Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I love me some flea marketage

What did we do the second day that could top the first you ask? Actually Dimitri had just the thing.

Our original plan had involved going to Paris' Chinatown to find a Chinese grocery store he was interested in checking out. I said I was interested in going with him in my ongoing quest to find cheap Chinese sausage (turns out London's supply is significantly more expensive than Helsinki's...who would have thought). We ended up nixing this idea after finding out that Chinatown is crazytown on the weekends due to all the tourists and whatnot, so instead arrangements were made to visit a flea market with some of his friends - a Swedish girl he used to work with and her French boyfriend (they all met in Greece, when he was still living there). Now they all live in Paris. Oh the lives of expats. They are so grand.

After eating some more croissants and pan de chocolate (this would definitely become a thing for me if I lived in Paris) and some deliciously sweet orange juice, they picked us up in an electric car. Turns out there's a city-wide program that allows you to rent electric cars at a cheap price. It's a great little system though - there are designated charging area parking spaces for this type of car that you can reserve and you don't need to stick with the same car your entire reservation (you can reserve for days, or just a few hours, depending on what you need the car for). So you drive and park somewhere, plug in the car and lock it, and when you need a car again you locate one that's parked and charging on the app and boom! You can take that one and go. It's incredible. All these little convenient electric cars, just zipping around town. What an exchange system. Fantastic idea.

Anyway, we hopped in this little electric car (it was a little four-seater hatchback) and drove to the flea market, a bit outside of town. It was called Marché de Clignancourt. Basically it's an absolutely gigantic flea market that has maybe 30 different sections covering blocks and blocks, and it happens every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Each section has a different theme. The friends (Swedish Sofia and French Laurent) had already explored 5 or so of these sections. We were going to their favorites - the antiques and furniture. This was going to be awesome for me.

And it was, it really was.

We spent hours just looking at beautiful things.

The thing that captivated me the most, surprisingly, were the collections of old photographs. Tons of vendors just had boxes and boxes of old photographs. Many of them had been stamped on the back so they could be sent as postcards (this was a big thing back in the day apparently, to turn your photographs into postcards to send to people), but most of them were blank (as in hadn't been used or sent by the people who had made them).

So many questions kept popping through my head as I looked through these old black and white photographs. Who were these people? Did they have good lives? If they were children or babies, did they grow up to be beautiful? Did they marry good people? Was this a particularly good moment that was being captured?

I couldn't imagine that photography was particularly cheap back in the day, in the way that it is now. I've been doing a lot of imaging studies at work lately and one of the main comments that's come up repeatedly is that due to digital photography technology our photos have become disposable. We take photos like they're nothing. And unless they happen to be taken during important events or for significant reasons, they're not worth anything. We don't care if they are actually backed up. Very few people I know actually take the time and effort to secure a backup system, to organize their photos, to make sure that they are properly taken care of.

But these people did. It used to be effort to take photos. To go through the chemical process of developing film. It used to be a beautiful process. You had to think about whether or not that moment was worth capturing. Now photos (especially those on cameraphones) are used for documentation or recording, reminders, or studying. These are all worthy reasons but it was interesting to think about.

So I got lost in these photos for hours. Everytime Dimitri caught me looking at them he would say, "Ooh, there she goes again, thinking her deep questions." Apparently not everyone thinks these questions when they look at old photographs. He said his only thought was whether or not the picture was good. Haha, good ole Dimitri.

I ended up buying one, just one. It's been sent to my BFF in San Diego.

I found I just couldn't get myself to buy any others. They were interesting to look at and ponder but the thought of owning them seemed wrong somehow. Like they would lose their significance as soon as I owned them and tried to organize them. I wouldn't be able to find out any of the answers to my questions so it seemed strangely pointless. They were more interesting in their anonymity.

Anyway, enough about that. :) The rest of the market was gorgeous antique furniture, jewelry, clothing. Lots and lots of vintage designer purses and clothing, shoes.

One of my favorite parts of the market was this fabulous wooden brick road. I don't know who designed it and implemented it but it was beautiful the way it had worn down. Smooth to a shiny glean over the years of people repeatedly walking over it. And in great condition. Wonderful.

We spent hours there before calling it a day. In the middle of the day we had lunch at a small cafe. I ordered entrecĂ´te with bleu cheese sauce and fries. It was glorious:

Bloody bloody steak. Just the way I like it. And the cheese sauce: divine. Like I said before: Paris would definitely make me fat in the unhealthiest of ways. I would never make it out alive. I don't know how the Parisians stay so thin. I mean they're certainly not the thinnest people in the world but they're certainly not obese. Maybe it's a dedication to fashion or something...that's the only thing I can think of. It's the only explanation with all that wine, cheese, and bread. The only explanation. Because I would gorge. No question.

We were exhausted coming back home after the market, but Dimitri still found the energy to make us dinner (a delicious omelette with bell peppers, onions, and corn as well as meat kebabs). We were extremely full though so spent the rest of the night lazing on the couch reading.

And such ended the weekend in Paris. The next day for me was checking into my hotel and attending my first conference in a long time.

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