In a popular tourist destination like Strasbourg, the best way to avoid the crowds is to go out early in the morning or in the evening.
On Saturday, before our scheduled library visit, a few of my group headed out at 8am to the antique and secondhand goods market. We had arranged to meet Priscilla, who works at the local public library and who very kindly agreed to give up her weekend sleep-in to help a bunch of Australians haggle in French. Priscilla collects all sorts of things – opera glasses, musical instruments, antique cameras – and is a regular at the market.
On the way, we passed through the fresh produce market which was a joy to behold – glorious bread, cheese, cured meats, fruit and vegetables. I was particularly taken with the fruit and veg. (I have developed a bit of a plum addiction in France.)
The antique market is not big (compared to, say, Melbourne’s Camberwell market) but has a good range of antique and interesting secondhand items, with a few trashy gems for good measure. No fake iPhone accessories or Hello Kitty toys.
Bargaining is de rigueur. One of my travelling companions bought a red leather coat for 70 euros; the original asking price was 145. Language wasn’t an issue – I don’t know if Paris will be different, but in the regional cities everyone has been very happy to indulge my attempts to communicate with about six words of French and a lot of smiling and sign language.
I ended up buying a few cheap secondhand necklaces (three for 10 euros!) and a lovely set of antique French brass and mother of pearl opera glasses, which I will use with great pleasure the next time I go to the theatre or opera. I am under instruction from Priscilla to wear my new glass pearls and send her a photo. I thought the pearls looked a bit posh for my style, but as Priscilla says: “You can never have too much elegance in everyday life”.