Cultural and “flea” Paris


It is natural that such sights as Arc de Triomphe, Grands Boulevards, la Place de la Bastille (the Bastille Square) and La Place Pigalle, Tour Eiffel, the Louvre and Jardin du Luxembourg, are some kind of official symbols of Paris. However it is impossible to learn a city completely, let’s say, experience its real spirit if you don’t visit some places which are not described in tourist guidebooks and are generally known by local residents and some of the tough tourist-savages.

And so Paris without its flea markets (Marchais aux puces) is not Paris! In capital of the country of King Louis there are some tens of such “lush” places, and the most known, cult and remarkable are the markets located in Port de Montreuil and Port Sent-Ouen area. But don’t think the named flea markets are settled near any ports, it is not so.

The word «Porte» is translated from French, as “gate”. For the Parisian natives (however, the same as for Muscovites) the flea market is not so much of a trading place, but the cultural phenomenon. In all local circulation of purchase and sale the major component is in numerous stories and the myths transferred “by word of mouth”. In general, in similar places people are engaged in trade, eat and drink, arrange musical performances, or simply stare on associates, fall in love, steal and do whatever they want.

The largest, probably, is the Saint-Ouen Flea Market. It is situated in the north of Paris and represents a certain similarity of a small town the small streets of which have well-known shops and stores.

Thus each street has its own distinctive features. It is possible to tell that some kind of rigid specialization is presented here. So, for example, on one street people are engaged in trade of exclusively leather goods, and on another – porcelain and ware, and the third – antiques subjects. As for antiques – France is a well of antiques. It was never really robbed in the course of two World Wars, therefore nowadays it is possible to come across many interesting things in the similar markets (and not only there).

Certainly, you won’t have a chance to buy a Leonardo da Vinci’s creation for ten euros here, but the searching process of something worthwhile will bring great pleasure to any expert of the kind. Along with the antiques a brisk trade of such strange at first sight subjects, as old rusty cranes, broken toys, old dummies, irons, refrigerators and many other things is going on flea markets.

The Montreuil flea market in the east of Paris looks like the younger brother Saint-Ouen Flea Market with poorer combination of the offered goods. To some extent it reminds of similar domestic spontaneous markets which existed at the time of Gorbachev’s perestroika. Basically it offers stolen home appliances, Arabian brocade, and false Swiss watches.

Some people might question themselves: “What would such an anachronism, in general, be kept in Paris for?” Only here in a grief of old footwear it is possible to find Mireille Mathieu shoes, for example. Or assorting piles of old rags, come across a unique dress haute Coco Chanel or a pair of classical American Levi’s jeans produced while Elvis Presley was on stage. Believe it or not, it is even possible to find our bayans and accordions which god knows how found their way to this city…