Sweet and Lowdown: Swinging by the Paris Clignancourt Flea Market

Stardust Memories: View of Paris from the Centre Pompidou (where André Breton's  Clignancourt flea market treasures are on display) Photos by T. Brack

Stardust Memories: View of Paris from the Centre Pompidou (where André Breton’s Clignancourt flea market treasures are on display) Photos by T. Brack

BRACK Great Flea 333

Django Reinhardt Mural at La Chope des Puces

By Theadora Brack

Chim chim-in-ey! Chim, chim, chérie! Get your glad rags and wiggle on, jazz babies and pêcheurs de lune! With the discerning eyeball of a dandy and the goddess Fortuna statue neatly tucked in our pocket, let’s swing by the Clignancourt Flea Market (Marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen) for some old-fashioned, toe-tapping, bodice-ripping window-shopping, shall we? Get to picking!

Flashback: In the 19th century, the infamous “rag and bone men” (forerunners of today’s “dumpster divers”) kicked-off the big flea frenzy. Trekking to Paris? Get thee there. Clignancourt’s eclectic palace-worthy collection continues to charm. In fact, the bustling centuries-old market had a cameo in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” Confession: Yes, the movie was a tad hokey pokey in places, but I fell gladly for it. Fantasizing about time travel always makes my heart swell. Larger than life, Yves Heck as Cole Porter was simply divine. Paris, you DO do something to me.

Getting There

Meet me at the Square Django Reinhardt at rue René Binet and Porte de Clignancourt (Métro Porte de Clignancourt). Recently the mayor of Paris honored the late, great musician by renaming the square for him. Reinhardt lived there with his family when they moved to Paris from Belgium shortly after the “Grande Guerre” (a.k.a. World War I). Each weekend, the site is home to a gathering of stalls and booths that form an “offsite” market along the approach to Clingnancourt itself.

Shake Ya Tail Feather at the Clignancourt Flea Market

Shake Ya Tail Feather: Le Passage (a.k.a. Passage Lecuyer)

To reach the main flea market: Walk beyond Square Django Reinhardt and head underneath the big underpass just down the street. At 122 rue de Rossiers a block or two into the real market, you’ll find La Chope des Puces, with live music, a spirited bar, and an impressive Django Reinhardt shrine surrounding the big performance space in the rear. Guitar aficionados will find many a wonderful instrument to drool over!

WWJCD? (What would Julia Child do?)

Back in the day, here at Clignancourt is where Julia Child purchased her first antique mortar and pestle after she moved to Paris. “The mortar was made of dark-gray marble, and was about the size and weight of a baptismal font,” she wrote. “One look at it, and I knew there was no question: I just had to have that set.” That very mortar and pestle, along with other kitchenware she brought back from France are now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. “Everything has a history,” as Julia would say. I agree!

Star Struck

Who else found inspiration at Clingnancourt? Elsa Schiaparelli, André Breton, Pablo Picasso, Christian Dior, Christain Bérard, Yves Saint Laurent, Andy Warhol, and Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel—just to name a few. According to writer Laure Verchère, Coco coolly quipped, “When I go to the flea market, everyone says hello to me. They come and kiss me. I let them. It doesn’t cost a thing.”

Baby, I can see your halo: A  postcard treasure scored at the Caveyron Devey (Le Passage, a.k.a. Passage Lecuyer), Clignancourt Flea Market Bonne Anné!

Keeping it Real: I’m not going to lie to you. Finding bargain deals at Clignancourt is not easy-breezy. It takes the curiosity and patience of a cat, and more than a few shots of soda pop for courage. That said, once every blue moon, I do manage to pounce on a few affordable treasures. Grab a ballpoint pen. Here are a few of my favorite hunting grounds.

1. Daniel et Lili (Marché Vernaison)

Clipping from my grandmother, “Diamonds are for the birds!” I agree. Rhinestones and Bakelite have always been this girl’s best friend. Here at the Daniel et Lili shop, you’ll find brooches, buttons, bangles, beads, barrettes, bags, flowers, hankies, illustrations, and key chains. Oh, we’re plastic but we still have fun!

