m in a new city, I’m likely to spend the bulk of my time perusing museums, partaking of restaurants, and patronizing music venues. But I can’t resist a good flea market either. So on my recent trip to Paris, I headed to two – one at St. Ouen, at the northern part of the city near the Clignancourt metro station, and one at Vanves, on the southern side near the metro station of the same name.
If flea markets bring to mind the pesky little creatures that sometimes torment dogs and their owners, let it be known that there were no shortage of dogs to be found at either of these two flea markets. I can’t guarantee there were no fleas. While their owners tried to peddle everything from chairs to chains, these doggies settled in for the day and made themselves comfortable.
Unlike the flea market at Vanves, where you find lots of mom and pop vendors getting rid of household bric-a-brac, most of the vendors at St. Ouen are professional antiques dealers with bargains few and far between. Still, it’s a fun way to spend a few hours on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday and you never know what you might tote home with you from your day of scavenging.
Need a mahogany and marble fireplace or an ornate grandfather’s clock? You’ll find many here.
You could just as easily take a fancy to a ceramic vase with a scene from mythology.
Or perhaps more utilitarian, but still beautifully made, porcelain dinnerware.
And of course, you’ll need some silverware to go with that dinnerware, right? No shortage here.
Looking for lovely lace children’s frocks? You’ll encounter them in many stalls.
As well as plenty of colorful 18th century frippery.
How about a crown to go with your regalia? You say you want rubies and emeralds? No problem.
There’s even something for brides-to-be, or other fashionistas.
If art is your passion, there are plenty of ways to satisfy your urge, like this wooden medieval sculpture of a madonna and child.
You’ll also find paintings of all styles, including this Cezanne-inspired one.
You’ll need some sustenance to keep plowing through the 17 acres and thousands (yes thousands) of dealers’ stalls. There are cafes and bistros scattered here and there amid the vast expanse.
Nothing like a cafe creme and freshly baked croissant to rev you up for the next flea market.
This is the scene at the Vanves flea market, also held on weekends and right off the bat, you can tell it’s got a more relaxed feel. There are no permanent stalls, just tables set outside. It’s also smaller and easier to navigate in its entirety in just a couple of hours. The vibe is more like what your next-door neighbor might sell at a garage sale, but that’s not to say that some real treasures can’t be found.
Including this beautiful set of dinnerware.
Or hand-embroidered napkins. Oh, that my name were Linda Lincoln, Mary Thomas, or Beverly Vanderbilt. I’d have swooped them up in a second.
Somewhere in the crowd there’s a shoemaker-in-training just waiting to emerge.
Or maybe a blacksmith or carpenter.
There’s some lovely artwork to be found too, whether you like prints…
Or original oil paintings.
Hey, this one looks familiar. But I don’t think it’s an original.
It’s a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Lady with an ermine.” While it’s normally on display in a museum in Krakow, Poland, I had seen it a few days earlier in London at the National Gallery, in a special exhibit of paintings created by Leonardo while he was in Milan.
I found a few trinkets to tuck inside my suitcase, but one of the most enjoyable treats came not from a flea market, but from my metro ride home from Vanves, when I sat across from this petite tresor. There was something about her that made me smile then and still does now. It wasn’t just her spiffy red glasses and matching clothes, nor her jaunty cap. It was also her natural charm and enchanting gaze as she chatted away next to her proud grandmother. She reminded me of a more polished version of Pippi Longstocking, without the braids. I hope she has the same effect on you.