Tuesday, September 29, 2009

12 Days in Paris: 100 Years of Bugatti

Bugatti celebrated one hundred years with a rally on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday (September 20). We caught the end of the exhibit and WOW! The Bugatti company, considered legendary for producing some of the most expensive, most exclusive and fastest cars in the world, was founded in Molsheim, France (originally a district of Germany), in 1909 by Italian car maker Ettore Bugatti. It is owned today by the Volkswagen group.Some 60 Bugatti cars, from a very old 1929 Type 44 to the very recent Bugatti Veyron, began their centenary rally last week in Molsheim and ended it in this exhibition on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

12 Days in Paris: Flea Markets

Paris flea markets range from neighborhood markets (the Paris equivalent of garage sales, which are not allowed in Paris) to brocante markets (like the one we went to at Porte de Vanves) to the antique flea markets (such as the Paris Flea Market at Clingnancourt).

Starting at the high end, we went to the Marche les Puces Saint Ouen at Porte Clignancourt – better known as The Paris Flea Market (Intersection of rue des Rosiers and rue Paul Bert, 18e, M├ętro: Porte de Clignancourt). This “market” is actually a dozen markets scattered over several streets in the area. The market is large, confusing and many of the antiques are expensive. We started at Marche Paul Bert and Serpette, then over to Marche Biron. These markets are typically high end. Great to look at and you will definitely see things not available here in the Bay Area. We eventually got over to Marche Vernaison where we were more at home with the brocante shops.

Marche Paul Bert and Serpette

We didn’t buy anything in these markets, but there were many fascinating things for sale. But when you’re on a time budget, you need to move on.

Marche Vernaison

This market we enjoyed. The spaces are reasonable to navigate and there are lots of mid-range items to choose from.

Found a number of items at the Tombees du Camion spaces. This shop also has a location near Montmartre (17, rue Joseph de Maistre, 18e, Metro Abbbesses). The name literally means, “fallen off the truck.” They have inventive displays and reasonable prices for the most part. We picked up some round boxes and labels from them.

Marche Porte de Vanves

The Marche aux Puces de la Porte Vanves (Avenue Georges Lafenestre & Avenue Marc Sangnier, 18e, Metro: Porte Vanves) is pretty much on the opposite side of Paris from the St. Ouen market. This is much more like the antique or flea markets we are used to. The market is stretched in a long line over several blocks. We found a wide variety of items, but it seemed we came away with mainly old paper.

These are old handwritten documents ranging in age from Napoleanic times to the early 1900s.

Labels, cards, ivory game pieces, maps, butter wrappers and more boxes all look great.

This is a terrific old photo album, filled with CDVs including military, children and refined ladies.

Two mini-book calendars from 1923 & 1924.

This is a wonderful religious locket. Below are silverplate medallions from the Olympics, a pair of French napkin rings, a couple of corkscrews and a bathing beauty.

12 Days in Paris: Lea Stein Jewelry

Lea Stein was born in Paris in 1931. In the 1960s her husband, Fernand Steinberger, developed a method of laminating thin strips of rhodoid (celluloid acetate) creating interesting textures and colors. Initially, Lea Stein designed buttons for the fashion industry using the rhodoid laminated components. In 1969 she started making fantastic and whimsical 3-dimensional jewelry using these laminates. Her business thrived in the 1970s, but in 1981 she sold her inventory and closed the shop. Her jewelry actually grew in popularity after she exited the business, so in 1988 she re-established the jewelry line, albeit on a smaller base. Each year she introduces one or two new designs.

At a neighborhood flea market in Place du Guignier we spotted a small collection of Lea Stein brooches and snatched them up for Vintages. Except for the fox & Corolle, these are all pieces that were designed after 1988, when production was smaller. These will be priced in the $65 to $125 range. They are fantastic, unusual and hard to find. If you are a fan of Stein’s jewelry, here’s a chance to see a nice selection in one place.

These are the brooches that we have (clockwise from top left): Turtle, Cicada, Fox, Attila the Standing Cat, Corolle, Elephant and Ladybug.

12 Days in Paris: Village St. Paul

Village St. Paul is a small area of le Marais that runs along rue Saint Paul and adjacent streets and courtyards. This area is home to a number of boutiques and antique/brocante shops. We strolled along the streets, wandered in and out of the courtyards and found some nice items for ourselves and the shop. You’ll be seeing some lovely little perfume bottle labels, medicine boxes, and small paper items in Vintages.

Au Passe Partout (21, rue Saint Paul, 4e) has a fantastic selection of antique keys, corkscrews and other objets insolites et de collection (unusual objects and collectibles). The owner is Marc Feldman who authored a book (in French) about antique keys, Des Clefs et des Hommes (Keys and Men). I purchased this wonderful Champagne Tap from Marc. It is a very unusual example and will be a great addition to my collection.

12 Days in Paris: Le Marais

Le Marais is a complex warren of narrow winding streets past 17th century houses and ethnic diverse shops, boutiques and restaurants. This is a great walking area, as there are interesting and curious boutiques just about everywhere.

The Marais district is home to the Paris History Museum – Musee Carnavalet – that is located in a pair of buildings dating back to the 16th century. We were drawn into the museum by the wonderful formal gardens in the open courtyard.

The museum is laid out chronologically, to give the visitor a nice timeline of the historical events that shaped this great city. There are a number of scale models of sections of the city that are works of art in their own right.

Along a couple of the halls is a marvelous collection of antique hanging signs. Boy would I like to have some of these!

After some time in the museum, we hustled over to have lunch at L’As du Fallafel (34, rue des Rosiers, 4e). This place was recommended to us by our son and daughter-in-law who spent the Holidays last year in le Marais. Excellent! For a small amount extra you can eat inside and don’t forget to try the sauce picante.

On the way we spotted this lovely flower shop – Au Nom de la Rose. This is part of a chain, but the store is small and the flowers gorgeous. All over Paris we found beautiful flower shops.

Close by was Vertige (11, rue de Sevigne, 4e), an atelier where the owner/artist has created this wonderful, whimsical chandelier.

Near le Marais, we checked out The Collection (33, rue Poitou, 3e), a classy designer atelier with lots of handmade goodies for decorating the home. The hand-made wallpaper was really special. Prices on these start at about 300 euros per 3-meter section!

Scattered about Paris are a number of old covered passageways. These are typically home to interesting ateliers. The Passage du Grand Cerf is near le Marais in the 2nd district.

We found two wonderful shops (among others) that made us stop and peruse the inventory. The first was Le Labo (4, Passage du Grand Cerf, 2e) where the owner, Chantal Rimbert, hand crafts these wonderful little wire people sculptures.

Next door is Cecile Boccara (8, Passage du Grand Cerf, 2e) who makes these beautiful handmade flowers.


Le Marais is super crowded on the weekends, so unless you like crowds, try visiting on weekdays. Remember to check with the stores about hours of operation. The St. Paul Metro staion is pretty well central to most of le Marais.

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