Summer ended in a flurry of planning and packing for a sojourn to Paris and London in September. I returned to autumn weather, and writing has taken a backseat to the last frenzy of outdoor work and living.
But now, with photos sorted—at last—I’m remembering Paris flea markets.
Did I just write ‘duh’? Sorry! But going to the fleas (puces, as they are lovingly called in la belle France) represents the thrill of the hunt. There’s just no knowing what you’ll see around the next bend. And, yes, your hands feel gritty after a day or rummaging, and we sneeze from the dust. But the exhilaration of making a discovery, bartering a good price in a language other than your own, and continuing the quest is the cats pajamas pour moi.
This being our 8th or 9th trip in recent years, Laurie (Creative Director at Wild Apple) and I can now manage to get ourselves to the right markets on the right days. We have a favorite neighborhood where we always stay—the Marais. We are a funny duo—she tall and me, not tall. We have a rapport of two that have known each other for many years—finishing each other’s sentences and ordering food we know the other will like. I call her my Paris wife. Our mission at the markets is to sort through musty piles of papers and books looking for etchings, photos, or prints that we can use in the artwork we make at Wild Apple.This year we had rain at the Puces St-Oeun in northern Paris, and at Porte des Vanves in southern Paris. We had windy cold weather at St Mandé in eastern Paris. Despite, we held our umbrellas overhead, or blew into cupped hands as we sorted through the piles, unearthing all manner of treasures and sharpening our skill at bartering.
Our ability to remember the words for the French numbers improves each year. This was the year of talking down vingt to quinze. With a friendly bonjour, most stall holders were friendly and happy enough to make the sale. Bird cages, ancient heavy garden tables, massive urns and shop cupboards filled with numbered drawers taunted me. Perhaps one day we’ll spring for a shipping crate and send some big things home on the slow boat. For now, I take pictures, fill the suitcase with portfolios of musty, beautiful papers, and recall the pain aux raisins and café crème I sipped while watching the rain fall on the Marché St-Paul.