The flea markets of Saint-Ouen!
Located in the north of Paris, or as the Parisiens would say, outside of Paris, as it is located on the other side of Le Peripherique – the circular highway which encapsulates the city. This highway also acts as a type of barrier between ‘Paris’ and le bonlieu (the ‘down-market’ suburbs, as opposed to the upmarket arrondissements of Paris. Funny the word bonlieu – bon meaning good and lieu meaning place – the Parisiens who live within the confines of Le Peripherique certainly do not look upon the bonlieu as a good place – in recent years it has been the site of social disorder and unrest). Many visitors to Paris do not venture out to the ‘other side’, however, there are some interesting and beautiful things to see….The Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is one of them (I should also mention the Bois de Vincennes and the Bois de Boulogne, which I hope to discuss in a future post).
When you first exit the metro station at the Porte de Clignancourt and follow hoards of people you enter a crazy world of mad bargainers and store holders selling everything from handicrafts and CDs, imitation Louis Vuitton bags to clothing, used household appliances to books. As you walk by, people yell out to you ‘Buy this, I’ll give it to you for a good price’ or ‘Genuine leather jackets at only a fraction of the price you’d buy them in Le Bon Marche’. It’s a bit chaotic, people everywhere, with French rap music playing in the background…..
But once you wade through this madness you enter a new world of beauty and serenity – the antique markets! Here classical music plays as you leisurely meander through the streets of amazing antique furniture and homewares. The images below cannot do it justice – the labyrinth streets seem to be endless and there are antique stores as far as the eye can see – I spent a good few hours strolling through these markets, stopping every now and then to admire the treasures (I find French antiques absolutely amazing, beautiful, breathtaking – there is an awe inspiriny store in Sydney called The County Trader http://www.thecountrytrader.com.au/ were I can get a regular fix without having to spend a few thousand dollars on an airfare to Paris.) However, being in Paris and seeing these amazing pieces, the feeling and the experience cannot be faithfully re-created in Sydney.
As the sun set behinds the buildings of Paris (I was here in February, so the days were incredibly short – it was dark by 4pm) and the day drew to a close, the store holders slowly packed up their wares – there is no rush for these people – I even came across a few of them sitting together having a chat over some hot coffee and pastries (true to form, the French love their pastries).
Compared to prices in Australia, I found the antique markets quite reasonable. But even if you are not in the market to make a purchase or two (I would have loved to buy a few things, however the practicality of shipping it to Australia made me reconsider) it is a lovely way to spend a day in Paris.
Photos from my personal collection