Tip: Throughout the Marché Vernaison, you’ll find more vintage finery, fragrance bottles, and magazines, along with the cozy Chez Louisette. Flaunting a retro-vibe, the café serves food and live music on Sunday afternoons. Pass the hat! Edith Piaf is often on the playlist. Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien!

2. Caveyron Devey (Le Passage)

Whenever I misplace my Superpower, I make a beeline to my favorite vintage postcard shop, the Caveyron Devey. It kicks the blues to the curb every time. Looking for a specific category? Don’t play coy. If it’s a rainy or chilly day, wear warm attire, because the stall is open to the breezes and sometimes damp. Also, if offered a seat at the house table to flip through a box, take them up on it. You’ll look like a serious aficionado and your toes will thank you. Tip: Chez Sarah’s antique garb is located just a nip, tuck, and pose away.

3. La librairie de l’Avenue (31 Rue Lécuyer)

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Here the angels sing on high from a little CD player located just below the cashier’s desk. The sweet smell of coffee and frankincense tickles the nose. This large, but still intimate bookshop is well stocked with new and used art books, catalogues, vintage prints and antique magazines, organized by category, author or genre. My recent steals include a short stack of “Elle” magazines from the 1950s, along with a 1920 “Bon Marché” catalogs for just a few euros. Pleased as punch, I’m still aglow.

Embracing André Breton, “The marvelous is always beautiful, anything marvelous is beautiful, in fact only the marvelous is beautiful.” Now, let’s shop ’til we drop!

Elle Magazine, 1950, A treasure scored at La librairie de l’Avenue

Café Paul Bert (Marché Paul Bert made an appearance in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”movie)

You've got that charm: Marché Paul Bert, Clignancourt Flea Market

You’ve got that charm: Marché Paul Bert, Clignancourt Flea Market

Golden Globes: Marché Paul Bert, Clignancourt Flea Market

Golden Globes: Marché Paul Bert, Clignancourt Flea Market

Napoleon sitting pretty at Le Passage, Clignancourt Flea Market

Stealing Beauty: Bandit de Robert Piguet, Marché Vernaison, Clignancourt Flea Market

You do that voodoo that you do so well: Le Passage, Clignancourt Flea Market

Chez Sarah, Le Passage, (a.k.a. Passage Lecuyer) Clignancourt Flea Market

Chez Sarah, Le Passage, (a.k.a. Passage Lecuyer) Clignancourt Flea Market

All that glitters: Arc de Triomphe Compact, Marché Vernaison, Clignancourt Flea Market

Melancholy Baby: Chez Sarah, Le Passage (a.k.a. Passage Lecuyer), Clignancourt Flea Market

BRACK Great Flea 1111

Nine Lives: L.T. Piver, Marché Vernaison, Clignancourt Flea Market

BRACK Great Flea 888

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102 thoughts on “Sweet and Lowdown: Swinging by the Paris Clignancourt Flea Market

    • Ah, thanks! You’d enjoy the bookshops. La librairie de l’Avenue is a favorite. I haven’t been able to visit and NOT spend at least two hours browsing. They always offer me a chair! And speaking of books and style, I really loved your recent nod to Audrey Hepburn. Fabulous shots of Audrey reading! What a great idea. Sweet salute! T. (Enjoy the weekend!)

    • HA! Thanks for the giggle, Bradley! You’d also love the bookshops at Clignancourt. You’d find your inner-cat patience, I’m sure of it! :) T.

  1. Here you are! How’s the book coming along?
    This shopping looks like way too much fun and obviously demands the company of at least one BFF. Allons-y!

    • YES. Shopping at the Fleas? If so, grab the BFF! Clignancourt is perfect for gawking, talking and walking. Enjoy the weekend! T. (And thanks for asking about the project. I’m in the book proposal phase. Oh, Ra Ra!)

