Let's face it. We all like a good buy when we travel -- a souvenir, something special to bring home, maybe as a gift or just to treasure. And yes, in Paris you can go to some of the wonderful stores like Le Bon Marche, Galleries Lafayette, Printemps or BHV Marais. But it's even a little more fun to bring home something you've found at a flea market, brocante or vides grenier.
My friend Jerry is a master at finding wonderful items (and knowing how to bargain for them! So, come with us to a few spots!
By and large, you will find the higher end items at the large markets like Clingancourt or Vanves. If you are looking for a print or an antiquarian book, you'll find it there.
You'll also find many printed pieces -- magazines, leaflets, and things with every possible subject. At Vanves, bought a lovely Japanese art print and a Le Petit Journal that featured a cycling cover to frame for Rick.
Items will be large and small, heavy and light.
I rather liked this tray!
But if you are looking for small, easy to pack items, you won't be disappointed. It's easy to find such things as this button display, along with jewelry, small frames and miniatures.
Paris quite regularly has street sales and flea markets. The best way to get info about them is to have a flea-market-loving friend in Paris! But chances are your B&B host or hotel can guide you to good information.
You are likely to find a mix of things here -- higher end items but more reasonably priced things and lots of smaller, easy to pack items. (Bring bubble wrap, if you think you might search for something fragile -- or pick some up while you are out shopping, so you don't have to protect your purchases wrapping them in your underwear and socks!)
This elegant accordion may be a good candidate for shipping home!
How about a few silver spoons as souvenirs? Or other small but lovely pieces? Chances are you can find them here.
At this fair, I bought a small children's book. I really should run it through Google Translate! And I still wish I'd bought this little fish dish!
If you happen to have access to a car and are taking a road trip, you may be lucky enough to find a vides grenier in the charming towns and villages along the way.
At spots like this you are more likely to find things similar to a neighborhood tag sale -- children's toys, games, even lawn furniture. If I saw these cute chairs at home, I probably would have purchased them in a heartbeat!
There's a different feel to the small town vides greniers. Items tend to be more recent but you can still find some pretty interesting things that have come from the attic, like grandma's crystal liqueur glasses or great grandpa's WWII memorabilia.
Here are a few tips for making your flea market shopping all the more fun -- and successful.
Finding one: If you speak, read or can translate French, here's a website on finding spots in Paris. It will tell you basic location info, hours, maximum number of vendors and some entries may have photos. Just copy the text and run through google translate.
Language skills. Chances are your vendor is as fluent in English or your language as you are in theirs (which, if you are American, is highly unlikely!) If possible, go with someone who speaks French (I was lucky to have Jerry with me -- and he's a master at bargaining!) Or, learn a few "shopping phrases" yourself. (If you are like me, you may know how to ask "how much" but it also helps to know your numbers so you can understand the answer!) Think about what you would ask if shopping in your own country and commit those phrases to memory in French!
Start Early! Check the hours and start out early. Some of the larger markets close down early or are only open on weekends.
Carry cash. If you are shopping for small items, 50 euros may be more than enough.
Bring a bag -- you may well not get one from the vendor. A fold-up tote is idea for most small purchases. And remember, if you buy "too much" to pack, you can always post it home!
If you're lucky, like Jerry, you'll be able to furnish your home with beautiful finds that will always remind you of your holiday in France!
Here are a few more resources: "Markets of Paris" by Dixon and Ruthanne Long; Paris Discovery Guide's Paris flea market section, or google "Paris Brocantes," "Paris Flea Markets," or "Paris Vides Greniers."
This post is part of Paris in July, a month long blogging event hosted by Tamara at Thyme for Tea with links to posts about books, film, music, travel, food and Parisian life!