Ask anyone, my sergeant-major voice is reserved for my husband. So when I donned my most convincingly authoritative pitch to inform my family that they were to immediately extract themselves from their warm bed-cacoons, eyes were raised to the ceiling. We were going to be the early birds at Porte de Clignancourt—damn it!—home to Les Puces de Saint-Ouen.
As it so happens, the French are a little more laissez-faire about their winter flea hours, especially given the crack of dawn hour on a blustery Saturday. Be forewarned, this is not Paris’ most attractive arrondissement (18th): pique-pockets, beggars, and bad architecture abound. However, be prepared for seven hectares of buying bliss. And also be advised to skip the entire Roman numeral spectrum of Louis furniture and mirrors if you are more inclined towards the specialized and unusual.
And specialized and unusual it was! Hands down our favorites were the Marché Biron, (85 rue des Rosiers) and Serpette (110 rue des Rosiers). Rue Paul Bert is fun too, more relaxed with Cafe Paul Bert right in the heart of the market—a lively bustling hub with amazingly hearty meals—Pot de Feu aux des legumes Anciens. Don’t mind if I do! What kind of blew my mind was the quality of vintage clothing and jewelry. Vintage Dior, Givenchy, Chanel, Saint Laurent, Lanvin and my favorite Miriam Haskell—undoubtedly the best I have ever seen but prohibitively expensive.
At the end of the day, the only thing we were able to walk away with was a small oil from the Marche Dauphine, a portrait of a French Military officer, dated 1941, and bearing the following inscription: Bien Amicalement.
Bien Amicalement, indeed!
All Photographs by Philippa Berrington-Blew and Craig Strydom
The Caledonian Mining Expedition Company