The phrase ‘flea market’ usually conjures up images of people selling their old junk (or for the George Constanza’s out there, people actually selling fleas) and essentially the same is true in Paris but of course, they do it with so much flair! Les Puces de Saint Ouen is the largest antiques market in the world and as luck would have it, about 10 minutes walk from our front door.
We barely had time to eat our croissants from our local artisanal patisserie before we entered the labyrinth of stalls selling everything from rare furniture to vintage clothing to antique bric a brac and of course more than a few creepy dolls! We liberated a few items before heading out of the fray and off to a more modern shopping experience…
…only I had somehow forgotten that for all its modernity, Paris retail still closes on Sundays. I remember the first time I visited, writing in a postcard that I couldn’t believe that shops are open longer in Penrith than in Paris – unfortunately I didn’t remember that until after I’d dragged Mum back to Saint Germaine to find the shutters of Le Bon Marche well and truly shut!
Ah well, there’s always one place you can count on being open on a Sunday… off to yet another church with us! This time it was Sainte-Chapelle, a 13th century gothic cathedral in the courtyard of the Palais du Justice which was originally built to house religious relics including the crown of thorns. It was consecrated but has since been ‘decommissioned’ and is now open as a museum in which the Cathedral itself is the only piece.
The world over, Sainte-Chapelle is still one of the most impressive sites I have ever seen, with its 15 towering stained glass windows, it seems to me to be more ‘spiritual’ than religious, a celebration of art and light, humanity and nature – it is quite simply breathtaking. It was one of the first ever places I visited in Paris and returning there today was quite emotional. I found it difficult to leave so it was lucky it was closing time and we were chucked out.
Being our last night in Paris, there was just one more thing we had to do (in fact, there’s about a million things we still had to do but that’s Paris for you – gotta leave something to come back for!) – see the Eiffel Tower twinkle on the hour.
We had given much consideration to the best vantage point and ultimately decided on the beautifully elegant and iconic, Pont Neuf. We took up residence in one of the little alcoves, watched the sun set over the Seine and then at the strike of eight, off it went! It twinkled all over with 20,000 light bulbs, each of them bidding us adieu!
We certainly did keep the best till last – the Eiffel Tower doing its beautiful twinkling thing. It was a really good final touch to my first visit to Paris and of course my beautiful Nomi-Jo.
What made me smile today: The hundreds of peddlers around the flea market taking off at a rate of knots at the site of a police car! Love to all.