Montfermeil street marketThe other month I wrote about visiting a night market in Asia; in Penang, Malaysia to be specific. Today I’m going to talk about a different market, this one in Europe.

Europe is famous for its local street markets – a lot of commerce goes on in the streets in the various countries of the continent. Some of the more popular markets include fruit and vegetable markets of France (oh – and there’s cheese, too!), the leather markets of Italy, or the antique markets of England. They can be a lot of fun to visit, and sometimes you can find some good deals at these markets – if you’re sharp, and get to them early enough in the day.

The market we went to was in Montfermeil, a commune somewhat east of Paris, in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis (93), just northeast of the town of Gagny. From what I understand the market takes place twice a year in early and late summer. The local police closed off one of the streets in town (Avenue Jean Jaurès) and vendors came from all over to set up stalls along the grass on either side of the road. Further down the street they set up a little fair, with rides for the kids and different kinds of carnival food in stalls along the side of the road.

Generally in these French street markets, people will sell “n’importe quoi” – whatever they can! Imagine a community garage sale, where you can bring the junk from your garage or basement to the street market in a big white van, open up the back, sprawl the contents all over the grass or on some rickety card tables, and then barter with whomever passes by to try to sell it. Now imagine hundreds of people doing this! That’s what the Montfermeil street market was like; a large flea market where anyone can participate.

Buying stuff from the back of a van

My eight-year-old son and I roamed the market up and down for a while, and had a great time looking at all of the different things you could find. Old rotary phones from the 80s. Lots of CDs and DVDs (not sure about the quality of these – I myself would never buy used CDs or DVDs). Old shoes and lots of clothes. Plenty of electronics. Something that looked like a barber chair. Books, toys and appliances. And lots more…

In the end I ended up with a few like-new BDs (bandes dessinées, quality Franco-Belgian comic books) and my son went home with a tomato plant for his garden. I didn’t get anything else – not much else at the market appealed to me. Mostly the fun of the market was being there, eating some street food, seeing all the people, and roaming the stalls.

Here are some pictures from the day:

Avenue Jean Juarès
Avenue Jean Juarès, full of people perusing the market. It was a rainy day – I was glad I brought my umbrella! – but the rain didn’t deter people from coming to the bi-annual market.

Market tomato
My son and his new tomato plant. He loves to garden!

Montfermeil street market shoes
Vendors put only one shoe out on the tables, presumably to deter thieves who would want to steal both shoes. Like people are going to want to steal grubby old used shoes… boggle.

What is with this chair? Old electronics at the market
Some old junk at the Montfermeil market. On the left – seriously, what is that, a barber’s chair? And on the right, some old electronics – various cables and cords, used DVDs, and some analog phones from the 70s and 80s. Not sure if anyone will buy this stuff, but I guess it’s worth a shot…?