New Orleans Flea Markets…More Than Parades, Beads And King Cakes
When you think New Orleans and Mardi Gras…think FLEA MARKETS, not just jazz, Hurricanes (drinks that is) and Monday morning regrets!
Neighboring the streets where you hear shouts of “Hey Mister, throw me some beads”, sit some of the most fascinating flea markets that further enrich the culture of New Orleans. If like me, you enjoy experiencing more than the large tourist attractions when you travel, you will love going to the flea markets in New Orleans.
Found in a pre-vacation online search for “fleas” to include in our annual trip to NOLA, I was lured to see first-hand why no one wanted me to know about the “flea market under the bridge” in this post by Michael Patrick Welch. http://www.vice.com/read/the-hidden-new-orleans-flea-market-no-one-wants-you-to-know-about Why did no one want me to know about this flea market? I had to see for myself.
Algiers Flea Market
This hidden market takes shelter from often formidable New Orleans weather conditions in the shadows of the West Bank Expressway bridge complex, just over the Mississippi River and across from New Orleans city center.
As flea market early risers, at dawn, my husband and I were privileged to land a street side parking spot on the narrow gravel path that encircles the trio of “sections” which define the boundaries of this sub-culture. When we left the market that day, we realized what a prize we had in this early-bird gift! The streets later became snarled with vehicles of all sizes trying to shimmy into any space in the small confines of inadequate parking.
Stalls were make-shift and sparse with inventory and vendors upon our arrival. Typical discounted liquidation specials such as cheap kitchen wares, pirated CDs and DVDs, knock off purses, shoes and “high-end brand name” blue jeans, were available in the perimeter booths of the mini market village.
Resellers of over-priced garage sale type finds anchored a couple prime corner spots. I was able to spot a rare piece or two of identifiable collectible glassware…also significantly overpriced. I did buy a rhinestoned New Orleans baseball cap for myself because it was different and much cheaper than anything at the souvenir shops on Bourbon Street.
It came however, with a no-price-bargain option! I wanted it. Price paid.
While initially disappointed at the all-too-common flea market, mass produced, Made in China offerings, there seemed to be a “soul” to this venue that kept us intrigued. It didn’t take us long to discover the heart of the market where the food vendor stalls are centered.
Ever mindful of flattened cardboard boxes and slices of plywood underfoot that protected us from mud, we slowed our way through to the delicious scents of sizzling authentic Central American cuisine. Sweet and savory smells sucked us further into the vortex of delectable aroma through a cavernous maze of slippery pathways. All pathways let to a palette of ethnic foods to tempt even the most discerning appetite. Meats, vegetables, baked goods…all regional fare with requisite condiments.
Though we passed on trying any of the local hot-off-the-grill dishes, the delicious scents of the sizzling fares lured us to walk back through the food “court” a second time. OK, not lying…we did get a churro on our second pass!
Encaged by the four walls of the flea market village is treasure and bargain hunt paradise. A sectioned-off area, with only 2X4 studs defining each space, revealed a cavern of tightly packed stalls with bins of wares to dig through. Single dangling light bulbs illuminate the way. If you are a “digger”, you hit pay dirt. Dimly lit and crowded, this area offers the best bargains. Clothing, tools, alligator heads…take your pick and name your price!
Upon exit, what could make your New Orleans local flea market any more authentic than a couple of freshly baked mini sweet potato pies sold from a cooler! Oh yes, we did! And I’m telling you…they were DELICIOUS.
We didn’t buy too much but we definitely satiated our thirst for a new adventure. Soul wins out over finds at this one.
Nearing the noon hour, the crowds had swelled, the vendors now manned most of the rickety wooden shacks and the market was in full Saturday morning tilt. We were happy that we had made it a point to visit this flea market.
Still not quite sure why it’s labeled a flea market that that no one wants you to know about. The people sure seemed inviting and welcomed an obvious tourist. I would highly recommend a visit to this flea market. Though we didn’t find any unique treasure that we couldn’t live without, and while tightly spaced, old and definitely in need of more sturdy tenting, the Algiers Flea Market is a cultural experience that is sure to give you a glimpse of life in New Orleans that you won’t find in any travel brochure.
Jefferson Original Flea Market…or Never Judge a Flea by Its Building
While time did not allow us to take in more than a couple of flea markets during this year’s trip to NOLA, we decided to stop into one that we passed going to and from our hotel into the city. I was in need of some clear plastic to protect my Mardi Gras parade regalia and was sure that I would find it here. Certainly this highway storefront with yellow weathered peeling paint would offer me a fine selection.
Boy, was I surprised! It turned out to be an amazing antique mall, packed to the rafters (literally) with every imaginable antique and collectible you could imagine. And a personality that is truly New Orleans!
With only one foot inside the front door, all thoughts of looking for visqueen vanished and were instantly replaced with “treasure hunt” mentality! Digger bliss!