  2. Theadora … I like this post and your photos are very nice. I took the liberty of working your view of the Paris rooftops in Photoshop for you. I took out some of the antennae that I thought were distracting and tried to cut out some of the haze in the distance to make the church steeples look sharper. I also boosted the color saturation to bring out the sunset reflections on the roofs. I just wanted to give you an idea of what a few simple steps in Photoshop or Elements can do for an image and it was not that difficult. Feel free to do whatever you want with the image … I just wanted to do something for you for the kind words you have written on my blog. I hope all is well and that the new year is starting out good for you and yours.

    Thanks – Frank

    On Thu, Jan 23, 2014 at 3:18 PM, Paris: People, Places and Bling! wrote:

    > Theadora Brack posted: ” By Theadora Brack Chim chim-in-ey! Chim, > chim, chrie! Get your glad rags and wiggle on, jazz babies and pcheurs de > lune! With the discerning eyeball of a dandy and the goddess Fortuna statue > neatly tucked in our pocket, let’s swing by the Cli” >

    • Thanks, Frank! I’m also a big time fan of Photoshop and antennae. Ha! YES. I’m a gritty city gal. I’d love to see the photograph! T. (By the way, I really enjoyed what you recently did with your father’s photographs. Lovely tribute!)

    • Get to packing! Thanks for your FAB words. I appreciate it! T. (Porte de Vanves is my other favorite flea market in Paris. Great for the heels and deals.)

    • Thanks, Dina! I’m with you! Our cardboard gal pal almost looks 3-D, doesn’t she? I also dig the coat and hat ensemble on the “Elle” magazine cover. Très Très Chic! T. (Enjoy the weekend!)

  3. Great picture of the rooftops of Paris. It reminds me of a TV series – The Little Paris Kitchen – we had with Rachel Khoo who used to run a restaurant of her tiny Paris flat. They had great elevated shots of the Paris rooftops too, but with more swooping cranes involved I think. The best thing about it was that Rachel Khoo lived and worked in Paris… right up until the series was finished and then we found out that she didn’t any more.

    • Merci! Rachel Khoo. She is so cute. I love, love Rachel Khoo’s “The Little Paris Kitchen” series AND cookbook. The project definitely flaunted a retro-vibe. I agree! I loved the exterior and interior shots of Paris. Swooping cranes and lovely tile work, eh? I think the series is now on YouTube. I’m now off to find the cookbook! T. (Enjoy your weekend!)

  4. Hello, T. I’m back from the unseasonably warm temperatures of Arizona to the unseasonably cold ones of Chicago. Brrrrrrr! I love your top photo and the postcard and…as always, I love the post and want to come to Paris immediately to poke around, although no bodice-ripping for me. :-) Hope you’re feeling great.

    janet

    • Thanks, Janet! Postcards and magazines are great fun to collect. Inexpensive and lightweight! Say, how was your trip? I thoroughly enjoyed your photographs! Beautiful skies with warm “bodice-ripping” temps, to boot. :-) I was very jealous. What is them temperature in Chicago? Stay warm! T.

      • The trip was wonderful and I’m sure there will be more photos, certainly more of the Chihuly installation! As for the temperatures today, the internet say 19 and feels like 1 (both F) but the wind is fierce, so I’d think it might feel colder. Not supposed to warm up much over the weekend and we have a wind chill advisory through tomorrow morning. Then Monday and Tuesday, the highs are supposed to be below zero. Yikes!! Hot tea and good books sound marvelous, although I supposed I may have to so some work. :-) Lots of bodice-covering!!

    • YES. Add the Clignancourt Flea Market to your list! The “95” bus line connects the Clignancourt Flea Market to the Porte de Vanves Flea Market. It’s very scenic! You pass the Opéra and the Louvre. I’d visit the Porte de Vanves first, since it’s open only on weekend mornings. The dealers start packing up at noon. Then hop on the 95, and take it to Clignancourt. It’s great way to shop and see the city! T.

