Paris Markets: Round 2, Vanves

13 December 2009 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

So, as I started to say in my last post, before I started talking about food(!) was that as much as I love Clignancourt, I find it to be a bit too rich for my budget. When I go to a flea market, I want to to feel like I scored a deal! And, although I was having lots of fun discovering different French cheeses and sausages and other treats at all the marchés, I really missed poking around at old stuff to see what I could find. Because each trip to Paris I only have limited free time–I am there to cover M&O and it’s a big show–plus there is usually correspondence and other work to catch up on with the home office when back at the hotel, it means making some tough decisions about what to really look into each trip.

Anyway, before I get off an another tangent about some of my “old reliable” places to visit, back to the fleas…

One trip I finally made it my mission to visit one of the other fleas, and decided on Vanves, at the opposite end of the city from Clignancourt. It meant a transfer at the massive Montparnasse that seemed to take for-ev-er, but I stepped out of the Porte de Vanves station (line 13) into a quiet residential neighborhood. A bakery was open so I nabbed a fresh from the oven croissant (seriously, I saw the baker bringing up the tray from the ovens in the basement!) and made the short walk up to Ave. Marc Sangnier to find heaven! Banged-up folding tables, crates and boxes all filled with goodies–jewelry, industrial items, lighting, tableware, textiles, flatware, clothing, books, décor and of course bric-a-brac–everything that to me makes a great flea market.

At the corner, the first stand I saw, had tables with old letterpress forms...

...and I knew I had come to the right flea for me.

In addition to the atmosphere, which is much more casual and low-key, the vendors at Vanves are also more laid-back than at Clignancourt. For the most part they sip their coffees, chat with their neigherbors, read the paper, etc. but answer questions in a friendly manner, even when asked by an American 😉

There are a couple of different vintage button dealers.

There are several jewelry vendors to be found, with products ranging from junk, to mid-century costume, to Deco and a few pieces from even earlier.

The mirror was thoughtfully provided if you wanted to try on a necklace, a hat, etc. It was also for sale.

The Vanves market is larger than it looks at first glance. There are vendors on both sides of the broad sidewalk of Av. Marc Sangnier that runs alongside a public school. This section is about 1 mile or so, when you get to the food cart at the intersection of Marc Sangnier and Av. Georges Lafenestre, you’re a bit more than half-way through.

There are some vendors that I now specifically come for. At the very start of the market, at the corner of Sangnier and Rue Raymond Losserand is a table that has vintage letterpress forms, nice selections of vintage café au lait bowls and other intriguing (to me) stuff. About a quarter of the way down there’s one of two large button vendors, with just the most overwhelming assortment of vintage buttons, many still on their original cards. Around the same area but on the opposite side is vendor who specializes in vintage linens…embroidered oversized napkins, tablecloths, bedding and more. There are also several good custom jewelry dealers, tabletop (crystal, glassware and china) and of course, your usual odd assortment of “stuff”.

This shot sums up for me the atmosphere of Vanves, with that lovely little chandelier hanging in the corner of the carrier truck.

One of my absolute favorite stands, and I’m not alone in this, is a booth called Missy ( run by Julia. Her usual assortment includes a mix of vintage labels for wines and cheeses, pharmacy packaging, vintage fabrics and trims and much more. I could spend over an hour just at her stand! She’s usually on the right a little more than halfway down Marc Sangnier. In fact, Deb just recently used some of the labels we picked up from her for a client. I have a bunch of these now that I’ve collected, just because, and I still don’t know what I’m going to do with them. I have scanned them all as high-res, so I can either make copies of them to experiment with, or eventually get around to framing the originals. I did buy a set of vintage bobby pins, still on the original sell sheet, that I remove carefully to wear and then put back, so not everything is a “someday” purchase.

The "Missy" stand is typically a mix of vintage ribbons and other sewing and hat trimming elements, vintage pharmacy packaging...

...vintage wine, butter and cheese labels...

...vintage fabrics, primarily smaller pieces of lightweight upholstery goods, tablecloths, etc.

And just lots of other great stuff to poke around in!

What else have we found an Vanves? My sister picked up a very pretty bracelet for 10Euro that she always get compliments on and looooves to tell how she found it at “the Paris flea market”. Deb nabbed a fantastic brown leather doctor’s satchel that looked as if had hardly ever been used. In came in handy on that trip as she needed an extra bag to get her stuff home! She also found a great “fromage” id sign, the kind used in a grocery or at the marché, from when everything was still priced in francs. I’m a packaging person–I’ve found I’m attracted to vintage enamel graniteware French lunchboxes–in addition to my long-standing love for vintage boxes, tins, bottles and labels.

My last visit there, I found a great selection of vintage washing machine labels. I bought 10 different brands, in a whole range of colors and design styles.

So, I love Vanves, but perhaps it’s time to branch out again and next explore Montreiul? It’s so hard to choose between old loves and new adventures!

For Vanves, however, here are a few tips:

1) Get an early start. Vanves opens about 7.30 am on weekends only and the vendors start packing up around noon to make way for a second wave of sellers that deal in 30Euro leather jackets and such.

2) Carry cash. Unlike the dealers at Clignancourt, most Vanves dealers only except cash, although there are few exceptions. And, unlike Clignancourt,where the dealers are experienced at arranging shipping, if you see something you must have, but it can’t go home with you as checked baggage, you’ll probably need to figure out that on your own.

3) Bring along an extra bag or two. Most of these vendors will only offer flimsy plastic bags, if that, to carry away your newly-found treasure.

4) Take notes along the way. There are several vendors that sell many of the same type of items, so don’t buy the first version that you see. Take a note of the price, the condition, etc. and be ready to compare and perhaps bargain when you find something similar.

5) Know your French numbers, or be prepared with a pen and notebook for the vendors to write the price down for you. Most do speak English, but if you want to bargain and don’t feel comfortable negotiating in Franglish, a pen and paper goes a long way, as does a sense of humor!

Practical Info:

Metro, Porte de Vanves, line 13. Get out at the Blvd. Brune exit and there should be a Société Générale bank at the corner with an ATM if you need some more cash. Right around the corner and on your way to the market is the bakery where it’s worth stopping for a little something to munch on (as you took point 1 to heart and got an early start!)

Entry filed under: Europe 2011. Tags: .

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