Le Crap

Posted by Jenny in Field Trip | 10 Comments

So … I caught you all up on my recent vacation to London. While I was there, I was able to sneak off with my husband for three days in Paris! It was such a short time that we didn’t do a ton of junking, despite my having procured some tips from the creator of the fabulous Visiting Flea Markets and Thrifts in France blog, which conveniently started up just about the time I was starting to plan our trip, and which proves that Americans do not have a monopoly on selling really odd secondhand items. So alas, I didn’t get to visit any crazy thrift stores or brocantes (town-wide group sales). If only I’d had more time!

Instead, we raced around town, strolling through as many neighborhoods and taking in as many sights as we could without driving ourselves crazy. I had to go to the Centre Pompidou to check out some of the modern art … tons of amazing paintings, drawings, and other creations. One of the rooms contained this … assemblage? diorama? installation? I don’t know what to call it. It was an arrangement of famous and not-so-famous paintings from their collection, mixed in with indigenous sculptures from different places and other odd objects (only some of which were described). I’m not actually sure what the point was, but it was cool … and it sort of reminded me of some of the artier estate sales I’ve been to, with interesting items all crammed together on shelves.

Pompidou Centre display

Of course we had to hit some record stores. This was my favorite.

Born Bad

And we did do one thing that’s relevant to this blog: we went the flea market — or “marché aux puces” in French. Puce means flea, so it’s the same term. This food stand there was actually named Puce. I can’t believe that their sign managed to make fleas look so cute.


This is the biggest flea market in Paris, at Porte de Clignancourt. And it was huge indeed! When we got off the subway we made our way through endless rows of outdoor stalls … filled mostly with new crap.

Acres of crap

It was French crap, so at least it had that going for it. But really, it was mostly the same kind of new cheap stuff you’d find in flea markets throughout the world. After walking through what felt like miles of this we knew there had to be some secondhand stuff somewhere, and things took a turn for the better when we ducked into an enclosed area containing an antique mall.

Antique mall in Paris

I just dug up some online information about this flea market, and I’m reading through the descriptions of the different markets and realizing I have no idea where the hell we were. Sorry — I wasn’t taking good notes! But I did take plenty of pictures.

Antique mall stall

There were rows and rows of stalls, upstairs and downstairs, with all sorts of intriguing objects.

Blue room

Some stalls had a particular focus, like this one which specialized in wacky stereo equipment. (The records here weren’t for sale, much to my husband’s disappointment.)

Dig that crazy stereo

There seemed to be a little bit of everything. Really, when do you get to see a primary-colored ’80s chair next to a stuffed mountain goat (or whatever the hell that thing is)?

'80s chair and stuffed mountain goat

There were a ton of things that I loved but had to leave behind. Like these amazing (and huge) chairs. (Yes, that is the ghostly image of me and my husband reflected in the glass.)

Swell chairs

Other stuff was small enough to bring back, but just too pricey. I mean, things seemed to have typical high-end antique-mall prices … then factor in a super-crappy exchange rate, and it just wasn’t worth it. Even though some of it was reeeeally cool.

Very nice French items

There were some stands with tons of funky old books. I cracked up at “Le Crapouillot.” How great would it be if that really were the French word for crap?

Le Crapouillot

I was intrigued by that box of vintage photos, but then realized they were movie stills. Which explained the high prices (I guess). Then I found a box of actual old snapshots. These were cheaper, but still over $2 apiece … not cheap enough to really go crazy. I dug through a little, but didn’t find any that I had to have. They were nice, but not any nicer than the domestic ones I see at sales for way less. (But of course, now that I’m not there, I’m thinking “there must have been some really cool ones in there somewhere!” Sigh.)

Vintage French photos

My husband found a booth with stacks of records that actually were for sale, so I left him to dig through there. Meanwhile, I found one stall with tons of framed prints. Some of them looked like vintage fabric patterns and the woman told me they were indeed textile designs. I loved them, but they were like $100 and up. (And unfortunately, this booth had a “no photos” sign up.) I did find some cheaper framed 19th century hand-colored prints that were really cool, with old botanical and anatomical illustrations, so I picked up a few of those, including one as a gift for Meghan illustrating the anatomy of a mollusk. (Trust me, it’s cooler than it sounds.) The seller was really nice so I asked her if there was an area outside where people were selling used items, and she told me that you could find everything at the flea market. Everything. Then she added that she personally would never shop there.

Walking outside I felt sure that somewhere out there the junk bounty was waiting … and yet, I didn’t really want to spend our precious last few hours in Paris digging through crap! So that was the end of our French flea market experience.

There is only one more thing I must share with you and while it is not truly related to our blog, I feel certain that some of you will appreciate the odd display in this storefront window …

Rats captured in Les Halles

I guess they wanted you to know how well their rat traps work. And their rat poisons, too. (These ones look much perkier. Even though they’re, you know, dead.)

Special Rat

Freaky, huh?

So … it wasn’t the most junk-huntingest vacation ever. But until someone wants to sponsor us to go on a Yard Sale Bloodbath World Tour, it’s going to have to do.

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