  5. Oh my paws and whiskers! Treasure hunting in Clignancourt flea Market, Be still my heart. Up to the attic to drag down the biggest of the biggest brown leather valises. I’veI sent a radiogram to Tinny telling him to don his pith helmet and join me for the most thrilling treasure hunt. I will click the heels of my ruby slippers three times and I’ll be in Paris.

    • I am here…………..I am here! For the love, this winter weather makes these joints so creaky that I am constantly oiling them!!! I so love the Clignancourt Flea Market!! Oh, I so swear that we met Salvador Dali there when we last visited and he offered us champagne served in the most delicate flutes. I nicknamed the flea market Klingon Court after my Star Trek friends. Oh what marvie memories. Now come Virginia, give me the valise and you go find some goodies!

      • Good. GOLLY. I loved your fantastical Salvador Dali story, Monsieur Tin Man!! Marvelous, Marvelous, Marvelous memory, indeed. And he served served you bubbly in the Klingon Court? Klingon Court! My new name for the Flea Market, by the way! While you wait for Virginia, I’ll go trap a table at Chez Louisette! My treat, of course!! T.

      • Gosh Golly………sorry I am late…had to find my vintage tuxedo jacket with tails……..love to wear this when we are at Chez Louisette and since we will be entertaining the other guests with our singing, I though it best to look good. What a delight you two ladies are………pure absolute delight!

    • Virginia, Thanks for getting Tinny on the horn! Bon Voyage! I think he is here at the “Klingon Market” somewhere with Dali. I will wait at Chez Louisette for you both. I will order the usual bottle of bubbly. Perhaps we’ll perform a number or two with Tino Rossi or Charles Trenet. You’ll love them! T.

      La pendule fait tic-tac-tic-tic
      Les oiseaux du lac pic-pac-pic-pic
      Glou-glou-glou font tous les dindons
      Et la jolie cloche ding-dang-dong

      Mais… boum!
      Quand notre coeur fait boum
      Tout avec lui dit boum
      Et c’est l’amour qui s’éveille

      Boum!
      Il chante «Love in Bloom»
      Au rythme de ce boum
      Qui redit boum à l’oreille

      Tout a changé depuis hier et la rue
      A des yeux qui regardent aux fenêtres
      Y’a du lilas et y’a des mains tendues

      -Charles Trenet, 1938

      • Boom! My heart went boom! I rushed to my victrola, lowered the needle to play my treasured Charles Trenet recording. His silky voice filled my mind. I must have the song memorized for we will be a dynamic singing trio( Theadora, Tinny, and Virgina).

      • I’ve got the sheet music, Virginia! We’ll also sing Charles Trenet’s “La Mer.” The scoop: He composed “La Mer” and “Beyond the Sea” with Leo Chauliac, while traveling on a train in 1943. Some say, on tissue paper! Jack Lawrence wrote the “Beyond the Sea” lyrics. (Bobby Darin’s finger-snapping hit!) I love Bing’s cover of “La Mer.” I cry every time. T. (Enjoy the week!)

        Voyez
Près des étangs

        Ces grands roseaux mouillés

        Voyez
Ces oiseaux blancs

        Et ces maisons rouillées

        La mer

        Les a bercés

        Le long des golfes clairs

        Et d’une chanson d’amour

        La mer

        A bercé mon cœur pour la vie

        Sea

        By the ponds

        Those big wet reeds

        See
Those white birds

        And those rusty houses

        The sea

        Has cradled them

        Along the shores of clear bays

        And with a love song

        The sea

        Has rocked my heart for life

      • It will be a week of song T. courtesy UTube for I have forsaken the old Victrola and I am dancing to C Trenet’s “but most of all I wish you love”, and a hundred other of his songs. A generous gorgeous week for you. V.

  6. Another beautiful and richly textured post! Your window photos inspired my latest post, not French, but Swiss windows (and no fabulous shopping tips alas!):
    doublewhirler.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/on-the-outside-looking-in/

    • WOW. I just checked out your dreamy Swiss window series. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Again, they look like collages with bits and pieces and traces and layers. Surreal, really. More please! T.

