Sunday, April 19, 2009

Paris day 04 - a quiet day

We had stalled in our plans to go to the Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen on Saturday because we didn't want to deal with the crowds. The articles we were reading mentioned that Monday, though picked over from the weekend, was a quiet day to take a look. We all agreed on Monday as our day.

The Marche aux Puces translates as literally Flea Market because in the old days you would purchase something there and it would have fleas in it. Like clothes or furniture. Ick.

We emerged from the metro and it was easy to see where you are supposed to go. The first stalls that greet you are crap. As are the next stalls. And the next group of stalls. And when I say crap I don't mean just stuff that doesn't interest me, but more like knock off sneakers, almost designer handbags (Dolce & Cabanna, Pradda, Fende, etc...) and incense. Why always incense?

Since none of us needed any Adid-ass tennis shoes, Bob Marley T-shirts or velour track suits with "JUICY" on the ass, we moved past.

We arrived at the corner from where all 13 markets launch.
Le marché aux puces de Saint-Ouen has a long history. It was inagurated in 1885 and extends over six hectares (15 acres). Now the Puces de Saint-Ouen has more that 2500 shops and receives over 70,000 visitors every week.
We went through one of the markets completely. Up this aisle, down that aisle. Is that a nook? Check, did it. Don't forget the crossing walkways. All the way to the back corner. Don't miss one stall. SEE EVERYTHING. No wait, that stall just opened and I missed those three that also opened late. Okay, let me just do one more pass... AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!!!!! I think I lost my mind slightly.

We had a guide from a magazine that made us lust after some stalls. We found them in some other markets but only walked through them partially. We were there for over 4 hours and had to stop for lunch in the middle.

We coveted many things out of our price range (and luggage size) but the one that stands out is this silver tureen with sculpted seafood on the top for the low price of €23,000 (or about 30,000 USD).

We left the market overwhelmed and over browsed. After staring at Hermes steamer trunks and trying to divine the justification of spending "X" amount of dollars on "Y" items and where to place them in my home... well, math is hard and my head ached. Christine is the only person to make a purchase. A lovely piece of art that she now had to carry flat for the rest of the day. Bless her, she managed it gracefully.

Lyle offered to play tour guide and lead us to our next stop. Gare du Nord. This is the train station from where all departing (and returning) trains to Northern destinations are located. The station is stunningly decorated with the goddesses of the European cities that the trains will service.
The Gare du Nord ("North Station") is one of the six large terminus stations in Paris. It serves around 180 million travellers per year, and is the busiest station in Mainland Europe. (It is the fourth -busiest railway station in the world after Shinjuke and Ikebukuro in Tokyo, Japan and Waterloo Station in London.) It was designed by French architect Jaques Hittorff and built between 1861 and 1864.
Just a small sample of the goddesses.

Zoom in for a closer look at the goddess, Paris, who rules from the peak of the architecture and is naturally quite a bit larger than those other lesser city goddesses.

From there we walked out and went over to Gare de l'Est (the station for Eastern bound trains. It was a lovely sunny day and the whole city was out enjoying one of their first Spring days. We decided to join them and paused for coffee and drinks at an outside cafe across from the station.

Refreshed we continued and found the Saint Laurent Church (and you thought he just designed clothes?). It was under some scaffolding but the inside was undisturbed.
I kept joking that they left the Y out of the center of the stained glass window.

As I researched where the heck we'd been I discovered this little nugget: The “Faubourg” of Saint Laurent, as the title indicates, and as do the gates of Saint Martin and Saint Dennis, was for a long time outside the City of Paris.

Oh my god, I totally get it now. For all this time I never knew why there were streets like Rue de St. Honore and then magically they changed to the name Rue de Faubourg St. Honore. That last part is the part that used to be outside the city walls. Wow. I am so much more educated now than when I started this blog post!
He's lost his head over religion.

The one in the middle looks c-c-c-cold....

We left Saint-Laurent and I decided that we were up for a nice walk. To the Paris Opera! AS we meandered, we came across the other monumental archway that Lyle wouldn't walk down to the day before. Kismet! Now I get to see everything.
Porte Saint-Denis

And as we have all now learned, when we walked through this archway we'd be entering the original city inside the walls. Except of course we turned at the arch and basically walked along what would have been the old wall which is now a grand wide boulevard.

The boulevard had some shopping along it and we window shopped a bit. Lyle stopped and bought some fabulous pointy black shoes. I obsessed over a shiny blue suit in the window that I did not inquire about (only to return on our last day, ask about, get looked over and tsk'd, allowed to try on "largest size" they had, and discover that only Lyle can buy jackets in the entire country of France all while the salesman shrugged an "i told you so").

We found the Paris Opera house and marvelled at its grandeur. By now I also had a secret agenda...
Loving this building, I have well documented it on many previous trips. But I still couldn't resist taking a few more photos.

My secret agenda was the Galleries Lafayette.
I n France you can only have a sale twice a year. January and July. Since we were there in March/April there were no sales... but there are "Promotions". Which is a legal dodge around not having a sale. And Galleries Lafayette was having a BIG promotion. The store covers three city blocks. The men's store is 4 floors plus a food floor.

Richard went back to the hotel. Christine went in to the women's store (8 floors), Lyle and I went to the men's store and we three agreed to meet in one hour at the home store across the street (also 4 floors). It was just enough time to be blinded by the possibilities. I told Lyle, "15 minutes a floor!" and took off. Sore feet, heavy jackets, overly warm shop... soon I was dragging my sorry ass slower and slower... luckily that is when we came upon the food floor and we were forced to buy chocolates.

We returned to the hotel without making purchase. We did return a different day but the only things I was interested in were jackets and shirts (and I think we may have established that I am apparently a GIANT in France. Future note to self: shoes).


Landis said...

you so should have texted me for that advice. paris is all about knits and shoes. well, mainly shoes. and food. shoes and food. and scarves. ok, that's it. paris is about shoes, food, and scarves.

"Just David!" said...

Was your hair extra high that day?

jason said...

Oooo....I'm loving St. Denis. I kinda want that picture for myself now.