The only marché des puces we've been to in Paris is the humungous one at Clignancourt. To be honest, we didn't like it very much. Size isn't everything.
I'd read about another, less tourist-y market, in the southwest of the city so, after coffee and tartines, off we set on the Metro, a 45 minute trip to Porte de Vanves which promised 350 dealers. Enormous. Reeeeally, reeeeeally, REEEEEEEEEEEALLY big. It started off unpromisingly (for bargain hunters) with 40 euro café au lait bowls but, as we made our way along under the plane trees, prices dropped.
Everything was for sale. Paris had tipped its grandmothers' attics on to the pavement. Paintings galore, stuffed animal heads, china, lots and lots of silver and silverplate. "Oh, those knives are two hundred and eighty euros? Sorry, I thought they were twenty-eight." He would have dropped the price to 250 but a little out of our range.
Still we did leave with a decent haul: three books (art, food and fiction), a sparkly parrot-shaped brooch (thanks, Peter) and an enormous lace curtain which will find a home somewhere in our new house. We bought it from a woman as she was packing up her stock. Ten euros, she said. A little less, I asked? Eight euros, she snapped. Done. It needs a good wash and a few stitches but is otherwise quite impressive. The lower section is a creamy-coffee colour, the top part is white. With the aid of a tea bath or sunshine, it'll end up being one shade or the other.
The sun blazed down. Everyone (apart from the lace lady) seemed in a holiday mood, the stalls went on and on till they reached a bridge that spanned the periphérique (the ring road that, for Parisians, defines the limits of Paris). A man played jazz classics on a piano that was just that bit out of tune enough to sound poignant. We had the time of our lives.
We sat outside for a very late lunch--a south-west salad for Peter with confited gésiers (duck gizzards) while the street cleaners in their neon-green vests hosed and swept and made everything clean and tidy, and then went home on the metro.