My first flea market à la Parisienne

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There are so many things to do in and around Paris that I have yet to venture out and try, like canoeing in the Bois de Boulogne, touring Versailles, viewing the city from the top of the Centre Pompidou So, I've decided to finally start checking things off my list, starting with something I have been dying to do since I moved here: visit a Parisian flea market. I got the courage to head to the Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves after a recent trip to Caen where I saw first-hand exactly how to negotiate for the goods I want. At a small vide grenier (neighborhood yard sale), my friend, Marie, managed to get 2€ taken off the price of a vintage camera by simply asking. Who knew it was so simple?

So, off I went last weekend to try my hand at sifting and negotiating. I started early, knowing that the stands pack it up and close up shop by about 1 pm. My original plan was to take a walk-through once and then go back to buy things, but I was meeting someone at noon and couldn't take all the time I wanted in the end. So, I strolled through, stopping at the tables with folded printed fabric, painted porcelain plates and ceramic coffee pots. I saw some beautiful antiques at reasonably high prices as well as some totally unaffordable junk. Everyone was pretty friendly, though, and I generally felt comfortable eyeing over their tables and examining their goods. A woman pushing a small cart scurried through the crowds offering cups of hot thé à la menthe and vendors conversed with one another about their recent holidays. I was surprised to see so many anglophone vendors, and I even overheard one guy's phone conversation about how he wasted so much time last week talking to a guy for 2 hours about the massive wooden cart he was selling before the guy walked away saying he was uninterested. It was clear he was sorely bitter about this.

At the start of the day, I had made a mental list of what I wanted to find, but I also told myself to keep an open mind about finding treasures that were not on my list. I got pretty lucky, and about 20 minutes into my flea market adventure, I stumbled upon a lovely old alarm clock - one nearly identical to the vintage clock that I have in my "Favorites" on Etsy. I wound the clock to check if it worked, and when I heard some tic-tocking, I asked for the price. The lady said she bought it for 25€, but was selling it for 15. There was no way I was paying that much, so I told her I'd give her 10€ if that was alright and after a slight customary hesitation, she agreed and I walked off with this lovely timepiece:

(sorry for the crappy iPhone pics - my digital camera's still broken)

I was really proud of my negotiating abilities and it felt like a victory not only in the purchase I made, but also in the proficiency of my verbal French. I kind of already knew how much was too much to pay for a clock like that, and I think that was what made me so confident to suggest a lower price. Now, I know to come armed with information!

I spent a long time sifting through boxes of button cards before finding a couple of grey plastic button bundles for a Euro each. I nearly caved for an old, rusty coffee grinder that was in totally workable condition (another item I have favorited on Etsy), but I just told the guy selling it I’d think about it. Sadly, I didn’t get to dig as much as I wanted and I passed up so many racks of vintage clothes to save time. But, I must say it was quite a lovely first experience, and I’m so glad to have finally done it. I plan on going back many times now that I have a feel for the place and ambiance, and hopefully I’ll stumble upon more good deals just waiting to be made.

1 comment

Animesh said...

Kudos for the successful negotiating!

And that timepiece is what my parents had when I was a kid; made me feel nostalgic :-|

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