This last trip to Paris was the first time that I had ever visited the world famous Paris Flea Market, Marche aux Puces de Saint-Oven. I have been to the Porte de Vanves Flea Market four times before, but had never made the St. Ouen a priority. From what I had read it sounded like this flea market was more expensive and possibly a bit stuffy. But now I regret holding onto that information, that is not what I found at all. It was lovely. And I also found many great deals.
I went on a Monday morning. It is open Saturday-Monday. I took the metro line 4 to the Porte de Clingnancourt station. When I exited I had about a 10 minute walk to the flea market. I followed the signs and used my phone as guide. It wasn’t the most scenic neighborhood to walk through and there were a lot of vendors with random stuff on the way to the flea market. But it was worth it. If you have seen Lupin (I recommend) on Netflix, his longtime friend owns a shop in this flea market. I can see where they found the charm to include the setting in the series.
When I arrived at the market I was pleasantly surprised. This market has a permanent set up of stalls that just like little shops. This is much different than the Porte de Vanves market, where it is just temporary tables with goods set up on the street. The benefit of permanent stalls is that some were beautifully curated, it was a real treat to walk through the spaces and get inspiration. There was a large variety of styles and prices. Some were filled with fancy furnishings that looked like they could belong in a museum, and some were more casual and some were not curated at all and there were just piles of treasures to sift through. I appreciated all of the above.
As for the prices. Yes, there were some expensive price tags, and I respected that. Some of those pieces history filled pieces were so unique and so beautiful it must have taken a lot of time and money for the vendor to find. They should get paid a fair amount. But I also found a lot of things that were in my price range, which is more the bargain range versus museum range. I am not sure if going on a Monday, the last day of the week, that it helped that people were more open to a discount. But I was thrilled. I found several beautiful paintings. One in which I thought was my least favorite of all the paintings I purchased, but it found its way onto my mantel at home and has never left.
I loved this set of apothecary jars that I found. The vendor had them set out in front of his booth offering a discount if you bought multiple. I picked out 4 of them and paid him for them. He let me leave them in his booth while I shopped, this is a pretty standard thing I have found most vendors will do to make shopping easier. But make sure you make note of where your purchases are waiting for you, this market is big with tiny squiggly streets that all look very similar. When I circled back around he offered me the complete set at a further discount. I am so glad I took him up on it. I was able to get them home by packing them in hard shell suitcases wrapped in linen, some I checked and some I carried on and they all made it perfectly.
I found linens and I found some reasonable prices on a couple sheets. But I think the prices and selection for these is a bit better in Porte de Vanves, I definitely understand it can vary from day to day at both places, but that was my experience. However the area that this market really shined with linen is the unique toiles. There was one linen shop that had piles, and piles of remnant antique fabrics. I found so many unique pieces. The owner of this shop was not offering very discounted prices, but it was worth it for me to make a pile and she offered me a price for it all. I suppose I should tell you that I am not an aggressive bargainer. It’s just not me. I know first hand the amount of work that goes into the job of selling antiques, so if the price seems fair and works for my business then I usually just pay it. There are times when it feels right to offer a better a price, and I will take advantage of that, and really the worst thing that can happen is they say no. Also I found that if its something I am waffling on, if I set it down and start to walk away, the vendor might offer a better price. I tell you all this so you know what kind of shopper you are receiving advice from, but you do what is best for you in the bargaining department, there is no shame in any of it.
Because the market was more of permeant set up, there were some vendors who took credit cards which was a nice surprise. However cash is king if you want a deal and some vendors only took cash. I didn’t have trouble locating a nearby ATM when I needed it, although it was a bit of a quick walk off the flea market property.
Also this market felt similar to Porte de Vanves in the amount of English that was spoken. Most people spoke enough English to carry on a bit of conversation, however I always try my very basic French first. I feel like I get a warmer response when I do this, and we were in France after all. Some of the vendors didn’t speak any English, but we wiggled our way through our transactions with very broken French and hand gestures and it worked out. I had very kind and positive interactions with all vendors.
I finished up seeing all I could see after about 3-4 hours. From what I understand there is a lot more, it would take days and multiple visits to see every stall. And there were many stalls closed, I am not sure if that is because Monday is a less busy day, or what the reason was, whatever the case there was PLENTY. I don’t regret not staying longer, that was good, successful trip for and I was totally loaded down by the end. There was no way that I could walk to the metro and take the train. I took an Uber back the airbnb and it was perfect. This will be my routine going forward, as much as I enjoy the metro, I don’t need to do it carry 5 bags of a mix of fragile antiques and heavy linens. Non merci.
I wrote about the Porte de Vanves Market here in case you need more Paris Flea Market information.
