Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Brocante

Hey Everyone!  It is spring break this week which means my husband on vacation.  We have been working on a few projects here at home, like hanging curtains in the family room.  Let's see, vacation vs curtains, vacation vs curtains...which do I pick?   Seriously, who knew it would take $500+ to complete the task?  I didn't or I may have never started.  $400 for 4 panels, $80 rods and $50 for rings to hang the drapes.  Should I mention now that I think I need one one panel?  I'm going to live with it for a couple weeks since that panel will translate to yet another $120.  We might rather do something fun this week instead.

I was also glad Deb gave me a reprieve on blog at the beginning of the week since it has given me the time to work a little each morning on this post.  I have so many pictures of the Paris flea markets to share and you didn't need to see every one!  So lets get on with it (and I will stop moping about the cost of the curtains and remember the beauty of France).

I went to two flea markets or Brocantes while I was in Paris.  The first was the Port de Vanves that is open every weekend from 7am to 1pm.
The market is located in the 14th Arrondissement: avenue Marc Sangnier and avenue Georges Lafenestre.  Metro Line 13, Porte de Vanves station

You can see in this map below the Metro stop (M with a circle around it) at the top left corner and the long Avenue Marc Sangnier just below.  The Brocante starts right at the corner and follows Marc Sangnier.  As you turn the corner to the right onto Georges Lafenestre, the wares become a bit more "eclectic" shall we say, but don't give up.  As the vendors thin out, cross the street and walk back up towards Marc Sangnier.  I found a couple good vendors on this side of the road that I purchased books and bolts vintage seam binding from.  Glad we didn't turn back.
I loved how the vans just back up to the curb and the wares are pulled out.  Sometimes if you look inside the van you will see chandeliers still hanging from the roof.  As you can see, many of the dealers have a menagerie of items for sale.  I kind of like that better than if a dealer has only one type of item.  I find that sometimes they like their stuff way too much and are not as willing to part with it.
The first dealer on the corner is a very nice lady that sells trims and buttons, stamps and and thread.  She will be the first person you see when you walk from the Metro stop.  This was one of my favorite booths.
This one came home with me.
I am not sure I can cut it...maybe I should have bought two.  It's that hording gene kicking in again I know it.
And about half way down the road on the right side is another dealer that specializes in haberdashery, buttons, ribbon, labels, bags...I cold have stayed there longer.
A few sets of these glass buttons came home with me and who knows where they will end up.
If only books did not weigh as much as they do!  I did manage to bring home 5 small books (okay, maybe 7) there were just so many to choose from.
 I bought these lovely blue alarm clocks to add to my collection.
Love the numbers
and some little vintage photographs.  They are all about 2 x 3".  I even found 3 photo booth pictures which are so hard to find.
 Some vendors had items laid out on tables and some just left it in a crates to pick through.
I snapped this picture of the vendors having a card game under the shelter of a large umbrella.  It must have been the man in the plaid shirt's booth because he kept turning around to check to see if anyone was looking at the tables.  But for the most part, they just kept playing cards.

I picked up this little black book to go with my collection.  I liked that it said, Le Souvenir on the spine.  perfect.

The second Brocante we went to was the Grande Brocante.  It was almost to the end of Metro 6 line (towards Nation) at the Daumesnil stop.  I am not sure if this one is open every weekend since we only found it due to a flier that was left on a car windshield in our neighborhood then looked it up on line.
It opened at 7.
We got there at 8.
At 9, most were ready.
Lesson learned, 7 is just a suggestion.

Here everyone had a booth of sorts.  More organized than Porte de Vanves.
You will see by the following pictures what an eclectic mix of items that were here.  We walked around the loop a couple of times since the booths at the beginning were not even close to being open when we got there.  The vendors were nice as well as the other shoppers.  At least two or three times someone stepped forward to translate for us or tell us what a vendor said in English.   
One memorable booth was this old guy that every time you asked the price it was 65 euros, didn't matter what it was...65 euros.  After a while we were just asking to see what he would say.  Sande did want a silver magnifying glass but she didn't want to pay 65 euros, so after caring it around for 5 minutes she gave it back to him which sent him into a tizzy of muttering under his breath, slamming things around and walking around his booth real fast.  Before we got too far away he walked over and gave her a price of 30 euros and smiled.  
She bought it.
  Then there was the man with the big sheepdog.  The dog would roll around on his back and the man would tell him, "stop acting like a cat".  Sande played with the dog while I dug through a bucket of lace.  I think she was missing her two little dogs at home.  

Interesting old file boxes.  Couldn't you just see these in an Anthropologie display.
I picked up these old menu cards for a couple bucks.

Sande negotiating the price of a vintage camera and all it's parts.

We had a lot of fun trying on all these retro glasses.

 How many chandeliers do you think one can get into their suitcase?

 Here is the part where we are so cold we have to go into a cafe for hot chocolate.  What a nice break from the cold weather...and the hot chocolate was delish.

Very cool wood type but he wanted too much so at least it made for a good picture.
 Love the old theater seats.  Seriously mint condition.
 Kinda looks like the creamer pots are singing!
 They even had an entire booth of vintage Russian memorabilia.  If you just happen to need a painting or bust of Lenin, you could get it there.

And lastly, one of my favorite purchases of the trip.  A black leather carrying case covered in travel stickers.  I have never seen a round case like this with the leather strap and buckle for a handle.  I walked by it a couple of times but kept thinking, how would I get that home?  Once I stopped and opened the case I knew I would find a way. 
Each side has one of these metal closures.
And the inside...
Oh, how I have thing for boxes with fabric on the inside.  When I opened it, Sande and I just looked at each other and smiled.  He asked for 40 Euros, I countered with 30 and he accepted.  I thought $35 was a fair deal for the case.  By the way, it fit quite nicely in my small roller bag on the way home filled with my other finds.

