I have just returned from our adventures in Paris and am absolutely shattered- if only from driving a massive van clearly not designed for girls!
The van we took this time was massive- we needed a crew van because Steve joined us on our expedition and a transit only has two passenger seats. If I was worried about driving the transit-that was nothing compared to this beast! I hired it from a company called lobster van hire!
The van was ok to drive but being a girl with small feet I found it incredibly uncomfortable to drive because I couldn’t rest my heel on the floor with my foot on the clutch, which really does your calves in! I will take this into consideration when I come to buying my own van! We got to Paris about 11pm and by the time we had met the guy who was to let us into our Parisian apartment for the next 4 nights (I decided this would be a better option with the girls and financially so we wouldn’t have to eat out every night- check out airbnb.com- you can rent peoples apartments/houses while they’re away and live like you actually come from that city! Steve’s neice put me onto it and I was really impressed!) it was about 11.30pm. I then sent Steve out on a wine run while I unpacked and put the girls to bed with lovely clean teeth. About 15minutes later Steve bounds back in really chuffed with himself armed with McDonalds- I was really pleased when he went and got the girls back up again to eat Big Macs! Very little sleep was achieved that night and I got us all up again the next morning at 6.30am to attack the first flea market on my list!
We checked out a market called ‘Marche aux Puces (French for flea market) de la Porte de Vanves. This market is south of the Seine. I let Steve do the driving (mainly because I was too scared to try to park the van!)- I have never seen anything like the roundabouts in Paris. They are huge and have a million different exits off them and no distinct lanes! They are a massive free-for-all. If you’ve got a weak heart I would definitely recommend never driving in Paris! So arriving there in one piece (and not having to pay to park because all parking is free in Paris on weekends it appears) we began to wander. Shortly into our wander Steve pointed out there wasn’t a lot of furniture and I began to worry. I had also written a little note next to this particular market on the market list had pre-prepared ‘?not good for furniture’ so it wasn’t boding well. Also any furniture I had seen and liked was crazily over priced. Anyway the further we delved the better things were- the market wasn’t huge (compared to the flea market in Tongeren, Belgium- you can read about it here) but spanned over a couple of streets and we found quite a few retro chairs and a desk plus a nice antique style oak wardrobe. I think overall this market was my second favourite of the trip. Although it’s not huge the content was pretty good, the atmosphere was good and you can find yourself some bargains if you delve deep enough. There were also some really weird and wonderful treasures to be found!
On day two we were en route to Marche aux Puces de St Ouen when we stumbled across a market in Vincennes. I did a bit of research to try to find out what the market was called but l’m pretty sure if was a market on purely for the bank holiday weekend. I think there is a market in Vincennes but it’s more foody and is on a Saturday and Wednesday. The one we stumbled across was really good. I bought a couple of retro leather chairs and by now was getting a lot more confident in the bartering and getting to grips with French numbers. I was fairly impressed with how much GCSE French I remembered. I have Mrs Howes to thank for that!
After we’d exhausted that market-or rather the market had exhausted the girls we headed on to the Marche aux Puces De St Ouen. And I have never seen anything like it. It was HUGE! It was described online as Europe’s biggest flea market. I am not surprised-apparently there are 15 markets all in one. Each area of the market appeared to be very different. The first part we arrived was called Paul Bert and Steve described it as ‘Battlesbridge on meth’. Anyone who ever visited Battlesbridge Antique centre in Essex will know that it is basically people selling lots of over priced junk! This place was like that except the junk was more extravagant and more outrageously priced. Worth a look though!
On leaving that area we stopped for moules and frites. And the customer service was nothing I’ve never seen before! An American guy seated behind us complained that all his mussels were empty shells. The owner came out to speak to him and said that the mussels might be at the bottom of the bowl. The customer said that ‘no, they weren’t’ and so the owner took his bowl away and said ‘ok, goodbye’!
The next area we went in was a slightly dulled down version of this and then we entered an area which was a little bit grubby and I think there may have been a few opportunist stall holders who had thrown down a bit of cloth and any old bits of rubbish they’d managed to put their hands to! Then we moved onto an area which had loads of stalls selling tracksuits and trainers! I’m sure had we have stayed and explored more we may have found some decent areas but I was feeling uncomfortable in the area we were in and the girls had certainly had enough. The reviews I’d read about this market weren’t great and I have to say I wasn’t keen!
Our final market trip on the Monday was Les Puces de Montreuil. This was more of a market than a flea market. The first area we walked through was all ram shackle market stalls with all sorts of junk-it was quite unsavoury! Then we headed down the road and found a beautiful chair. This however was the only stall selling furniture and this chair was the only nice piece! Moving further into the market it became apparent I was not going to find any thing of interest. There were mainy stalls selling new but cheap and nasty clothes. One little gem though- I found a stall selling upholstery material at a price so good I still can’t work out how the stall holder makes any sort of profit!
I’m sure there are many other flea markets in Paris but if I had to recommend one to go to if you like that sort of thing I would have to say the market in Vincennes was my favourite but since it’s not there all the time check out Marche aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves.
Oh, and we did manage to squeeze in a bit of site seeing!