Just steps from Place de la Bastille and the Colonne de Juliet commemorating the Revolution of 1830 (otherwise known as the Second Revolution or the July Revolution) sprawls a twice weekly market. Known as the Richard Lenoir or the Bastille Market, it is one of my favourite shopping destinations when I plan my culinary escapades in Paris.
Fresh and hot food vendors set up shop from 8am to 3pm every Thursday and Sunday. In a matter of hours a quiet boulevard is transformed by the colour, sounds, smells, and excitement of enthusiastic merchants, hungry shoppers, and curious tourists seeking the perfect shot of “real Paris”.
Although you can find all sorts of things at the market, from socks and batteries to kitschy Paris souvenirs, I’m here for the food and not just the fresh fruits and veg. The vendors at this market set up full refrigerated displays of artisan cheese and baked goods and gourmet meats, containers of spices, nuts, and olives, and the most beautiful flowers to grace any French home. And if all the sights make your belly grumble ready-made roasted chickens and glazed potatoes, bubbling paellas, and sweet crepes can be picked up for a quick nibble. It’s a veritable feast! When I’m looking for something unique to bring home from Paris, nothing beats the famed French flea markets. And my favourite has to be the Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen also known as Clignancourt, a sprawling seven hectare mecca of trinkets and treasures just outside the 18th arrondissement.
The market houses approximately 3000 vendors and is actually made up of a number of smaller bazaars that wind through alleyways, streets, and covered halls, each one with its own specialty. You can find just about anything from the useful to the banal (I’m not sure who needs a full sized stuffed zebra). Bargaining is encouraged, preferably in French, but English is spoken when necessary, especially if you look like a serious buyer. Photos are prohibited in some places but regardless I always ask permission before snapping away. “Puis-je prendre des photos, s’il vous plaît?” was my regular mantra around Paris.
Mostly though, I tend to put down my camera and remember that the flea markets are a magical wonderland, and if I look hard enough I just might find the perfect looking glass!
My gorgeous friend Catherine, who joined me for a few days, walked away with a silver ladle for just a few Euros and memories worth much more.I hope you tune into Paris Part 3 where I finish my beautiful adventure.