Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, Paris

The flea markets of Saint-Ouen!
Located in the north of Paris, or as the Parisiens would say, outside of Paris, as it is located on the other side of Le Peripherique - the circular highway which encapsulates the city. This highway also acts as a type of barrier between 'Paris' and le bonlieu (the 'down-market' suburbs, as opposed to the upmarket arrondissements of Paris. Funny the word bonlieu - bon meaning good and lieu meaning place - the Parisiens who live within the confines of Le Peripherique certainly do not look upon the bonlieu as a good place - in recent years it has been the site of social disorder and unrest). Many visitors to Paris do not venture out to the 'other side', however, there are some interesting and beautiful things to see....The Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen is one of them (I should also mention the Bois de Vincennes and the Bois de Boulogne, which I hope to discuss in a future post). 

When you first exit the metro station at the Porte de Clignancourt and follow hoards of people you enter a crazy world of mad bargainers and store holders selling everything from handicrafts and CDs, imitation Louis Vuitton bags to clothing, used household appliances to books. As you walk by, people yell out to you 'Buy this, I'll give it to you for a good price' or 'Genuine leather jackets at only a fraction of the price you'd buy them in Le Bon Marche'. It's a bit chaotic, people everywhere, with French rap music playing in the background.....

But once you wade through this madness you enter a new world of beauty and serenity - the antique markets! Here classical music plays as you leisurely meander through the streets of amazing antique furniture and homewares. The images below cannot do it justice - the labyrinth streets seem to be endless and there are antique stores as far as the eye can see - I spent a good few hours strolling through these markets, stopping every now and then to admire the treasures (I find French antiques absolutely amazing, beautiful, breathtaking - there is an awe inspiriny store in Sydney called The County Trader http://www.thecountrytrader.com.au/ were I can get a regular fix without having to spend a few thousand dollars on an airfare to Paris.) However, being in Paris and seeing these amazing pieces, the feeling and the experience cannot be faithfully re-created in Sydney.

As the sun set behinds the buildings of Paris (I was here in February, so the days were incredibly short - it was dark by 4pm) and the day drew to a close, the store holders slowly packed up their wares - there is no rush for these people - I even came across a few of them sitting together having a chat over some hot coffee and pastries (true to form, the French love their pastries). 
Compared to prices in Australia, I found the antique markets quite reasonable. But even if you are not in the market to make a purchase or two (I would have loved to buy a few things, however the practicality of shipping it to Australia made me reconsider) it is a lovely way to spend a day in Paris.

Photos from my personal collection

Monday, 30 May 2011


Photobooks! What a fantastic idea. I'm not surprised by their popularity. In a age of digital photography what a perfect way to publish all those memorable snapshots, document amazing travel experiences, being creative with art photography....
I've recently started putting together a photobook of my 2007 trip to Europe through blurb.com (Ok, not really that recently - I started it a few months ago - it's a work in progress, I've change the format one too many times, I'm a well-rehersed procrastinator, I originally thought is was going to be a small project - maybe 50 pages, but that has expanded to about 120 and it's still growing - I forgot just how many photos I took that year...Eeeek!). Check out the website http://www.blurb.com/ -  it has some amazing examples of photobooks which people have created. Anyway, 'my photobook' has me reminiscing about this fantastic trip I took in 2007 which comprised of a period of study in Paris, visits to family in Belgium and Belgrade, attending an art school in the hills of Tuscany, a tour of Eastern Europe, a summer in Croatia, as well as bits and pieces in between.
I guess the idea of a blog is usually to write about something 'as it's happening', but I think I might just break away from this constructed idea a bit (I'm always diverging from various pre-conceived 'paths') and will be writing a bit about past events and experiences - things I remember, things that made an impression on me, things that inspired...
To start with, I'm hoping to write about my time in Paris and give an insight into a few places the average visitor to Paris often misses - Paris is such an amazing, interesting and unusual city, which you cannot completely appreciate in just a short visit. People tend to do the usual tourist route - the Eiffle Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre...and often miss out on the little things which made Paris memorable to me.
I also anticipate to add some of the many photos I took during my few months in Paris, which will hopefully appear in my completed photobook.

 View towards Sacre Coeur from the Centre Georges Pompidou

 View towards La Tour Eiffle from the Centre Georges Pompidou

View towards the Cathedrale de Notre Dame from the Centre Georges Pompidou
Photos from my personal collection

'Paris' by Camille