What’s up earthlings! So I headed to Le Marché de Saint-Denis and was so thrilled to be back there after many years away from home. For those of you into markets, think of grand central Market Downtown LA pre-renovation and pre-gentrification. It’s pretty much like GCML only way bigger.
Saint-Denis market is a Marché that boasts delicacies from all corners of the world. I love the multi-ethnic vibe of Saint-Denis with its vibrant Pan African community, people hailing from Algeria, Morroco, Tunisia, Senegal, Mali, Gana as well as from Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe.
It is such an eclectic medieval town with an old-world feel nestled on the outskirts of Paris at the very end of line 13which servicesSaint-Denis Basilique Station. Those looking for a real Marché experience will not be disappointed. Produced are not only very fresh but also artisenal. (no gmos, steroids, hormones) Anything can be found: from rare earthy spices hailing from distant locations like Madagascar, India and Cape Verde to North African Merguez, Fresh Turbo, cod, shark and sardines, plantains, couscous, baklavas, butternut squashes, Herbes de provence and so much more.
The hustle and bustle of working-class immigrants shuffling their feet through narrow streets with their shopping caddy trailing right behind, on a mission to buy food. There is a beauty about Saint-Denis and its people which is rarely showcased on national television. I feel that France’s image tends to only showcase the glossy side of its country but seeing and being on the pulse of everyday life is so important. For me at least, it is one of the top highlight of my trip and if you’re headed that way (which you should!), the Marché opens on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
With only 5 days left in Paris, I headed out to Les Puces de Clignancourt flea market also known as Les Puces De Saint Ouen or “Les Puces,” a sprawling market recognized as the largest flea market in the world. Today was an overwhelming day as I wanted to scour every nook and cranny and find something to take back home to Los Angeles. Alas, I was met by two obstacles: the rain and this damn baggage limit imposed by international custom–argh. You can only imagine my frustration. It’s like everything was calling my name. Though disappointed, I am that much more committed to head out to Paris again with empty suitcases and load-up on unique vintage finds. On a brighter side of things, I managed to get a beautiful carved Senegalese turtle and had fun negotiating down the price with a very nice Senegalese Vendor, and despite the heavy rain, I enjoyed window shopping and discovering unique artworks, contemporary as well as more historic gems. If you are visiting Paris, I highly recommend checking out this flea. Besides antiques, you can find tons of hand me down items, clothes, funky objects, old vinyl for you music heads out there. It’s diverse, nothing pompous, you’ll get a first-hand experience of what Paris feels like. There are many bistros all around where you can stop, grab a bite, and get back to your shopping!
Besides fashion and food, the hallmark of my trip to Paris is single-handedly Parisian architecture especially old antique doors that adorn the majority of buildings in Paris. From modest homes to opulent Hausmanien apartments, old antique doors are part of Paris’ unique character and can be found everywhere.
I’ve spent my time scouring Parisian trottoirs to snap photos of cute old antique doors. The funny thing is, I have never paid any attention as a younger girl growing up in Paris. I was much more interested in going to booms (dance parties) with my friends than in Parisian architecture, let along taking photos of doors. Boy, haven’t things changed over time? I’m now obsessed with them. It is a healthy obsession, one that won’t break the bank for sure–unless of course, I decide to purchase a door and export the damn thing back to Los Angeles, but until that dream comes into fruition, I’ll stick with photography.
Being back in Paris is such a transcending experience on so many levels. Seeing so many brown bodies everywhere remind me of what I’ve been missing so much about Paris for all those years. Of course, Los Angeles is multi ethnic and very diverse, but it’s been somewhat alienating to me to not have anyone I can really relate with. Paris is full of North Africans just like me, the sense of community is what I have been missing the most in LA. Don’t get me wrong, being a Poc in any cities carries its own set of challenges, but when shit hits the fan, having the backing and support of your community is so crucial, having people who understand The French Algerian complexity, people who can relate to you on that level is so important. I’m talking post-colonialism here. Algeria was a former French colony which accounts for the large North African presence in France, especially here in Paris.
Being back in the city that cradled me, and seeing melanated people is nothing short of magic. Diversity gives Paris its character; it’s what makes this city so global!
It’s been a few days since I’ve had the chance to post, but for good reasons. I am back in my hometown of Paris for a few weeks. I needed to hit my old stomping ground and escape the LA grind. Not that Paris doesn’t get crazy. When it comes to chaos, Paris is as chaotic as any other major urban hubs i.e. LA, New York, London, but Parisians have a way to keep stress at bay.
When it comes to setting boundaries, Paris lives up to the hype! Comes hell or high water, Parisians know how to make the separation between work and personal life, this means setting-up clear boundaries. I have lost that habit in Los Angeles but seeing how Parisians hold this concept sacred reminds me of how I need to follow that rule to keep my sanity. One thing that is distinctively different is how Parisians have perfected the art of not giving a shit. If you want to see what looking unpressed look like, just go to any bistros at any time of the day. Parisians know how to take the time to enjoy life.
The bistro culture is a very very prevalent part of French society. More so now following, the November 2015 terrorist attacks which sought to destroy our way of life, shatter our sense of safety, but one thing about Parisians is that we are resilient as fuck and if anything those attacks have re-energize the culture of bistros in Paris. Being back in my hometown of Paris in the same month of the attacks is emotional to me, but it’s clear that bistros are more than a place where French gather in order to forget the soucis of life, bistros are hella political establishments.
Every intellectual Luminaries from Simone De Beauvoir to James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartres have congregated at bistros to ponder over deep philosophical issues. Culturally, the bistro (or bistrot) embodies an untangible esprit de Vivre that unites cultures together, not to mention, reminds us of how important our way of life deserves to be preserved and that neither work, stress, or even terrorism can ever come between us and our joie de vivre.