I’m an enthusiastic proponent of postcards. More than e-mail, less than letters, they’re a perfect way to let loved ones back home know you’re thinking about them during your travels. I can’t decide which I like better: carefully crafting a succinct, thoughtful message to send, or receiving someone else’s sentiments in my mailbox. On your Paris travels, be sure to pick up a carte postale or 2, or 17, to tell your friends and family: Wish you were here.
The physicality of a postcard—light and lovely—is what I love most about this miniature art form. Every home I’ve had for the last seven years has boasted a postcard wall that displays the sights and thoughts of my friends’ journeys around the world, and that helps keep me dreaming globally. Since I moved to Paris, the only thing I spend more money on than wine is postcards and stamps. I don’t mind that—I’m a romantic, and a writer. I love to send off a stack of beautiful old photographs or art nouveau illustrations with observations of the city, and of places I will show my loved ones when they come to visit. But the best feeling I get is finding a trove of cheap, vintage and/or unique postcards, the non-Photoshopped kind you’ll never find at Gilbert Jeune, the popular Paris bookstore chain, or on a rack beside the Eiffel Tower.
If you’re prepared to do some digging, these singular souvenirs aren’t hard to find. I love strolling the bouquinistes along the Seine, who often have a great vintage selection that isn’t much more expensive than the typical dime-a-dozen sort you can find anywhere. On the cheaper side, brocantes around Paris usually have at least one or two vendors with shoe boxes full of antique postcards from all over Europe for less than a euro. Occasionally they’ll have the original sender’s message already inscribed on the back, but no matter—that’s the one to save for yourself and frame after your travels to Paris are over.
The best postcards I find while I travel in Paris are usually completely accidental. An impulsive stop into the comic-book shop Librairie Rackham on the rue Dante yielded a stack of French movie poster cards of Marilyn Monroe; a browse through the junk shop L’Interloque in Montmartre found me hunched over a Tupperware container of postcards from 1970s Germany, France and Spain, at 6 for 1 euro; and the adorable boutique Tuxedo gives away its colorful, witty retro postcards in unlimited quantities with every purchase.
Once in awhile I can’t resist the pull of a more traditional rack. The publisher Editor continuously draws me in with its romantic black-and-white scenes of classic Paris as captured by photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and Edouard Boubat. Sometimes I like to grab a stack of these and hunt down their original locations. This practice has led me on a voyage of discovery throughout Paris, into its historical nooks and crannies, and gives me a sense of my own place within the city. And isn’t that why we travel to Paris in the first place?
2, rue Dante, in the 5th Arrondissement.
54, rue Duhesme, in the 18th.
Hunt down original locations
Editor’s note: Have you signed up for our free bimonthly newsletter? Don’t miss out on what many call the best newsletter on Paris.