During my big trip to France with my kids, I wanted to add a small town experience. A friend of mine who always offers the best advice whether it is about dry shampoo, restaurants, where to travel to, or parenting recommended this town. Through experience she has earned no questions asked when following her recommendations. Even my husband knows it will be good if Toni recommends it. So when she raved about the French town Annecy, it immediately went on our trip itinerary. I am so glad I listened. It is so incredibly WONDERFUL. It is a town very close to the Swiss border and is a picturesque on a lake surrounded by mountains. I was told this is area is considered the Pre-Alps. As soon as we left the train station I was hit with the feeling that the quality of life here is what I would imagine it would be if I lived in a snow globe. A charming snow globe. The air was so clean and the lake was crystal blue. People seemed to be leisurely enjoying their lives. I saw families picking up their kids from school, then walking onto the playground on the Lake to meet friends. And people slowly enjoying cafe meal. The pace seemed much slower and more enjoyable. It somehow felt so magical that I couldn’t believe any worldly problems could exist here, just like living in a snow globe. It felt so happy.
We spent 2 nights in Annecy and enjoyed every minute. We just did a lot of wandering, eating, and inspired by the locals took it slow during our two days here. We sat by the lake a lot and the younger kids played at the park. I would have liked to bike around the lake, but it didn’t happen, hopefully there will be a next time.
In Annecy we stayed in the center of the old town in a lovely, clean airbnb, with just the right amount of room. It was just a couple minute walk from the lake and right in the center of all the shops, and only about a 10 minute walk to the train station. I really enjoyed the windows and the views out onto the street, canal, and a restaurant next door. Not that I spent time starring at people while they ate at the restaurant, but there was something very happy catching glimpses of people enjoying a meal through the kitchen window. My kids loved the layout with one bedroom with bunk beds, another bedroom with double bed, and then the living room had a fold out sofa that folded out into two twin beds.
Underneath our apartment there was a Falafel Restaurant, Ali baba. It was yummy, affordable, and fast. It was perfect for big lunch to keep everyone happy. We went three times :). We also had a couple lovely meals along the canal, where the setting was a perfect compliment to a fresh margherita pizza (a staple for us). And gelato, they had that too, in so many flavors, SO MANY. No one ever got a bad flavor.
Getting to Annecy from Paris was my most brave endeavor on the trip. I strongly encourage everyone to try the train, I just think you might need to have a bit of a sense of humor about it. I found that buying 2 day Eurail passes for us was hundreds of dollars cheaper than just buying train tickets for our trip. However, figuring out how to get all the QR codes that I needed was a challenge I hadn’t anticipated. We ended up needing to transfer trains once each way, so we took a total of 4 trains. Some trains needed reservations, some didn’t. Some trains had assigned seating, some did not. It was a lot. We sat in someone else’s seats once. We also sat in First class instead of Second like our purchased tickets. And I never had ALL the right QR codes, one for our Eurail pass and one for reservation. But everyone and every conductor was so kind to me, especially when they saw that I was traveling with 4 kids. No one was really helpful, because it just didn’t seem like anyone really knew how to use the Eurail app. I was able to present enough information to show that I was fully paid, but it was never exactly what the conductor was looking for. However they made us feel welcome and we didn’t get kicked out of first class. I would do it again and again, but know was not going to be perfect. And also it should be noted the time between connecting trains is not very generous, we made it both times but its quick. Make sure you are prepared for a mad dash. Everything in France seemed to operate at a leisurely pace, EXCEPT catching a train, then it turns to pandemonium. But again, totally worth it!! Embrace the pandemonium and you will likely have an exciting story to share.
I had really good for me fortune that our stay in Annecy overlapped with the monthly flea market. As far as I can remember it was purely a coincidence, but who knows maybe I subconsciously lined up our dates to make shopping in the flea market possible, that is highly likely.
Whatever the case, I sure was happy I was able to shop the flea market. It was an experience to treasure. I don’t think I will ever get over the charm of the setting AND then to add my favorite pastime of flea market shopping. It was the best. I found a lot of good things, and in my opinion the prices were the best that I have shopped in France in comparison to Paris and Provence. I found a couple paintings and dishes. There was an incredible booth with copper pieces, I had to bring something home from there. I ended up purchasing a stunning large pitcher, the copper with its large scale got me.
I felt like I hit the jackpot with linens. There was one booth that was fully stocked with beautiful, clean sheets, tea towels, and handkerchiefs. I was in heaven. And I admired all the antique furniture pieces and dreamt about having an apartment there to furnish. I highly recommend this market.
Annecy is very special and I am so glad I got to experience it. I hope to be back. My kids loved it too. This is a spot that I think any and all ages would enjoy.
If you would like to know more about our travels to Paris you can find it in this post.