You travel to Paris and what do you bring back? Chances are it’s a novelty key chain of the Eiffel tower or maybe a dodgy stomach if you dared to try the steak tartare.But how about a rare Pierre Cardin 1960s suit, a raven feather pillbox hat, or perhaps a genuine military jacket?
Les Puces (literally meaning “The Fleas”) are the Flea markets of Pairs; a veritable treasure trove of quirky items, including unusual jewellery, paintings, weird curiosities and unique vintage clothing.
Venture away from the usual tourist traps to Porte de Clignancourt on the outskirts of the city and you will uncover a somewhat sleazier but beautifully bohemian side to the city.
On arriving in Clignacourt and after making your way past the questionable characters selling knock off iphones and streetwear you will uncover the oldest and biggest flea market in Paris. Welcoming over 200,000 visitors each weekend, the market is brought to life by eccentric stall holders who converse animatedly, fag in hand to visitors, in jumbled kiosks lined with trinkets . Les Puces is quite simply a bohemian paradise where hours can be lost wondering down the maze of stalls.
The history of the flea market dates back over 200 years, when rag and bone men scoured through the garbage of Paris at night to find valuable things to sell on.
Poetically named ‘Pêcheurs de lune’ or Fishermen for the moon, they set up their temporary stalls and over time Parisian collectors and antique dealers visited the stalls to source unusual antiques and collectables. The vintage clothing on sale is of particularly good calibre. From stunning millinery and head pieces to vibrant dresses from the 60s and 70s; at Les Puces the clothes have just as much of a story to tell as the people who sell them.
Or maybe it’s bizarre taxidermy that’s your thing. Here can even walk away with a stuffed camel or perhaps stoat amalgamated with a ducks head.
Just not sure how you would explain that one at airport customs.
(First published for www.shlur.com)