  7. How fun! Love the photos, Thea. We’re big fans of Django Reinhardt. Can’t help but snap my fingers and tap mt toes when I hear his music. Before you know it, I’m dragging my hubby out to do a little dance. Great finds too!

    • I’m also a big time fan of Django Reinhardt’s music and little dances. Setting the mood, I always kick-off my dinner parties and shindigs with a little Django music. It works like a charm! Breaks the ice every time. Have you seen Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown” movie (1999) with Sean Penn and Samantha Morton? Fabulous soundtrack! T.

      • Don’t really collect anything in particular, but love the baroque period – wish I had room for everything I’d like to have :)

      • You’ll enjoy Clignancourt, Kim! I’d launch your quest at the Marché Paul Bert. Space is always an issue for me. :) I currently need a new bookcase! T.

  8. Oh my….how I love your posts. I am right there with all the sights and sounds. I still treasure my Christian Dior feather hat and my tiny can-can doll that I bought from this flea market when I was a fashion student. I visited a few years back with my daughter and the bargains had all disappeared! I guess because vintage is now so fashionable. Still a great place to people watch though. Thanks! Xx

    • Ah, so you’ve always possessed an “Vintage Attitude.” Great name! I’m still able to score vintage clothing deals in Abbesses (18th arrondissement) and the Marais (4th arrondissement). Also, the Porte de Vanves Flea Market has a few affordable tables. It was very difficult to find vintage clothing in Rome. Just a handful of shops. I looked and looked, high and low.

      So do you still have your Dior feather hat and can-can doll? So you found them at the Clignancourt Flea? Fun story!

      T.

  9. Just stopping by to say hello. I so enjoyed learning about Julia Child’s purchase. Love these little tidbits of interesting information. As always, beautifully written and sooo interesting.~Thea

    • Thanks, Thea! Are you also a Julia Child fan? I still use her “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” cookbook. Whenever I visit Washington D.C., I visit her yellow Georgetown house, located near the Georgetown Flea Market. It’s a win-grin. Great way to pay homage! T. (Enjoy the weekend!)

    • Thanks! I feel the same way about your shopping field trips, always You’d really enjoy the vintage garb at Clignancourt and Porte de Vanves. Your nod to Pucci was very interesting, by the way. Perfect “Olympian” timing! T. (I recently scored a 1960s black “White Stag” ski coat. It’s so light but warm!)

  10. Well, T., you’ve done it again: taken me back to a special world and a particular time of life I miss, but, like you once quoted from Rick at the end of Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.” I sure hope you’re right! Where would we all be without it–and without your groovy column? I do hope you’ll write a book some time–I’d be the first buy it and I’d tell all my friends to buy it too!

  11. Theodora, A wonderful post as always! I am going to have to read many of your previous blogs again in preparation for our summer vacation. You write so eloquently of Paris, it’s a joy to read about and experience Paris through your eyes. Karen

    • Karen, thanks for the thoughtful words, as always! Enjoy your trip planning phase. And feel free to ask questions! T. (I’m still thinking green for you.)

    • YES. You’d love both the Porte de Vanves Flea Market and Clignancourt Flea Market. And let’s not forget the brocantes scattered around the city. You’d have a ball! T. (Thanks for your sweet words!)

    • Yes, Rhonda! Add Clignancourt and Porte de Vanves to your to-do list. What do you collect? T. (I’m now obsessed with black patent leather pocketbooks!)

  12. Great post, T! I so dig your shots – they work beautifully with the postcards and magazine covers. Wish I could spend an afternoon browsing in the fms.

    • Ah, thanks, Richard! It was a fun post to create. Say, I just spotted your photograph collaboration with Richard (CK Ponderings). I loved the teaser preview. You two work very well together! It’s true. T.