Tips for the Brocante:

1.  Bring cash, small bills if possible.  Keep your money secure, even separating it into different purse pockets.  I like to use my "high pocket" as one very Southern Lady taught me.  What's a high pocket you ask?  (your bra)

2.  Always carry a small notebook and pen.  If you don't speak French and the vendor does not speak English then the notebook can become the best tool in your purse.  Numbers might sound different in anther language but write it on paper and everyone is on the same page.  

3.  Never pay the marked price.  Most items at the brocante were not marked so you will have to ask (pull out your notebook if you can't understand the answer).  If it's more than you want to pay, walk away.  I had a guy lower the price of a book twice as I walked away.

4.  If the sign says they open at 7, get there at 8:30 or 9.  The start time is only a reference.

5.  Bring at least one shopping bag.  I like these from BB Begonia, they are not only cute but super lightweight and the straps are long enough to fit on your shoulder (and stay there).  The best part is that they roll up very, very small to fit in a purse or jacket pocket.  Perfect for travel.

6.  Pack bubble wrap in your suitcase for your return trip.  Dealers are not going to provide you with that and it's very helpful when you buy something breakable.  I also always travel with a sturdy plastic bin in my suitcase.  If I buy something breakable it usually has a better chance of making it home inside the bin rather than in the bubble wrap alone.  
Something like this one from Sterilite that will not be crushed in a suitcase:

7.  Dress in layers.  You never know what the weather is going to be like at mid-day.  If you know it's going to be cold an easy thing to pack are hand warmers.  Buy them at a sporting goods store or Walmart for about a $1.  Easy to pack, lightweight and wonderful in your coat pocket when it's cold outside.

We have had so many of you comment or email us about visiting Paris this year that I thought I would do one more post about a couple more interesting, yet off the beaten path, I visited.  Plus a few good tips for traveling to Paris as well as overseas.  Hope you will stay tuned.



  1. Ooo La La! Love the glasses, Paula! And all the tips on flea market shopping in Paris. How about a 7g trip to France with you, Sande and Deb sometime?

  2. wow! all i can say is you must have had an amazing time! Love the pics!

  3. Hello, Paula! not only are you a fab designer, your writing style is very evocative. By the way, that "high pocket" thing was my late (very South African) Granny's thing, too! Nice memory for me on a chilly morning, thanks!

  4. Did you buy a towel? I need something to sop the drool on my keyboard!

    If you won't come to St Pete, will you let me know when you go back to Paris because I'd really like to go with you!

  5. Paula, You are the Gypsy of gypsies. What great choices you made at the markets. I am in love with the black box. You have to wonder about who might have taken trips with it to the places on the stickers. Also love the black "souvenir" book. Thanks so much for sharing Paris.

  6. P.S I should have said black Carrying Case, not a box!

  7. Thanks for sharing all of these photos and for the great tips, too! The buttons, lace and trims look so gorgeous! And, I love those old menu cards you purchased.

  8. OMG what a wonderful post...i have to get to is calling me i may never come back if the flea is that awesome

    hoard the trim...I would

  9. The only way I am ever going to get to Paris is through your travels. AWESOME! I think I would have been broke after the first vendor! Thank you for the wonderful pictures and awesome stories too!

  10. Soooooo, very cool. I love doing things like that here in the US, but in a foreign country it is even more fun. How much more of an actual feel for that country do you get than just browsing through a department store that could be here in the states.

  11. Oh Paula! I am SO jealous! When did you say that you are going again??? ;-) Need a traveling companion????

    Cheers! :-)

  12. Fun markets, great finds. Love the clocks, black book and pretty glass buttons. TFS more photos and narratives of your Paris trip. :) BTW, I bought drapes/rods/rings for my single, arge living room window and it cost me $600. I have to say, I have had them for 6-1/2 yrs and they have held up and dry cleaned nicely. I guess in some instances, you do get what you pay for. :P

  13. Fabulous article and it could be straight out of a travel magazine! Really enjoyed my/your/our browse through the Brocantes and look forward to more. I could almost hear myself haggling price!
    JoZarty x

  14. Paula - MERCI BEAUCOUP!

    These are by far the very BEST tips I have ever read online about junking in Paris {which so many of us dream about...} Your insight and photos are fabulous!!! xo

    -pamela ;)

  15. Hello, dear Paula. I'm going to Paris in September, I'll use your tips. I'll also take pictures and put on my blog. Thank you.

    Ola, querida Paula. eu irei a Paris em Setembro, vou usar as suas dicas. Eu também vou tirar fotos e colocar no meu blog. Obrigado.

  16. Thanks for sharing! What fun you must have had! Love your little goodies...glad you got the black travel bag!

  17. Your trip looks wonderful, Paula. My husband and I will go to Paris one day and this post will help us find our way around the flea markets. Everything looks so inviting. Thanks for sharing all of your "finds"!

  18. I went to Paris for the first time a couple of years ago - somehow with only 3 days I never made it to the flea markets - next time I will!!! Any more tips you can share is great - I've been saving all posts I find on Paris in preparation for my next trip!

  19. Paula, thank you so much for posting all of this. It's so helpful. I might be going this summer and definitely want to visit the fleas.
    p.s you look so cute with those retro glasses!

  20. That hat box is probably the #1 stand out purchase that was made that day. It's right up there with the Russian telephone. I'm so glad you got it and that you negotiated with the guy and got it 10 euros cheaper. You are such a wheeler dealer.