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Paris Flea Markets and Thrift Stores

Paris Flea Markets

When I lived in a small apartment, I had to dial down buying everything. As folks in Paris say: “Something in, something out” – meaning that if you brought something in, you had to get rid of something to make room for it. I lived ”smaller,” with fewer things, which was great because I pared down my collecting, and kept only what was essential.

Paris Flea Markets

What a difference a few years, and a few more square meters, make. And now that I’ve got some more space in my apartment after moving a couple of years ago, I’m hitting the vide-greniers and brocantes again, scooping up odds and ends. (And looking for places to put everything, all over again. *sigh*) When I put photos on my Instagram stream as I wandered the markets recently, the invariable question comes up: “Where are you?” So in response to folks that want to know where I shop, this listing is for you.

Paris Flea Markets

The bad news is that there are relatively few bargains in Paris. The good news is, that’s not exactly true. There’s plenty of stuff that people get rid of because it’s old-fashioned or not needed, so it is possible to pick up vintage cookware, linens, and other things that locals cast off. And I’m happy to buy them!

Paris Flea Markets

I’ve developed a bit of a “bottom feeder” mentality and avoid the traditional flea markets, the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen (usually referred to as the Marché Clignancourt), and the Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves, and stick to the brocantes that pop up in Paris during nice weather in the neighborhoods. Prices are much lower and it’s more fun to see what pops up as people are unloading their trucks. Below are tips on how to find them, as it’s not obvious to visitors (and some locals). Though I didn’t used to mind spending money on things, I am now more selective (and maybe more French?) and have become radin (cheap), focusing on things that are truly bargains.

Paris Flea Markets

It’s good to know the nomenclature. Flea markets (Marchés aux puces) refers to the larger, fixed-location markets in Paris, but it’s the brocantes and vide-greniers that I find the most interesting. Basically, a brocante is an open-air sale that includes professional dealers, but they’re lower priced than the fancy antiquaire markets and exhibitions. Most brocantes in Paris are a mix of dealers and particuliers, or individuals, who are non-professionals.

Paris Flea Markets

Garage sales and sidewalk sales aren’t permitted in France, so vide-greniers, or “empty the attic” sales, are the closest equivalent. These are collective sales held in various neighborhoods and folks in the quartier bring objects that they want to sell. These can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes it’s a lot of plastic children’s toys, other times, people are cleaning out their kitchens, and you can score. A braderie refers to a sale where things are marked down and there are rarely professionals, and a braderie often refers to a sale when things are sold rummage sale-style. (For the sake of discussion, I’m just going to refer to outdoor flea markets as brocantes, as they are referred to in Paris.)

Paris Flea Markets

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Paris Taxi News and Tips

Taxi in Paris

Like many cities, taxis play a major role in getting people around Paris. However getting a taxi in Paris can be quite a challenge. And with only 4000 cabs added since 1937, from 14k to 18K, if you’ve ever been standing on a deserted street at 2am, then you don’t need me to tell you what a relief it is to find a taxi when you need it.

Also, as far as I know, Paris is one of the only European cities where the meters start when you call the cab. So be aware that if calling in advance, there will already be a higher fare on the meter than what is normally there if you just hail one yourself. (The Lyria train has a service where they will have a cab waiting for you at the Gare de Lyon, which I once used and when I got in, I saw the meter already had €17 on it. The total fare was €24 so most of it was “waiting time. I do recommend using a driver or making arrangements to be picked up by a service or taxi if arriving at the Gare du Nord via the Eurostar as there can be huge lines for taxis there. But at the other stations, it’s usually not a problem.)

A couple of new services have started in Paris. One are shared cabs, where you split the fare with someone. I’m not sure if you’ll save all that much on a trip within the city, but going to the airport can cut the far almost by half. Another development are véhicules de tourisme avec chauffeur (VTC), or taxi-like vehicles with private drivers. The government is trying to impose a rule that if you use a non taxi chauffeur, they have to wait 15 minutes before picking you up. Here are a few other caveats to know about taking a taxi in Paris:

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Paris Safety Tips

Leave Us Alone!

Paris is a relatively safe city, as cities go, and recently, I was having a discussion with someone about places to be wary about traveling to and was told that the only place in the world that they felt unsafe was in….San Francisco. (And they were from Naples!) So anything can happen anywhere in the world and petty crime sometimes occurs in places where you don’t expect it, like museums, hotel dining rooms, and restaurants.

Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Other times, it’s a lapse of common sense. For example, if you wear fancy jewels or tote a pricey handbag on the métro, there is probably someone on there that loves your gold Rolex as much as you do. On public transit, it’s especially easy to “grab and go” things because once the doors shut and the train pulls away, the damage is done. (If that does happen to you, notify the driver at the next station; sometimes they will call security for you and alert others on the train to be careful.) In cases where your wallet is stolen, they will sometimes remove the cash right away and toss everything else in the trash, or even on the ground, as it’s hard to prove that a wad of cash is stolen. So sometimes you do get your wallet back. (A friend had the wallet lifted from her purse, which was next to her in a restaurant. After the diner next to her quickly left before eating, when she realized what had happened, the waitress found her wallet on the ground just outside.)

