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Topping Off Heads and Hot Chocolate

Sunday morning, we started out early in the freezing cold to wander the “allées” of the “Marché aux Puces” in Saint-Ouen to find the one missing piece to “Le Saint-Tropez’s” furnishings puzzle.

The Marché aux Puces is Paris’ largest rummage sale and antique market that spans the area between Métros Porte de Clignancourt and Porte de Saint-Ouen just outside the “Périphérique” (ring road and border of the city of Paris). There are dozens of “allées” (alleys) in which one can be totally lost and hundreds of different merchants selling every sort of resale or discarded goods at every age, level of condition, quality and price.

Le Saint-Tropez” is the studio apartment with a terrace currently under renovation to which I’ve devoted 4.5 years of giving ‘life.’ Over the years, there have been so many trials and tribulations that I’ve kept a complete written account, and which has yet to be fully realized. It’s now on it’s second contractor; the first one having ‘gone belly up’ just AFTER he received 30% of the payment in advance for the work, leaving me in the lurch for both the renovation and the funds.

Such is life in the City of Light from time to time, just like anywhere in today’s tenuous economic climate…but we carry on with persistence knowing that when all is said and done, this very special ‘aerie’ bathed in light overlooking Le Marais under 17th-century beams will well be worth all the efforts.

Over the past months, I’ve been shopping the various “brocantes” (rummage sales) and antique markets looking for just the right furnishings to turn Le Saint-Tropez into the heavenly ‘seaside’ escape I’ve envisioned all these years. To date, it’s missing just one piece for which I was searching yesterday — the bathroom cabinet on which a “vasque” (counter top washbasin) will be positioned. It must be very special, as it will be seen from all points through an arched doorway leading to the bathroom — the arch bordered in aqua and gold mosaic tile, acting as a frame to the view beyond.

On route to the “allées” of the market which branch off from “rue des Rosiers,” just prior to crossing the Périphérique, is an open-air market of a variety of newly manufactured goods that is reminiscent of a “souk” and within one can find inexpensive clothing as well as bargain a bit on the prices. It’s here I found new brightly colored berets to add to my collection at 5€ each and my friend found solid combat boots
for 50€ that elsewhere were twice the price.

Midday we took a break from the cold to have a “Vin Chaud” (hot wine) and “Boeuf Bourguignon” at “Chez Louisette,” a restaurant in the Allée Vernaison where Edith Piaf once sang and where, to this day, a “chanteuse” much like her sings the same sad songs on weekend days. One doesn’t go for the quality of the food, but for the atmosphere and a touch of nostalgia.

At the antique market I found two or three possible choices of cabinets, one of which has just the right aqua patina to fit well in the space. Most of the good finds were in the Allée Paul Bert, my favorite of them all, where the assortment of goods is most eclectic. The merchants were bundled in mittens and wooly coats, weathering the freezing temperatures, but lunching together in good spirit. We had to interrupt them to ask about this or that, bargain on price or determine a delivery date. They didn’t seem to mind — there weren’t many shoppers as brave as us.

Before hopping back on the Métro we couldn’t resist stopping into Café Paul Bert, one of the market’s best restaurants, for a REAL “Chocolat Chaud à l’Ancienne” that made the bitter cold seem like a good excuse for such a decadent dessert. Like the whipped cream floating on the chcocolate, it topped off the day.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Photo by Peter Nichols

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