Once adjusted to the dim interior, my eyes began darting everywhere, landing only momentarily on any single item before another more succulent find came into focus. Peeking down long and narrow, booth after booth, all I could see was another nook or cranny packed ceiling high with antiques and collectibles…both regional and international. There really seemed to be no end to each booth.
While it was like a typical antique mall set up, what I LOVED about it was the very obvious New Orleans flavor. Whether it was because of Mardi Gras week or not, everything NOLA was front and center…as well as buried deep within. Purple, green and gold sparkled at every turn. Jesters jeered from creepy old masks. Old carnival posters, costumes, beads, icon collectibles, crawfish boil pots…you name it. If it hinted of New Orleans, it was here somewhere.
It bears repeating…these booths were PACKED! There was one area of the three floors that we inched our way through, where a vendor was trying to get to a particular item and had his goods lined up out in the narrow hall way just so he could get a ladder in to reach it!
Though packed, it never felt junky or dirty. A bit dusty smelling, as you would expect, but never dirty.
I did find a couple of items that I could not live without. M negotiating skills failed me to even a penny lower in price with either of my two buys here, but I wanted the items, so again…paid the price. I respect the deal.
My hands-down favorite booth was the booth of Madam Mel, Mystic Reader, and Spiritual Advisor.
Perhaps because I have never encountered such a unique experience in an antique mall, or just because of the unusual display, this booth really fascinated me. Madam Mel sat serenely in her dimly lit booth surrounded by voodoo dolls, gris-gris (talisman) and ju-jus. Though I initially did not notice her silent presence, once I initiated a conversation, she lifted my spirit and brightened the day. I was intrigued by her spirit. She was extremely friendly and eager to share her story with my husband and me. She explained to us that many of the dolls in her booth were salvaged from Bourbon Street locations when the original Voodoo shops there closed down, others she had made herself and uses in her practice. She is an active practitioner. It was fascinating to listen to her stories. She eagerly offered her contact information for anyone who wishes to reach out to her: MdmMel@aol.com I still don’t know much about her practice or science, but I do know that Madam Mel has a kind soul and was gracious with our request to hear her story.
The historical influence of voodoo to New Orleans culture is everywhere in this great city, including the flea markets. This is just another example of the rich history and culture that makes up the fabric of NOLA and her diverse retail industries.
The next time you visit New Orleans and travel Airport Drive to get to or from the airport, save some time in your itinerary to stop at the Original Jefferson Flea Market at 2134 Airport Drive, Kenner, LA. You will be glad you did. Friendly people, great finds and lots of New Orleans history.
I hope you have enjoyed my view of a couple of the great flea markets in New Orleans. I hope to add more when we visit next year. If you have any questions or would like more information about our travels to flea markets in the US and Europe, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Happy flea travels,
“D” is more than the 4th letter of the alphabet. It is the “313”, the “Motor City”, the city the French founded and the auto industry built.
Detroit is hometown to Kid Rock, Madonna, Eminem, Walter Reuther, Tim Allen, Gilda Radner, Lily Tomlin, Dianna Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Tommy Hearns, Joe Lewis, Mitch Albom, The White Stripes, Detroit Lions football, Detroit Tigers baseball, Detroit Red Wings hockey… and me!
Call it what you may, but don’t call this Renaissance city and its neighboring communities a crumbling, decaying metropolis with nothing to offer but crime and corruption. Don’t assume that it is nothing more than what is sadly portrayed in media around the world.
We are proudly, Detroit!
Hold up your hand. Michiganders use our hands to show you where we live! We sit at the base of your thumb, in our “mitten” state.
Detroit is home to some of the most successful global corporations. We proudly exult our heritage at the Detroit Institute of Arts http://www.dia.org/ , the Detroit Historical Museum http://detroithistorical.org/ , the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History www.thewright.org , and the world famous “The Henry Ford” museum http://www.thehenryford.org/museum/index.aspx . Each of these is a living institution to preserve the accomplishments of our great city.
But did you know…that beside our famous forefathers, cultural gems and beloved sports teams, Detroit and her surrounding suburbs are also home to some of the most fabulous flea markets, garage sales and vintage finds, anywhere? I travel flea markets around Europe, as well as frequent the ones in the “D” often, and our fleas and thrifting opportunities stand up to the world’s best competition for great finds and cultural adventures!
To begin your journey, head to our ground zero. Standing in the same spot where the French landed in 1701 to settle our fine city, is the Detroit riverfront area http://www.detroitriverfront.org/ . Ample parking in the area allows you to begin a day with fresh air amid joggers and leisure walkers along the Detroit River boardwalk, Riverwalk. http://www.detroitriverfront.org/ Take in your first breaths of all that Detroit has to offer. Look south and you see our Canadian neighbor, Windsor, Ontario. Yes, in Detroit you go south to enter Canada! Once welcomed, hop in your car for a short drive north, east or west and you will find a continual path of flea markets and some of the best garage sale opportunities in the US. Let your flea market adventures begin…Detroit style.