Wily pickpockets blend in well. It’s easy to categorize people by how they dress or look, or their nationality, but pros know how to mix in. Someone who leads tours in Italy pointed out the pickpockets at her outdoor market, some posing as young couples on their honeymoon and I never would have suspected a thing. I’ve shooed away a few young women “tourists”, looking lost as they tried to read their maps in Barcelona, using the maps to cover up their hands as they rifled through people’s belonging. I’ve seen the same ruse in Paris and it’s a shame that we have to be careful when helping someone who is ostensibly lost.

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Things I’m Liking…

cassolets

Les cassoles

I love my everyday bowls, which were gifts from my friend Kate who lives in Gascony. They’re from a semi-local potter which makes cassoles, the bowls for preparing Cassoulet. But I’ve loved these little fellas forever and use ‘em for my daily soup and noodle bowls. I’ve posted pictures of them on the site and folks have asked me where oh where they can find them. (Here’s one site.) But because they’re somewhat fragile to ship, and rather heavy, you might want to consider hauling them back from France yourself if you don’t live here*. However I came across them at the J’Go stand in the Marché Saint Germain des Près in the 6th. If you want them, and are coming to Paris – bring bubble wrap! (And some extra cash; they’re €24 each.)

chocolate with salt and olive oilArbequina olive oil

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Food Gifts to Bring French People from America

Dandelion chocolate

Even though globalization has made things pretty available everywhere, and things like Speculoos spread and Fleur de sel can now be found in America, it hasn’t always worked quite the same the other way around. Some American things haven’t made it across the Atlantic and people often think that Americans subsist on junk food because at the stores that cater to expats, and in the “American aisle” at the supermarket, there are things like Strawberry Fluff (which I keep explaining to them that that’s something I’ve never seen in America), boxed macaroni & cheese, caramel-flavored microwave popcorn, bottled salad dressings, and powdered cheesecake mix, which I think I find scarier than they do.

And while there’s nothing wrong with a pour of ranch dressing or a Fluffernutter every now and then (although hold the strawberry-flavor..), those are not exactly the best that America has to offer. I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.

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Thanksgiving in Paris

pumpkins & potimarron

This article was written in 2012, however many of the places do an annual Thanksgiving feast. Check the websites of the venues to see what they are offering. -david

It’s that time of the year, when Americans gather around the Thanksgiving table. Because of the number of requests from travelers, and some locals, here is a round-up of places serving Thanksgiving meals. Since the holiday is celebrated on Thursday, which is a regular working day in Paris, many places offer the meal on other nights of the week as well.

I’ve linked to the venue, and the event, so folks can check out what each place is offering. I can’t make specific recommendations since I usually stay at home so this list is for informational purposes. Listed are two places that sell Thanksgiving supplies and foods, and most outdoor markets and butchers in Paris also sell turkeys (and turkey melons!) There are excellent farm-raised turkeys in France, although they’re not as common to find as other poultry.

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Disneyland Paris

Disney castle

I’ve lived in Paris for nearly ten years, which some folks think is a magic kingdom in itself. And although I’ve been to the Louvre, Rungis, the Musée d’Orsay, and the crazy-giant Tati store at Barbès, I’ve not been to Disneyland Paris – until now. I’d been to the one in southern California as a kid, back when Disneyland featured things we never dreamed of even seeing. Although my memory doesn’t go all that far back, things like telephones that didn’t have cords (or dials!) and home computers, (like mine, with a broken iiiiiiiiiiiiii key) were just nuggets in someone’s imagination.

Back then, at Disneyland, IIIIIIIIII was toting an instamatic cameras with 4-sided flashcubes and if you accidentially dropped a gum wrapper, someone was right behind you to sweep it up. And way-back-when, there really were “E tickets”. Now if you say to someone that something is an e-ticket, whereas it used to mean that you were in for an interesting, thrilling, or expensive experience, nowadays it likely means you’re going to be stuck in a grim airport for a few hours.

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Canceling Reservations

French menu

I’d arrived early this weekend at one of the “hot” restaurants in Paris, where I was meeting a friend for dinner, so I chatted up the barman while having a glass at the bar. Since it’s one of my favorite restaurants, I asked him how things were going because I want them to succeed and continue. He replied, “Well, we just had three groups of people who had reservations at 7pm, who didn’t show up.”

For a place that has fewer than a dozen tables, that’s a substantial percentage of places that could have gone to someone else. Many restaurants in Paris are small and it’s hard to absorb the loss of not having all – or most of – the tables filled, when they could be. And because costs to employ people are extremely high in France (higher than you might imagine), only the fancy places can afford to have a dedicated reservations person to keep track of who is coming and who isn’t. The rest rely on waiters or the bar person to answer the phone and write reservations in the book. So when you call and they seem harried, it’s usually because they are talking to you while serving customers or welcoming people walking in the door.

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