Since I had a ‘nuit noir’ last night and slept in, I decided early this morning to head up to the Flea Market – Marshe de les Puces – up at Porte de Clignancourt at the end of the hot pink line (#4). The Paris metro is color coded like a pantone swatch book; you better you know your chartreuse green (line #9) from your olive green (line #3) or you could end up at Robespierre instead of Richelieu.
Coming up from the Metro at Clignancourt you are inundated with sunglass and tennis shoe barkers from North Africa. In fact these cheap clothing vendors swarm the old flea market like flies on an old horse. After a few blocks you finally reach the shops and stalls of antiques, brocantes (second-hand items), and artists’ wares. There are numerous stores devoted to 2nd Empire, Art Deco, and Mid-century modern – not to mention ethnic vendors from China, Morocco,and Thailand. Also popular is that steam-punkish looking stuff we see at Restoration Hardware in the states – old file cabinets, industrial lamps and rough-hewn work tables designed to look older than they are.
I think Ralph Lauren started the fetishizing of the ‘old money’ look. Paris doesn’t have to try, it already has it – layers of history and architectural styles. Deep in the heart of the converging alleys is a pleasantly old world bistro with its own Edith Piaf impersonator. The layout of the market resembles the souk in Marrakesh and the ‘Casablanca’ like cast of characters includes Parisian doyennes, muscled gay men, Georgian (US) housewives and Georgian (the Caucasus) immigrants; all looking for a piece of majolica or a 70s Lucite end table.
The texture and patina everywhere is so comforting and dense you can understand why decorators the world over are drawn to it. There are stalls devoted to old doll heads, mirror frames, leather club chairs, and one consisting entirely of old key chains – for a euro a piece. Don’t worry, you can also spend 20,000 euros for a Louis XIV commode. And they ship, I suppose anywhere, but I bet quite a few shippping containers have made their way to our little ole town on the Prairie. Dallas is the Loire Valley of Texas after all.
I headed home for lunch in the Marais and then out again to wander the area around Canal St. Martin. Students and locals alike were having their picnics along the canal – drinking rose wine with their ‘McDo’ hamburgers. We are experiencing an ete l’indien (Indian summer). Though the high is only about 80 degrees the sun can feel hot in the middle of the day and air-conditioning does not exist. Once the locks of the canal opened, a few motorboats and a house boat made their way towards the Seine. The late middle-aged owners happily half-naked and completely tanned cruising down this urban waterway as if it were the cote d’azur.
The schedule on Sundays for grocery stores, restaurants and shops is a mystery to me – some were open, some closed, some opened for an hour or 2. My larder is getting bare so I may have to head down to more ‘touristie’ areas where I know I can find a crepe or a felafel sandwich.