You might think this title would fit better with the post about the patisserie tour, but I didn’t gain 12 lbs on my body…just in my suitcase. Yes, this post is about shopping!
I was looking forward to everything I would see and do while in Paris and a few towns in Tuscany, but I was also anticipating the shopping. I had money saved, a wish list, stores pinpointed to visit, and even a guided Paris Perfect flea market tour lined up our very first day in Paris. My suitcase was packed with just the essentials, weighing in at only 28 lbs. It was so light, it even drew comment from the airport clerk at the check-in desk who questioned if there was even anything inside the mid-sized suitcase.
“I’m planning to shop. It’ll be heavier on the way home.”
He laughed and easily slid my bag onto the belt.
We took a redeye flight to Paris, which added a little anxiety to my excitement about the trip. I’m not a champ at sleeping on airplanes. We would be landing at 7:30 am in Paris and would have a full day of shopping, checking into our apartment, and meeting some of the MMSMP retailers for dinner. How would I make it through the day without any sleep at all?
True to form, I didn’t sleep on the airplane, but I resolved to drink in Paris like coffee and hoped that fulfilling the dream of shopping at a flea market there would be the stimulant that carried me through until bedtime.
And some sugar from baked goods wouldn’t hurt.
After the painfully long line to get through passport control at de Gaulle, and the surreal ride through the suburbs and into the city, my nose glued to the window the entire time, we dropped our luggage at the Paris Perfect office, bought some pastries, and met up with part of our flea-marketing party.
Our group consisted of my mom and I, Wendy (from Front Porch Mercantile) and her husband John, and Leah, the social media manager for Paris Perfect and an American (a Texan to be more specific) who has been living in Paris for the past 3 1/2 years. It was so amazing having Leah to get us to the flea market, since we were fresh off the plane and our bodies were telling us it was the middle of the night. She showed us how to use the metro system and helped us buy all the tickets we would need for our stay. (You can follow Leah and her life in Paris HERE.)
Once I saw a map of the system and took note of how we transferred trains, I knew we would be okay using it to get around. It’s very similar to the Washington, DC metro system, which I rode on daily when I worked downtown, so there was a familiarity that put me at ease.
We met up with Eric, a Paris local and our flea market guide, and Rosa, a tour coordinator for Paris Perfect. Rosa is a Brit who moved to Paris a few years ago and hasn’t wanted to leave.
This is me with Eric (left), Rosa (between Eric and I), and Leah.
Eric took charge, leading the group through the neighborhood surrounding the flea market, pointing out the architecture and history of the up-and-coming area. The market we were shopping, Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, is a permanent market with vendors set up in rows of stalls.
We first stopped by an architectural warehouse that is one of Eric’s favorites, but they happened to be closed that particular day. It wasn’t too much of a disappointment for us, since it was unlikely a pair of doors would fit in my suitcase, even one weighing a scant 28 lbs.
As we started to pass shops and stalls that were open, the surreal fog that was hanging over me started to lift. After years of dreaming of shopping at a flea market in Paris, I was doing it. The hunt is on.
I learned quickly that I didn’t have to worry about being tortured by all of the incredible bargains I would have to pass up because of the confines of my suitcase.
The majority of the vendors were high end specialists and most of their wares were not in my budget. The thing that made this market special and like no other I’ve ever been to wasn’t the bargains, but the sheer volume of all of the French antiques in one place. It was overwhelming.
There were some glorious pieces to drool over – huge mirrors with gilded frames leaning in a stack like folders in a filing cabinet, stall ceilings dripping with chandeliers, walls covered in antique original oil paintings, architectural salvage and gilded frames nested one inside the other.
And I have never seen more caned Louis chairs and linen-upholstered bergeres and settees in one day.
The place was littered with them!
Most of the things that caught my eye were too big, too heavy, or too expensive. Or, the price was fine and I liked the piece, but I felt like it was something I could find in the US.
I know it was completely self-imposed, but at this point, I started to feel some pressure. I had a flea market insider, Paris Perfect team members to follow my experience, and friends and family there all because I wanted to be there to shop. And I wasn’t buying anything. Eric brought me to stalls that were selling just what I asked for – linens, dishes, copper, and art and I walked out of each one empty-handed.
Thankfully, I was the only one putting any pressure on myself. Eric continued to seek out booths he thought I would enjoy and made sure we had an above-and-beyond experience. His friendships with vendors got us an invite into a private back garden and up to a roof-top balcony for a birds-eye view of the market.
He also pointed out “moments” that I might’ve otherwise missed, like vendors from different booths gathered around a small table together to enjoy a leisurely lunch and a glass of wine. It’s a far cry from ducking behind the counter to stuff half a sandwich in my mouth and Jeff chasing after me with a bottle of water to keep me going when I’m a vendor at an antique market!
And, eventually, I found something small that I wanted to buy. While the rest of the group was browsing, I purchased a couple of small tins.
