Q&A – Where to find my Favorite French Antique Markets!

top:2px;padding-right:5px;font-family:times;”>With the blog only one week old, The Antiques Diva ™ is already ready to respond to a reader and friend who has posed one of the blog’s first questions. The Sensational Sandy, a British Chicky who divides her life between residences in Holland and Spain, writes:

“I have a question and I am sure you can answer it having lived in France. Is there a French antiques market close enough for us to drive to from Amsterdam for a weekend perusal sometime in September or October when we are back from Spain? We have completed decorating 3 bedrooms in the house in Spain and now the top bedroom and en suite are the last to do. As the room is in the eves of the house and will have a lot of character I want to furnish it with a French theme with bed, bedside cabinet and a small dressing unit either painted white or something ornate and fancy. This will be my girlie-style bedroom, more feminine than the others. Our aim is to get all the house finished before we have the house warming party”.


“Bien sur” Sandy, The Antiques Diva is the right person to answer this question! After 5 years living in Paris I’m quite partial to French antiques and have a pocket full of resources. The most natural response depends upon how far you’re willing to drive and then we need to consider that time is of the essence to make your second home party-ready. One stop shopping would be ideal! Amsterdam to Paris is a 5 hour drive – and it is doable in a long weekend, although admittedly a 5 hour drive is not for the faint of heart. For the best selection of French antiques outside of Provence’s Isle Sur la Sorgue (which even for a die-hard antiquer like myself is simply too far away for a weekend jaunt), you must go to my favorite one-stop antique shopping spot — torique/Default.htm” target=”_blank”>Marche Aux Puce de St Ouen, commonly called “Clignancourt”. I can almost give you a “Diva Guarantee” that you’ll find everything you’re looking for. Parisian vendors have rounded up an amazing selection of French antiques and presented them in one locale making it possible to furnish an entire house in one weekend of hard-core shopping. The convenience might come with a slightly higher Parisian price tag, but I’ve always had exceptional luck getting the vendors to bargain down into my price range. Should this be your first time to “les puces” then consider hiring a professional guide to get you where you want to go. Parisian friend Rebecca Magniant (and her trusty band of tour guides) at Chic Shopping Paris offer an “Arts and Antique” custom-made tour that is certain to help you maximize your time and find the best bargains! Et, bien sur, tous leurs guides parlent francais et anglais!

If you plan your long weekend getaway just right, you could be in luck. Do Clignancourt one day, then hit my favorite traveling flea market the next. From Sep 28 – Oct 7, 2007 in the Parisian suburb of L’ile de Chatou, you’ll find the tou/foire/acc.htm” target=”_blank”>Foire Nationale a la Brocante et au Jambon. I’ve made some of my best purchases at the National Fair of the Flea Market and Ham. Also, if your man likes ham as much as mine does, then he’ll be delighted with the wholesome and hearty lunches hocked in the food isle. Come with an empty stomach and a lot of cash and you certainly won’t go home hungry or empty-handed.

Should a 5 hour drive be too much, then consider visiting the “Braderie de Lille” in the northern French town of Lille which is only a 3 hour drive away from Amsterdam and where the bargains are a plenty. The first weekend of September (Aug 31 – Sep 3, 2007) tourisme.com/index_gb.php” target=”_blank”>Lille hosts what can only be described as a town-wide garage sale, which is also a pretext for a party as 2 million shoppers descend on the city enjoying free concerts, unheard of bargains and eating copious quantities of mussels and fries. While you’re not guaranteed to find a thing you’re looking for, you will most likely leave having purchased a million other things you don’t need but simply couldn’t live without. Better yet, you can help justify the trip by checking “buy extra guest bed linens” off your list as Lille is home to the famous Porthault factory outlets whose linens grace both the tables and beds of Paris’ posh Plaza Athenee.

