I gained 12 lbs in paris

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Antiques, Favorite Finds, Favorite Things, Shopping Tips47 Comments

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.

MISS MUSTARD SEED TV

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…

I gained 12 lbs in paris

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47 Comments on “I gained 12 lbs in paris”

  1. I think all of your “finds” were beautiful! Please don’t forgot to mention what you brought back for the boys as well.

  2. Thank you, thank you for taking all of us vicariously along on your trip, Marian. It was so lovely to see everything and to hear all the details.

  3. I’ve loved every second of your trip that you have invited us to live with you vicariously. It warms my heart to read that the relationships/friendships formed while shopping were as meaningful to you as the items you purchased. That is the way I wish to live too. Relationships and people are important and you chose to share this part of you with us. I admire you. BTW I love the linen sheet. It’s beautiful!! Blessings to you and your family!!

  4. I am just loving reading about your purchases, your conversations, your feelings, all the details you are putting into your posts about this trip. Just wonderful, thank you.

  5. Whilst reading this post & you mentioning that things have to speak to you before you want to purchase them, I remembered your post about a rug that you had in your PA house that you could neither recall where it came from or where it went to. It seems that rug was just ever so quietly whispering to you or maybe it was just stoney silent? Perhaps those tins from the Paris markets, were chatting happily to you and the beautiful sheet was delicately calling your name but I suspect that the divine dipping pen was singing to you like Maria Callas on opening night! When you find something that speaks to you, it can be like welcoming in a long lost relative into the family. I’m sure that your thoughtful purchases will bring you much pleasure and will transport you back to Paris each time to engage with them.

  6. Hi Marian,
    This post was so exciting! I have been to Paris but never to a Flea market. I am curious to see how would one wash an antique linen or fabric – crocheted. Hand wash or delicate cycle in the machine?

    1. Having discovered linen and metís sheets during my first trip to Paris, my family and I have slept on nothing else ever since. Use them! Enjoy them! And wash them in the gentle cycle of your washing machine with gentle detergent and a bit of OxyClen.

  7. What an incredible adventure Marian!! My hubby & I, including our son & his wife, went to Paris which was my life long dream since childhood. We planned to go to Les Puces de Saint-Ouen on Saturday, our last day there but to my dismay I woke up sick that day! There was no way I could do the market but our son & wife went. They found some incredible things & of course wished they could afford to buy the incredible French antiques that were everywhere they looked. (Perhaps being sick saved me from buying an enormous amour I couldn’t afford or even had a place for) Our son found some great treasures that were suitcase capable and a very special doll for my dear friend. So even though I didn’t get to go the shopping day was a success. I’ve never been any place more beautiful than Paris! It was like being in an old European movie. Thanks for the beautiful photos to give me an incredible picture of what I was not able to experience. You’re the best!

    Blessings, Edie Marie

  8. Ahh, what lovely purchases, and so much fun to wander the flea market and shops with you. Your title worried me…I thought, how can that be with all of the walking she did?! Funny. 🙂

  9. Ooooh Marian I am salivating over your art supplies! I’m so very glad you found such a fabulous store, with so much history, and so very very French. What a fabulous stash you scored. And i love that book from Museé d’Orsay too. Such wonderful experiences and beautiful items to refresh your memories. Oh and that linen sheet, be still my heart!

  10. Thank you for taking us for your shopping. I would do shopping like you do. I love antique linen actually I have an old linen use as table runner and almost 100 year old but still good shape. One of old friend’s keepsake.

  11. Didn’t want your story to end………………Love it! Now you really have something to think about when you do dishes every night. M.

  12. Thank you for sharing! I was worried about you packing your copper pan…things do turn up missing. I will sleep better knowing it’s safe and your safe in MN

  13. Thanks so much for the details on your trip so far. What fun to read each post. I look forward to each one.

  14. Thank you so much for this tour. It brings back so many memories! I love the St, Ouen market, I have spent A LOT of time there. Even the things too expensive/big/not my taste were interesting and inspiring. My ‘special’ purchase at the market was a porcelain lithophane/lithopane from the 1820’s. An original, not the also-nice repros they started manufacturing in the 80’s. This one is an elderly woman drinking tea with a small dog, the dog is wearing a frilly bonnet. It is beautiful and fun and old. I have it propped up on a windowsill and can remember everything about the day when I bought it. It is very small, 3″x5″, so no worries about weight.

  15. I am so glad you had such a good time!! A mother daughter trip to Paris is so special. My older daughter and I went when she was in college in 2002. It had been a life-long dream for me and she was a French major and we had a fabulous time. Now I want to go back!

    The Impressionists are my favorite and the Musee d’Orsay was my favorite museum in Paris. I have traveled extensively throughout the United States and have tried to squeeze in the art museums in each city. Besides the National Gallery which you mentioned in another post, you MUST go to the Art Institute in Chicago and give yourself lots of time.

  16. I will never go to Paris but have enjoyed the adventure you are providing. You are so blessed to have a mother to come along.

    The sheet is to die for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 I am waiting to see how you will use it at home.

  17. Loved this post about shopping in Paris. I bought that book, too, but not in Paris. Isn’t it a divine place? I don’t know how you could have done all of that the first day! That is amazing. I am in a complete fog the first day there and the first day home.