Each year when I begin to mark my calendar of “must-do” treasure hunting events, I discover that I likely won’t have time to leave Michigan! Nor, will I likely even have time to take in all of the fabulous flea markets in “Pure Michigan” http://www.michigan.org , in a single year. Decisions, decisions…which ones will make it to the top of my list this year?
Nestled squarely inside the city limits you will find:
This smaller event boasts, not only a great flea market opportunity, but also guided tours of historic Fort Wayne. Military history, antiques and an array of collectibles to pawn through. How’s that for a fun day in Detroit?
Daily and year round, but go on Saturday to get the full market experience. http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/
This, city-within-a-city, bustling weekend market is centered around sheds of fresh Michigan produce, farm products, plants and products. Around the periphery of the food stalls you will be entertained by local street musicians and find the resurrection of early Detroit architectural charms now housing second hand shops, restaurants, wine, cheese and fresh meat and fish warehouses. Creak upon the wooden floors of antique, boutique and specialty shops as you step out of the forest of live nursery foliage, and imbibe in the pleasures of the unique wares around the square that defines the boundaries of the market. Ride the antique pulley elevator to the top floor of the cheese shop and pick your favorite European delicacy, seasonal decoration or Detroit souvenir.
Whatever you do…don’t eat before you come here. Whether fighting your olfactory senses for an “Oh My God Burger”, one pound of the perfectly marbled beef, sizzling on the open pit in front of you, or just nibbling on free samples hawked along your stroll through the open air market by artisan epicureans, your food choices won’t get any easier as you try to justify hunger vs. gluttony. Oh look…a beignet food truck!
Starting early in the morning? I recommend a Bloody Mary at Vivios!
http://www.viviosbloodymary.com/ It just puts you in the right mood.
This is not a flea market, but an annual “garage” sale from the homes in an historic village within the City of Detroit. I list it here because it is one of my annual favorites and an unforgettable experience.
I love the atmosphere of the old Detroit mansions in this tree lined neighborhood tucked in a pocket of Detroit where many of Detroit’s early movers and shakers, automotive and manufacturing industry founders, planted their roots. Occasionally there is an opportunity to step inside the majesty of one of these solid oak trimmed, wet plaster walled homesteads, to ascend to the wide planked oak stairs to the third or fourth level among the memories of residents past, and live briefly in a moment of high society. Rub your palm over the bald patina of the open staircase. The air is thin up here, but some real treasures can be unearthed if you can accept the challenge.
Listen to the song of fine crystal as you carefully caress the rim of antique Waterford goblets set out on the massive dining room table and priced to sell. Blow the dust off of the old dental school yearbook of the former owner’s alma mater to get a glimpse of the heritage of a former homesteader. Gently fondle fine linen couture from days gone by. Step back in time while you contemplate once-in-a-lifetime purchase opportunities. Even the squeakiest wallets are silenced when you are enticed by the perfect find. You have preserved an historic treasure.
An absolute must-stop if you are in the area during the dates of the sale.
Get there early, take cash and tuck it in your fanny pack.
Sunday is flea market day in this historical market. Antiques, vintage, collectibles, fresh food and breads. There are many permanent vendors with a bit higher end booths as well as one-timers unloading Grandma’s estate. Price range is all over the place, so if your purse strings are a bit tight, you will still bag a bargain. Plan to spend all day in this trendy, fashionable northern suburb Sunday sale. Lots to pick through at the market including local micro-breweries and a gastronomes delight!
A short drive north of 8 Mile Road and you are only minutes away from Oakland County’s oldest and largest flea market in Pontiac. This indoor/outdoor market is huge. Bins full of tools, costume jewelry, flatbeds loaded with moving-sale furniture, NASCAR memorabilia, Avon, clothing, electronics, typical garage sale offerings. It’s all here. If your stomach is growling, whet your appetite with carnival fare! Lots of deep fried everything. Clean, safe, free and a fun way to spend a Saturday or Sunday picking! Check with the weather forecaster to take in both the indoor and outdoor offerings at Dixieland on fair weather days.
As you can see…the Motor City is hopping with opportunities to expand your flea market experiences as well as share our native appreciation for all that is Detroit.
Summers in the “D” for any flea market enthusiast, would not be complete without also devoting at least one weekend to the institution of “garage saleing”. Some of the best second hand bargains in the land are found in and around this area at local garage sales. I’m going to devote a future blog to these spring, summer, fall rituals.
Stop back soon and have your calendar handy. You, like me, will have a hard time trying to decide whether to freestyle or map your plan around the “D”. Gotta love those new apps that can help you navigate from sale to sale to pack as much into a day as your energy allows!
Thanks for stopping in. Get in touch if you will be swinging through the area and I’ll give you tips on my secret areas for the best thrifting!
See you again soon.