Closer to home you’ll find the Belgian flea market town of tongereninfo.net/enantiekmarkt.htm” target=”_blank”>Tongeren which is a reasonable 2 ½ hour drive from Amsterdam. In my experience, Belgium has the best prices on French antiques in the whole of Europe. A trip to Tongeren tickles my fancy any weekend of the year. Not only do they host each Sunday what is reputedly Europe’s 2nd largest flea market, but the tongereninfo.net/locatie.html#Scene_3″ target=”_blank”>town itself is worth a visit as well. It is the oldest town in Belgium, complete with Roman fortifications and an imposing Gothic church. Add to this charming setting the tons of weekday antique shops which have set up business to accompany the Sunday flea market and you’ve got an antiquer’s euphoria. Since you’re planning to be in Belgium on Sunday anyway, you could come early and also hit Brussels on Saturday for the Place du Sablon Market (upscale but oh so yummy) and the antique shops surrounding the square as well as the other flea market (which occurs daily) in the Place du Jeu de Balle .

Don’t forget to look closer to home, too. While I love taking antiquing weekends away, sometimes what you’ve be
en looking for is right under your nose. A great place to catch a bargain is at the De Zwaan Veilinggebouw (The Swan Auction House) located on Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht. Of course, you can always check out Amsterdam’s Antiques District “The Spiegelkwartier” as they’ve a lovely selection of French antiques. Two of my favorite shops are Ria Jong’s and Arphi Antiques & Atelier. Should you have still not found what you’re looking for, don’t lose hope. In December my favorite “secret sale” occurs at Brederode Kunst & Antiek, a private residence most of the year, whose resident twice a year throws open her doors in a fabulous sale of the French treasures she’s been sourcing all year. Get out your pen (for you certainly want to write these dates in permanent ink) and mark your calendar for these Secret Santa dates — December 7, 8 and 9. If you simply can’t wait, Annette Brederode does take appointments. Alas I must bid adieu and I haven’t even gotten around to discussing the decorating which is one of my favorite topics.

Perhaps another time… Until then,

À bientôt et Bonne Shopping!

The Antiques Diva

Useful Details:
Marche aux Puce de Saint-Ouen- Clignancourt:
Starts on Friday morning with a small portion of the shops opening their stalls, then gets into full swing at 10am on Sat, Sun and Mon with a crush of tourists, Parisians, & antique dealers. They claim to stay open until 6pm, but I wouldn’t plan on all the stalls staying open for this long.

Directions, Parking, Metro, etc:
In my opinion, driving in Paris is best left to the certifiably insane, however as you’ll be driving from Holland and will be in your car, you can find parking in the roof top Marche Serpette (3 E per hour) with on-site parking attendant or one of the other non-attended parking garages at the end of Rue Paul Bert or a garage between Marche Malassis and Dauphine – however be warned if there is no parking attendant you must have exact change to pay!

My advice to anyone who doesn’t have to drive is to take the metro or a taxi and let the dealers make the deliveries to you! The market is reached via the Metro Line 4 – easily enough the last stop Porte de Clignancourt. When you come up from the depths of the metro and look around, you’ll realize immediately that is this not the Paris postcards are made of and I’m certain it was the inspiration for at least one of Dante’s rings of hell. This is not a good neighborhood to wander around in so hold onto your purse and walk the Avenue Michelet — skip the temptation to walk “the market side of the street” where you will see vendors in makeshift stalls and canopies set up. This is not the flea market. Skip it. It is full of trashy t-shirts, weird lurking men selling stolen cell phones, fake Rolexes, and faux Louis Vuittons.
As you walk under the peripherique on the Avenue Michelet, go straight until you see a sign that says Rue des Rosiers – cross over and enter into the flea market. Many people are surprised to realize that this is the not a flea market of temporary tables, but permanent structures and buildings which house millions of euros of precious merchandise.

Around Amsterdam:
Ria Jong Antiquiteiten
Prinsengracht 574
1017KR Amsterdam
Phone: +31 (0)20 62 52 355

Brederode Kunst & Antiek
Lijnbaansgracht 56D
1015GS Amsterdam
Phone: +31 (0) 20 6236 236
Hours: Only open 2 times a year – the next dates are Dec 7, 8 and 9th, 2007, from 11:00am – 6:00pm. And by appointment.
Email to:annettebrederode@kpnplanet.nl”>annettebrederode@kpnplanet.nl to get on the mailing list for next year.