The Collectors’ Guide to Shopping and Shipping

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The flea markets on the outskirts of Paris, such as Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt, offer great bargains

A touch of Paris at your front door.

I take people on extravagant shopping trips in Paris. The kind of trips destined to furnish a Lake Tahoe country house or decorate a New York City flat. I’ve even helped native Parisians find that “perfect” piece. My clients may be book collectors or art collectors or fans of art deco. Whatever their passion, it is my job to take them to the places that will most likely yield a treasure, or four!

I love the galleries along the rue de Seine, and the ones on the rue Ste.-Anne. A stroll around the Drouot auction house is always worth the energy, or perhaps even a visit inside for a sale. If auction fever strikes, we may proceed to Christie’s, Sotheby’s or my personal favorite, Artcurial. There are specialist galleries selling treasures for every collector out there, and the shopping list is what dictates the itinerary.

Find the treasure in the trash at Paris's Clignancourt flea market, but watch out for pickpockets!

One man’s trash is my idea of a treasure.

And then there are the puces, or flea markets. My two favorites are Porte de Vanves and St.-Ouen, which is better known as the Marché aux Puces de Clignancourt. Clignancourt is the largest flea market in Europe. In fact, it is a collection of maybe a dozen separate markets all in one place. This is not a fleabag experience; antiques dealers will often have a stall here, in addition to a chic boutique in the city center, but they use the market stand as a place to test new concepts and trends in home decor, which means you’ll find some great souvenirs (beaver-fur top hat, anyone?), genuine antiques and fantastic design.

We’re talking acres and acres of merchandise, so wear your walking shoes. And like any crowded place, this is one area where you need to be extra vigilant about pickpockets. Leave your valuables at home, bring minimal cash and keep what you do bring in an inner pocket, close to your body.

Bargaining tip: Make sure the seller takes care of shipping

The haggling begins.

At some point, you are going to get hungry. My favorite place is Le Paul Bert, at the back of the Paul Bert and Serpette markets. Why do I love this one? The simply good, honest food. The staff is harried but goodwilled, and the food really is above average. I’ve been known to go to the market as a ruse to have one of their girolle omelets—never mind the shopping. And everyone loves Chez Louisette, where even starlets come to eat classic cuisine, hang out and sing French tunes with the house band.

On this scale, shopping means shipping. When buying an item or two, I generally insist that the cost and legwork of shipping be included in the price I am negotiating, leaving all the work for the gallery owner. For large items, or a house’s worth of furniture, my favorite shipper is Camard, which has offices at Clignancourt itself. They have a friendly staff, temperature-controlled warehouses and a great track record. Equally dependable, with a fantastic name to boot, is Hedley’s Humpers.


INFO

Camard
01 40 12 84 45.

Chez Louisette
130, ave Michelet.
St.-Ouen.

Le Paul Bert
20, rue Paul Bert.
St.-Ouen.

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