  18. You do an excellent job of taking us with you on your flea market excursion. Marie’s stall looks like Heaven to me, but those pictures from Charvin almost enable me to smell that shop. Is that wierd? As a kid I used to smell just the sketch books and paint when I went with my dad to our local art shop. And now I am looking back at those trips with longing. Having conversations with congenial shop owners always makes for fond memories. Or even with bus and taxi Drivers! I bet a man in Edinburgh still shakes his head when thinking of that crazy American woman, that might be me.

  19. Thank you for sharing with us. I have truly enjoyed following along with you and your mom on your adventures. You have made my Paris trip move much closer to the top of my bucket list. I recently started reading your blog and I am so glad I have. Can’t wait to see what Tuscany brought you!!

  20. Everything you photographed is so beautiful! A real dream come true 😁So glad you got to go! I have the sweetest little antique book of sketches of Paris that I would love to copy for you. I don’t know where it came from but it was something my mother and possibly even my grandmother had, and after seeing the things you collect I think you would love it. How can I get it to you?

  21. Thanks for the chance to tag along at a distance with you at the flea market.

    The pictures are full of so many things I am coveting, I don’t know how you didn’t go crazy & buy a shipping container full of stuff – Oh yeh, probably the same reason I wouldn’t, limited finances! But limitations in the budget does at times help develop the creative mind, so there is that to console when having to leave although lovely treasures behind! 🙂

  22. I am taking my first vacation to Europe in October to France!!!!!! I was so excited to follow your stories about your trip. When I saw this headline about the 12 pounds, I said out loud oh crap!!! So funny it turned out to baggage weight!! It was lovely to see your sense of humor!!
    Thanks for sharing!!

  23. Precious to hear from you again! Welcome home and thank you so much for these amazing pictures of these lovely antiques. Oh what were the prices on these chairs mirrors and market things?

  24. Beautiful pen. Sometimes it truly is the littlest things in life. Thank you for sharing your trip and the wonderful shots of the items you bought.

  25. We lived in Europe as expats for many years. The year we turned 50 we went to Paris for 10 days.
    In a previous chapter of life prior to the expat chapter I was an antique dealer I daydreamed of shopping at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen someday and then I was there…. I was so excited…. I pinched myself on the train going up there.
    We got turned around and ended up wandering where the flea market is… so gritty that we felt unsafe. It was a whole experience that was just not good and put a real damper on the day.

    Anyway as with your experience in the antique stalls…. so much to look at, and for so much money. Stall after stall I left empty handed. I didn’t purchase a single thing… not even a pen.

    Now your Italian travels I am excited to read about! I’ve left pieces of my heart all over Italy! My husband had work there often and we took annual holidays in Italy.
    We’ve just moved back to the US this year, the only thing I miss about expat living is traveling to Italia!

  26. I love the dip pen. So beautiful! I’ve been following you for a while and know that you’ve talked about lightroom, tethering,etc on your posts before. As a photographer, I have to ask: What camera are you using for your photos? A phone camera? That would be the hardest thing for me to decide upon when it comes to packing. To bring it with me it not. Loving traveling with you vicariously. Thanks

    1. I used an iPhone for some pictures, but I did haul my full frame Nikon D800 with me almost everywhere! My shoulder was feeling it, but it was worth it.

  27. So much fun to read about your trip and learn about the markets, shops and your special purchase. Linens and art supplies! You’re singing my song! Thanks for sharing!

  28. I’m heading to Paris next Saturday and would love to know where you purchased the sheet and if you recommend any other linen stores. Thanks, Marian!

    1. It was at one of the stalls at the flea market, but I’m not sure which one! There were a few that had some nice linens, though.

  29. I’ve been ooh-ing and ahh-ing over your photos. You have done an excellent job of photographing your fabulous finds and capturing the excitement of your trip. Thank you for taking us along!

  30. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. That sheet is to die for! I too will be very interested to see how you use it at home.

  31. I was in Paris at the same market 3 years ago and had the very same dilemma as you, I had a suitcase not a container! There was so much I wanted to take home! But like you I opted for something small, some antique keys which I cherish and remind me of my wonderful holiday in Europe. Thank you I really enjoy your blog.

  32. I have been hanging on your every word and photo throughout this dream trip. I could SO relate when you said that you could hardly believe you were in this place you never knew if you’d make it to in your lifetime. If I ever get to England, Paris, or Italy in my lifetime, I know I will feel the same! A dream come true. I especially appreciate you sharing how, despite all the warnings of danger, you felt safe and welcomed. That is so good to hear. I expected to feel a tiny bit envious of your trip, but I found myself only purely delighted to follow you and your mom around and rejoiced that you got to do this together. Can’t wait for Italy!

  33. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m totally excited to go now. I was apprehensive because my hubby won’t be able to take me around. He’s the french speaker and is working. My daughter and I are sightseeing while he works. I’m really looking forward to it now after reading your post!

  34. Just back from a few days out of town so catching up on your posts. Marian! That sheet!!! Most gorgeous thing ever! and I’m so thrilled you got to buy things you love, the dip pen and all the art supplies. what treasures! So glad you loved Paris, at my age I’ll never get there but loved visiting via your post!

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