What an odd name. I don’t know about you but I don’t love fleas. The name certainly conjures the right side of seedy underbelly that the markets can be traced back to, but not the allure and charm of antique treasures, mid-century finds, uncommon goods, and/or battered brick-a-brack in need of a little attention and creativity to give it a second life. Known to by many other names – Trash and Treasure in Australia, Swap Meet in some English speaking countries, Flomart in Germany, and Marche Aux Puces in Quebec and France.
Russell Carrell is credited for bringing it to prominence here in the states. An East Coast antique show organizer, Russell thought an outdoor antique market might have success, similar to outdoor auctions that he held. The prohibitive cost of insurance meant that no tent could cover the vendors wares, but didn’t deter enthusiasts from engaging in the hunt.
The history of Paris’ Flea Market extends back a little further in time than that of America, to the 1800’s. Rag and Bone Men also known as “pecheurs de lune” – night fishermen, were vagabonds that lived on the outskirts of Paris near the Port de Clignancourt (now the site of one of these flea markets). They would scour the streets at night looking for objects left on the street – or sometimes a little less legally, liberate owners of ojbects they wanted. They would display their finds on the ground for sale to those travelors making their way from Paris to the Port and destinations unknown.
Les Marche aux Puces is now the world’s largest Flea Market. Open Saturday’s, Sunday’s and some vendors on Monday. The Paris Saint-Ouen Flea Market spans 17 acres, and in 2001 was designated an Architecture Heritage Site. The market is held both indoors and out, with the less precious items, tee shirts, posters, videos, and a whole host of what I consider junk is closest to the metro. Beware, this is where tourists come in droves, and pick pockets will relieve you of wallets and cash faster than you say “bargain”. There are guides that can help you navigate through this section to the real finds, and help you ship your treasures back home. They are not inexpensive, but if furnishings are what you are after, you’ll need to buy-into a crate that makes its way back to the states via boat. Managing the logistics of that is better left to an expert, particularly if you don’t speak the language. The Paris Apartment – www.parisapartment.com is a wonderful resource for finding just such a guide.
If you find yourself lucky enough to visit adhere to the following:
No fancy clothes or flashing jewelry – No big purse – carry your money close to the vest and don’t flash it around – Only one ATM on site and almost all the vendors will not accept credit cards – cash only.
While you are reading this, I will be up to my elbows in antiques. Follow me on Instagram @jackiefalla to see up to the moment finds. Bon Voyage a moi!