When to shop at Paris’s Marché aux Puces?
ANYTIME is good shopping time at Paris’s (and maybe the world’s) best flea market. But if you want to avoid the usual crowds aim at a time, like now, when the Spring calendar in France is full of holidays and the tourists are not yet in full force. Yesterday was one of those days; my friend, Connie, and I took Metro line #4 to the Porte de Clignancourt station just north of Paris in St. Ouen . To reach the Marcé aux Puces, with its fabled 2,000 dealers covering 18 acres, we walked about 5 minutes on blvd Ornano toward the Peripherique (the ring road around Paris) turning left onto the rue des Rosiers, the Flea Market’s main street. (check our I Know A Little Place iPhone app for detailed directions).
We were limited to a few hours since Connie was headed for a chateau weekend with friends in Normandy, so we headed straight for two never-fail market stops: Paul Bert and Serpette. The best shopping always seems to come when, rather than a specific item, your mind and eye are unencumbered and you allow yourself open to possibilities.
In Serpette, we lingered and savored the new finds at old favorites: Olwen Forest for vintage costume jewelry coveted by celebrities and Alain Zisul at Le Monde De Voyage, for perhaps the best collection of Vuitton trunks and luxury luggage (see “People You Need to Know”).
Then, it happened; as the French say Connie had a “Cri du Coeur.” There it was – it called to her, it sang to her from the glass display case of a porcelain stand – a 1940s coffee set (complete with 8 cups and saucers) in a vibrant yellow with whimsical dark blue polka dots and stylized flower motif. How could she have lived so long without it? After some bargaining (best accomplished with fewer competitors) it was packed carefully and we were off. I’m thinking about going back soon to follow up on a discontinued Chanel bag I spotted at Alain’s before it’s gone – a common fate for those who hesitate. (Unless you are a dealer, the best hunting hours are from around 10am to 6pm Saturday and Sunday, with some stands closing earlier).