On Paris’ northern edge stretches the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. The world’s largest antiques and second-hand market it may be, but a place to find a bargain it isn’t.
Or maybe we were just looking in the wrong places.
After all, you can’t make your way round the entire network of stalls, warehouses and alleyways in one visit. Incredibly, the market covers seven hectares.
We were there last Sunday with our friends Trevor and Martin.
The chaps bought a house in Brighton a couple of years ago and are furnishing it. They’ve gone for a mid-20th century look – my parents’ old teak dining room set and G-Plan adjustable shelving would suit it a treat.
So, they were keeping an eye out for items from the period.
“You can’t make your way round the entire network of stalls, warehouses and alleyways in one visit”
There are four main markets at Saint-Ouen, each with its own specialisation:
- Marché Vernaison – toys, glassware and scientific objects
- Marché Dauphine – books, vintage records, clothing and prints
- Marché Biron – Asian art and antique furniture
- Marché Paul Bert Serpette – 20th century furniture, art and decorative items
The latter was the one that appealed most to them. Damon and I were impressed by some of the beautiful pieces of furniture we saw, even though that period’s not really our style.
After some extensive browsing, they happened upon a beetle wall lamp. Rather taken with it, they asked the stall owner the cost.
“2-2,” she said.
They felt 220€ was a bit steep for a lamp to go in their hallway, so they haggled for a while and got the price down to 150€. The stallholder duly wrapped it and Martin handed over 150€ in cash.
The look on the seller’s face alone told him there had been a misunderstanding.
“1-5 means 1 500€,” she explained. Fortunately, even she saw the funny side.
It transpires that the lamp was a highly collectable piece from the studios of Henri Fernandez and Jacques Duval-Brasseur, two well-known French sculptors from the 1970s.
So, we came away empty-handed. Well, sort of.
While we were making our way round the market, Damon won his very first auction on eBay. It’s a piece of furniture we plan to use in our future cheese-and-wine business.
I hope to have some big news to share about that next week…