Portrait of Francesco della Opere by Pietro Perugino (1445-1494)
All of the above postcards were collected by Diane at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
INSIDER’S FLEA FINDS
It is fast and adventurous to take the Metro to these flea markets. A taxi is speedy and direct. Note that the merchandise, dealers, and quality change dramatically from day to day and from season to season at all flea markets. One day at the Porte de Vanves or Clignancourt can be brilliant, with one stall after another stacked with superb and sparkling objets d’art and quality furniture. The following day can be dull and uninspiring, with churlish dealers, closed stalls, junky offerings, and grabby and crabby collectors.
Head out early, with optimism and a goal. Meet friends. Chat to the dealers, ask about their wares, and in the process learn to love the French heritage, decorative arts, and Gallic culture. Stop for coffee or lunch at one of the cafes and bakeries near the flea markets. A salade Nicoise, a croque-monsieur, an apple tart and a glass of Evian taste superb when you’ve been wandering through flea markets since dawn!
Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen at Porte de Clignancourt
At this oldest and greatest of the classic Parisian flea markets you’re likely to see Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, New York designer Vicente Wolf, and top San Francisco interior designers like Steven Volpe, Stephen Shubel, Candra Scott and Richard Anderson, Myra Hoefer, Kendall Wilkinson and Vaughan Woodson searching and buying. Most of the stalls are permanent and the goods at some markets are of the highest quality.
Style pilgrims head straight to the rue des Rosiers and the Marche Paul-Bert ( 96 rue des Rosiers) and Marche Serpette (110 rue des Rosiers) and if they have time walk to the serpentine Marche Vernaison (99 rue des Rosiers).
Style tip: start with a café crème at 20, rue Paul Bert, at the bar of the Paul-Bert café (shoulder to should with the dealers). Fortified, walk past the side-walk dealers to La Petite Maison, half a block along rue Paul-Bert. It’s unsigned, and hidden behind a hedge. Stephane Olivier offers a cabinet of curiosities of statuary, natural history, oddities, the rare and the poetic. Don’t miss.
Every season, and every day is different at these markets, and collectors expect surprises. I’ve been there in the heat of summer, with no-one else around. I’ve wandered around in the snow—magical. I like the chic outdoor stalls along the inner perimeter, where women dealers editor and style tiny booths and stalls with monochromatic rigor.
Among the best stalls at Paul-Bert and Serpette are long-term dealers selling Swedish chests, the finest vintage jewelry, antique Louis Vuitton steamer trunks and vintage Hermes scarves , Venetian mirrors, provincial kitchenware, delicate watercolors, Provencal ceramics, fine crystal, Art Deco dressing tables, cane chairs, cameos, rare posters, turn-of-the-century postcards, dingy-but-charming oil paintings, vintage couture dresses and jewelry, and venerable white embroidered table linens. When you discover something you love, buy it on the spot. It won’t be there later.
Lunch and watch the goings-on at the Paul-Bert café. The cuisine is serviceable, including hearty French pot au feu, seasonal salads, and OK selections of wine.
Open Saturday, Sunday, Monday 8am-7pm. Insider tip: if you are a dealer or decorator or supremely confident and serious about collecting, you can venture to Clignancourt on Friday morning, dealers’ day. Be very low-key, ask prices only, and you may find treasures before they’re picked over.
Avenue J-H. Fabre and Avenue Michelet, and rue des Rosiers, St-Ouen.
Metro: Porte de Clignancourt.
Marche aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves
One of the oldest street markets, with over 200 vendors, This is a relaxing neighborhood in which to spend hours poking through antiques you can probably afford. Old chairs, 18th-century etchings, embroidered textiles, paintings, Hermes belts, silver-gilt mirrors, and kitsch all tumble from the backs of dealers’ trucks and vans from as far away as Rome and Brussels. Some (most!) of the furniture,oil portraits, cabinets, garden chairs, decanters, vases and other household goods are probably not as old as the dealers claim. Everything, in dealer parlance, is always “late 18th-century” but just how many chairs and tables and mirrors could Louis XVI and friends have sat on? Be very sceptical about “documented’ dates, and judge the style, the rarity. Bargain in a friendly manner--this is a very low-key place and prices are extremely fair. Dealers want to sell. Insider tip: Sunday is often best, because on Saturdays, dealers have been out in the countryside picking over estate sales, chateau attics and fairs.
Open Saturday and Sunday, and Monday 7am-1pm.
Porte de Vanves, Porte Didot, 14th arrondissment.
Avenue Georges Labenestre and rue Marc Sangnier.
Metro: Porte de Vanves.
Marche aux Puces de la Place d’Aligre
This is a small, impromptu, grab-bag neighborhood flea market adjacent to an outdoor vegetable market. Dealers set out odds and ends of varying quality and odd charm. Only for true flea market aficionados looking for unedited, vintage-in-the-raw. Go early in the morning to find bric-a-brac, cooking utensils, odd lots of furniture, books, vintage clothing, textiles, rugs--depending on the day and the season. After pocketing a lamp or glassware for pennies, head (on Sundays) to the rest of the marketplace, which is like an African souk, scented with coriander and mint. Taste Portuguese ham, wines, breads, and Spanish products. Closes 1pm.
Place d’Aligre, 112th arrondissement.
Metro: Ledru-Rollin or Gare de Lyon.