I’m fascinated by flea markets in Europe. I prefer the traditional ones where you might find a mix of bric-a-brac, paintings, vintage jewelry, silverware, old books, pieces of lace, old pots and pans, and records. I don’t like the noisy ones with plastic battery-operated junk – I can see that kind of flea market any weekend here in the U.S.
One reason I find used goods fascinating is the history that goes along with an item. I like to daydream about who owned it originally and how the item was used. Did that set of silverware belong to a just married couple before the war? Who is that pretty girl in the painting? When were those dolls made?
The book Flea Markets in Europe describes why some people buy second-hand goods at flea market – “the desire to be different, to possess those articles which are no longer made, aand which few people still have…which do not show the marks of mass production and which outlive both fashion and their owners.” I think many of the visitor to the Vanves flea market fall into this category.
The people watching is great at le marché aux puces. The sellers know each other and banter about and watch each other’s stalls if they have to go get lunch. Many of them are very knowledgeable about what they’re selling though there is a subgroup of slightly rough-hewn types that descend straight from the rag and bone pickers of old. At Vanves, many of the customers are local Parisians as well as tourists from all over the world exploring the wares.
Of course one must eat after a morning of looking at interesting objects. A small cheese sandwich and a coffee at a local cafe rounded out this expedition.
Do you buy second-hand items or do you find used stuff gross? What’s your favorite flea market?