I was drawn to the colors and the fact that I could put them in my suitcase. At €20 for the pair, they weren’t exactly a bargain, but they were doable. I planned to use them for art supplies.
I’ve learned over the years that sometimes it takes me a while to “warm up” when I’m shopping for antiques. One small find can lead to more exciting finds.
After sighing over more gorgeous mirrors and french chairs, I remembered another small item I was looking for – an antique dip pen. This sent Eric on a mission, talking to vendors and walking us from one referral to another. This goose chase led us to Marie’s booth, which I shared about in THIS POST. (Someone asked for the info on her booth… She’s in Allée 8, Stand 179 and her business is called OGNIarte.)
And in that booth, I bought a sterling silver dip pen from the 1820’s. I didn’t care if I didn’t find anything else. I was satisfied with my special find.
And the interaction with Marie was more valuable than the pen.
When I initially posted about my dip pen purchase, one of my readers commented, “You’re in Paris and you buy a pen !! What is wrong with you?”
When you’re shopping for antiques, you have to buy what speaks to you and this is the thing that spoke to me! (I would’ve loved it if a huge, gilded €50 mirror with free shipping spoke to me, but alas, those remained silent.)
And this pen is still my favorite purchase out of all of my finds while shopping in Europe (and I found some wonderful things.)
On the high of meeting Marie and buying the pen, I went back to a stall that sold linen sheets to see if I could find one I liked that was affordable. The shopkeeper was the most adorable French woman with a petite frame and gray hair pulled back in a neat bun. I started carefully sorting through stacks of folded and pressed sheets, knowing that some vendors who sell linens are touchy when people start undoing hours of laundering. She clearly was not one of those vendors and she started opening sheets, lifting them up to let the air catch them, so I could appreciate the full size of the textile. Meanwhile, she spoke softly in French, slipping English words into sentences as they fit. Beautiful. Monogram. Old. Linen. Twin.
She clearly loved her linens and was delighted to show them off.
I ended up purchasing one of the largest antique linen sheets I’ve seen! It was a generous full-sized sheet with two rows of hem-stitching and an intricately embroidered scalloped and floral detail on the edges. It was a medium-weight, soft linen, but it wasn’t until the proprietress passed the bag to me that I realized how heavy the sheet was.
It’s a gorgeous antique and definitely another favorite find.
Our guided tour time was up and we needed to ride the metro across town to have time to get settled in our apartment and be on time for our dinner reservation, so the shopping for that day was over. With my tins, linen sheet, and dip pen, I was content. I shopped a Paris flea market and would be bringing home things I really loved and would actually use.
The rest of my 12 lbs gained came from shops we visited.
After visiting the Louvre, my mom and I sought out Charvin, an art supply store I saw on Emily Jeffords Instagram stories. She was there literally days before I was and if it was her favorite art store in Paris, it was worth paying a visit.
They had me at the window display…
And, it was a delightful shop filled with their own oil paints, acrylics, and watercolors. I’m so glad I went to this store, because I was able to buy art supplies that were made in France, not ones that I could buy at an art supply store in MN. (As a side note, Charvin does sell online, so I can order from them if I love their paints.)
I enjoyed chatting with the gentleman behind the counter. We had to repeat ourselves and try to simplify our conversation a few times, but he was patient with my inability to speak any French at all and did his best to communicate in English. He told me with pride that their paint has been made in France for generations.
I bought a watercolor notebook, spiral bound, embossed with “Charvin, Paris”. I also purchased a hand-turned wooden dip pen, and hand-turned wooden lead holder, an oil and solvent container that clips onto an easel…
…their set of a gray range of extra fine oil paints…
…an artist’s dip pen for ultra fine ink work…
…and a couple jars of pure pigments to play with…
I also bought a book at the Museé d’Orsay book store, which was a marvelous book store. It was large and the shelves were lined only with art books. A slice of heaven. I spent a long time searching through the shelves and ended up finding some new-to-me artists. I ordered most of the books on Amazon, since books are heavy and not practical to carry around Europe, but I did buy one book there…
Paris Sketchbook was full of watercolors and pencil sketches from around Paris and the text is hand written on watercolor-weight textured paper, so it feels like you’re actually reading someone’s art journal. I ended up only sketching in the airport, but I thought this book would be great inspiration for sketching and painting in my own art journal. And I like that I bought it in the Museé d’Orsay.
It’s an inspiring book to read as a tourist and study as an artist.
Of course, the bulk of the 12 lbs came from my copper pan purchased from E. Dehillerin. You can read about that HERE.
With 12 lbs added to my 28 lb suitcase, I was left with 10 lbs of shopping to do in Italy.
Well, and that’s not counting my mom’s half-empty suitcase and the empty duffle bag she brought! I have a bit more to share about my time in Paris and then it’s on to Italy…