We’ve visited street markets around the world but none can compare to the ones in Paris. There are well over a dozen markets in the city, but the most famous is at Porte de Clignancourt, officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but known to everyone as Les Puces (The Fleas). It’s a must-visit, right up with the Louvre and Montmartre.
We must confess it wasn’t on our radar. Fortunately, we had turned to Allison Isambert, a Californian living in Paris, to plan our week-long visit. We don’t usually use these kinds of concierge services, but we wanted our time here, our first stay in a couple of decades, to be memorable. Allison (https://www.towertobridgetours.com/ ) was recommended to us by a travel-savvy friend.
In the weeks prior to our arrival, she helped us hone our to-do list, made restaurant reservations, suggested tours, advised on transportation and so much more. It was like having a best friend in Paris. One who could suggest a lunch spot near a museum, or how to fill a couple of hours between tours, or introduce you to the perfect French breakfast snack. What could be better than that?
Allison chose to guide us personally through Les Puces. We’re glad she did. Navigating the neighborhoods and markets’ labyrinth is challenging even for locals.
The flea markets date back over two centuries when rag and bone men scoured Paris garbage at night to find valuable junk to sell. Some set up stalls in the city but were chased outside the city walls to Clignancourt.
Our visit there was an adventure, that started with a lesson from Allison on how to use the Paris underground. At our exit, we set off down Rue des Rosiers, the route into the separate markets. The markets run into each other – sometimes it wasn’t obvious where one began or ended. It would be easy to get lost in this maze. More than once we were happy Allison was leading the way.
Each market has its own vibe, ranging from flea market eclectic to high-end decor for your personal Versailles. Along the winding streets of Vernaison, one of Allison’s favorite haunts, there are accents for decorating your flat, hard-to-find additions for quirky collections or one-of-a-kind mementos for your Paris trip. Ron kept gravitating to Japanese Samurai armor while Mary loved the galvanized garden goods.
At the high-end market here like Paul Bert, expensive antiques, paintings, and architectural salvage draw designers from around the world. Bill Gates is said to have shopped here for furnishings for his Seattle mansion. Don’t leave home without a fat checkbook if you plan to purchase anything here.
This much window shopping works up an appetite. We settled into Allison’s favorite, Cafe le Paul Bert, for an excellent, satisfying lunch – and a toast to our new bestie in France. Merci beaucoup Allison!