Somehow, even castoffs seem chic in Paris. Nowhere is this more true than at the marketplace Parisians simply call “Les Puces,” or “the fleas,” on the north end of the city. Formally known as Le Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, the sprawling market is open Saturday through Monday. Parisians often arrive early on Sundays to avoid the crowds as they prospect for an Art Nouveau brooch, a vintage Chanel jacket, or an Art Deco cocktail shaker to set on a René Drouet mirrored table. Non-Parisians quickly discover that the flea market is more a place to watch Parisians exercise the art of discernment than to practice the sport of bargaining. (No one can quite decline an offer like a Frenchwoman almost imperceptibly curling her upper lip.)
Take the Métro line 4 to Porte de Clignancourt, ignore the tables of cheap clothes along Avenue de Clignancourt until you reach Rue des Rosiers, entry point for the serious dealers in antiques and collectibles. A morning at the market reveals all the shades of meaning in the term récherché. And it could transform you into a magpie, fascinated by all things bright and beautiful.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon