When I was a little girl, my maman and uncle Jacques loved to visit the outskirts Paris to 'chiné **; I didn't get it. But now, there is nothing like a day spent at 'Les Puces' (which all Parisian's know means Saint Ouen / Clignancourt). No other flea market in the world compares, which apparently is not a secret since more than 11 million people visit Clignancourt annually. When friends Mo and Jean Charles asked if I wanted to join them on a light fixture hunt, there was no saying 'non'.
|One man's trash is another man's treasure|
The 'flea' market, as we know it today, began on the outskirt of Paris in the late 1880's, when some industrious types began wandering the streets of Paris at night "Moon Fishing" through the discards of the wealthy, then laying their found treasures (or trash as the case may be) on the sidewalks of Clignoncourt to be picked through by people with time to spare and money in their pockets looking for a deal. Little by little word spread, the fashionable began spending their Sunday's wandering the streets, and soon the area became known as a place to find great things.
|Mo negotiating price on some vintage Laguiole knives|
M and JC have been regular customers at the Puces for decades; their beautifully appointed apartment is living proof of that dedication. They know vendors on a first name basis and Mo has an instinct, plus she never gets lost.
|JC takes a seat when we stop at Mo's favorite chandelier merchant (also marble fruit on the right).|
JC on the other hand, has an eye for the unusual and unappreciated - like this hand hammered copper jam pot he found for me with Jonathan for 20E a few years back.
|Purchased in 2009, this jam maker has seen lots of use!|
|Must be lunch time?|
|Baguettes being delivered to Cafes in Clignancourt|
|If you look closely, you can see she is searching for a wine opener|
|La Pericole featuring a 16E, 3 course menu|
|Winter vegetable soup for me, Quiche for JC|
|Followed by a surprisingly tender steak frites|
|Mo ordered Salmon with leek reduction|
|Our neighbors very impressive herring and warm potatoes salad|
Within the Marché known as Clignancourt/Saint Ouen there are more than a dozen smaller Marchés; Serpette is known for it's more up-scale atmosphere, designer (Channel, Hermes and the like) vintage clothing, specialty merchandise and higher price tags.
|Lot's of Louis' in Serpette|
|Also rare and unusual porcelain sets.|
Vernaison, one of the more popular and the first 'organized' marché at Clignancourt (meaning it had stalls, vendors weren't just spreading their stuff out on the street) is a virtual labyrinth of some 300 booths, some of which have been doing continual business since 1920 when this market began.
|Her parents began this (mainly) silver stand in 1920|
In the depths of Vernaison is a restaurant known as "Chez Louisette", which also opened it's doors early on. These days it is known as a fun place to have a beer or glass of wine for a pleasant break or on your way elsewhere to eat; the decor is wild and you will certainly enjoy the many artistes crooning away with pre-WW2 songs a la Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, etc. But, (and I can not emphasize this strongly enough) whatever you do, DON"T eat there.
|One of the many treasure filled alleys of Vernaison|
|Cafe Le Paul Bert|
|No complaints on the Frites at the Paul Bert|
The menu is basic, there are seasonal 'Plats du Jours', and 'Vins du Mois', soups and simmered dishes are served in black Staub pots. Sure, there are tourists, but also regulars and palm reading gypsys; you'll be sitting amongst vendors wining and dining clients, bragging amongst themselves about their latest find or sale. It's an active place with harried waitresses and an entertaining cast of characters. Stick with the simple, or better yet, order what everyone else is eating, and you can't go wrong.
Another fun place to stop for a rejuvenating café or p'tit blanc (miniscule glass of white wine) is this Jazz Manouche place (think Django Reinhardt) It's right on the Rue des Rosiers and I've heard tell from various vendors that the food is terrific too.
|The afternoon entertainment here is a 'don't miss'|
There is a lot to do and see at the Marché Clignancourt. Make a day of it, don't be shy - take the bus!. Oh, Mo found a terrific 50's light fixture for 10E and I came home with these for 20E:
Saturdays 9am - 6pm (best day)
Sundays 10am - 6pm
Mondays 11am to 5pm (many stalls closed)
** Chiné: A French slang expression meaning to pick through stuff/junk looking for treasures (antiques).