Sunday, July 8, 2012

Marché aux Puce St. Ouen

Early on a Saturday morning in Paris in the spring, the air chilled, feeling tangible and crystalline when swallowed too fully, too generously, I took the metro to the north boundary of the city to explore the renowned and old Marché aux Puce St. Ouen. The market vendors are arranged labyrinthine in a series of corridors, cascading across the landscape, seemingly frenetic primary, secondary, and tertiary organization to the booths and stores built into old building escarpments and alleyways, reminiscent of the meticulous structures and hierarchy of our own archival genetic bodies. In the various shops, jewelry, art, furniture, weaponry and ancient armors, pottery, china, statues, anything and everything abound. A complete amalgamation of the epitome of trash and of treasure. 

At first, I attempted to tackle the task before me in a rational and methodical approach, walking down each aisle, taking note of which had been explored and which still lay ahead, fresh and wild and new. Within moments, this strategy was abandoned; I wandered and meandered, following the acute visual and tactile and olfactory stimuli, rich and wonderful. Since I was a young girl, art deco furniture design has enthralled and captivated me; here, among booths bursting with old oil paintings and waterfalls of costume beads and beheaded baby dolls, I saw the most opulent and beautiful pieces of furniture in my entire life. Unsurprisingly, the samples of Scandinavian furniture were equally splendid, and expensive. Perfect lines and streamlined structures. Never before has perusing antiques incited such passionate lust for a huge home in need of decorating and a huge bank account in need of depleting. 

In one unique booth, artifacts that appeared plucked from the plains of African wilderness; large cream eggs from ostrich, crooked antlers contorted into chandeliers, furs and hides treated and thrown across tables and chairs. In another, I was immediately amidst a samurai army, silent and obedient and opulently protected by intricate and faceted layers, swords still erect and sharp, ready to slice their air and break the skin to find blood. Unfortunately, many of the proprietors frown upon their wares being obviously and copiously photographed; I have never been skilled in the covert camera work, and generally do not have the desire. So, I walked and imbibed with eyes, ears, mouth, nose, without the filter of a device. Photographs cannot capture the true essence and history of these markets, anyway; they must be experienced. I highly recommend the journey to anyone stopping over in Paris for more than a few days.


These antique large industrial film lights, obviously, reminded me of the filmmaker, far and away on another continent. There is something so austere and proper in their posture that I admire. 

In addition to paragons of impeccable and meticulous furniture design, there were countless shops featuring absolutely luxurious and high-end designer vintage costume jewelry, pieces that had been showcased in runway collections and exhibited in fashion editorials decades earlier. Bodacious golden breastplates, long chains, thick cuffs. Again, I was limited both my meager burgeoning young professional funds, as well as my own physical prowess and the limited volume capacity in my suitcase, so, some self-restraint had to be practiced. In the end, I left with a beautiful cream bakelite bangle and a pair of perfectly circular vintage 1960s Nina Ricci sunglasses. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate an appropriate locale for breakfast or brunch of any type, brunch, alas, being a somewhat foreign meal to most in Europe, but the trip was nonetheless a success. Resplendent with vibrant colors and colorful characters, again, these markets deserve a few hours of exploration for anyone interested in antiques, treasures, and odds and ends who finds their way to Paris.


  1. Great photos!
    Your blog is so inspiring, I love it!

  2. That cow hide chaise...LOVE!