  13. Oh Teddy, Was touched that you noticed Daniel and Lili’s stand. I was close friends with them in the 1970’s in Paris. I even lived next door to them in the 19th arrondissement. They lived in a perfectly Art-Deco home. I have a few great stories to tell you next time I see you!
    Bizoux, Caroline

    • Great to hear from you, Caroline! I’ve always loved, loved Daniel and Lili’s stand. Years ago, it was first shop to catch my eye during my very first big hunt at Clignancourt. It was love at first sight. I’m look forward to hearing your stories. Big hugs! T. (Do you have a favorite shop at Clignancourt?)

  14. Enjoyed the photos and continue to marvel at your ability to tell a story that is interesting and keeps me wanting to visit Paris.
    Thom

    • Thanks, Thom! I feel the same way about your work and New York City. You tell a story well. I love your photographs and historical tidbits. YES. Stay warm! T.

  15. Am yet to watch Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’, and the Julia Child bio-pic (Julie & Julia).
    What is an antique mortar and pestle, by the way.

    • I think you will enjoy both films! (I love your reviews, by the way.)

      Here’s Julia Child’s description of a mortar and pestle (Mastering the Art of French Cooking): “Small mortars of wood or porcelain are useful for grinding herbs, pounding nuts, and the like. The large mortars are of marble, and are used for pounding or pureeing shellfish, forcemeats, and so on. The electric blender, meat grinder, and food mill take the place of a mortar and pestle in many cases.”

      Julia’s flea market mortar and pestle is now at the Smithsonian. Click here to visit the interactive museum site.(It’s always great fun to hear Julia’s voice.)

      Setting the scene: Here’s another blurb, written by the Smithsonian:

      “There were few mechanical tools and utensils in France in 1949. Every time-consuming task in cuisine classique was done by hand. To practice making dishes such as quenelles de brochet mousseline (molded fish mousse) and mousse de jambon (ham mousse), Cordon Bleu student Julia bought a large French marble mortar and pestle at a Paris flea market. Paul carried the immensely heavy thing from the market to their third floor flat, where she used it to practice her techniques.”

  16. Pingback: And speaking of Paris …. | Whatever takes my fancy

  17. Paris make everything look better, doesn’t it? Love Django, love flea markets, would love to sell all my junk and start over again with a shopping trip to Clignancourt!

    • I hear you! I’m in the same boat, I’m afraid. I am hooked on fleas. And now I need a new book case. Or two. Oh, la la! T. (What do you collect?)

      • What don’t I collect is a better question… trying to pare down and NOT buy anything else but I have collected a good amount of silver tea sets, japanese woodblock prints and turn of the century watercolours, small interesting boxes, too many books – oh dear and now not enough place to properly enjoy it all…

      • Impressive. I dig your list! I love embracing a new quest (a.k.a. obsession). The research is always great fun. For the love of mana, it’s all about the process, I do believe. Enjoy the weekend! T.

      • Very true! For me half of it was about the hunt and in the case of auctions, about the chase… I am trying to go cold turkey until I rid myself of the stuff that no longer has such a grip on my heart!

  18. Well, this wasn’t so much a shopping trip as a feast for the eyes! Happy memories of the flea market abound. I’m back in Paris in August…I’ll be fighting you for the vintage postcards! Methinks you are in need of a bigger apartment rather than a new bookcase…..

    • Merci, Mary! As always, thanks for your swell words. Do you have a favorite flea market in Paris? Porte de Vanves also has a few postcard dealers. My favorite stalls are located kitty-corner to the piano player and snack shack halfway through the market. They often give a discount or a free post card. I love the one euro boxes, of course. Enjoy the weekend! T.

      • Oh no – my favourite is the one I am in at that moment! And of course I agree that the bargain cards are the very best!

    • Merci! If possible, start planning a trip. You won’t be sorry! Porte de Vanves also boasts some really great and affordable vintage garb. Enjoy the weekend! Theadora

  19. Pingback: Free Designer Pattern: Patrick Kelly One-Seam Coat | PatternVault

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