Les Puces

No trip is complete without bribing / forcing the husband to trawl around a market or two. And this is no exception as I get very over excited by the idea of a proper French flea market (blame Escape to the Chateau!)

The most famous flea market in Paris is the one at Porte de Clignancourt, officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but known to everyone as Les Puces (The Fleas).

It covers seven hectares and is the largest antique market in the world, receiving between 120,000 to 180,000 visitors each weekend.

Battle your way through the initial rows of cheap plastic tourist tat and mass produced junk that circle the old flea market to the heart of the original old market and you’ll be rewarded with a treasure trove of the old, retro, unique and down right odd.

Mountains of glittering beads tempt me like a magpie while terrifying old dolls stare blankly from every stall and box.

Les Puces is a mix of street and floor stalls, old established antiques shops, pop ups and undercover markets.

There are actually around 15 different markets that collectively make up Les Puces. Some specialise in expensive antiques, others have old fabrics and buttons.

One market is a colourful explosion of street art and knock off clothing!

While the covered markets and actual shops are interesting, my favourite part is the actual street markets where goods are piled up on the floor and on walls.

As well as the fascinating things for sale, the walls themselves provide an outdoor gallery to enjoy.

A visit to Les Puces is a highlight for rummage fiends and knick knack lovers. Just keep a close eye on wallets, purses and other valuables as it is a pick pocket haven.

Galeries Lafayette Xmas

Galeries Lafayette is one of the most popular, chic and distinguished shopping centres in Paris. 

You can browse this temple to consumerism under a stunning 100 year-old steel and glass Coupole.

The Galeries Lafayette offers its visitors a splendid glass Coupole, rising to a height of 43 meters, which can be seen from across the city.

This majestic Art Nouveau steel and glass Coupole became the iconic symbol of the mall

And when is the biggest, best time for shopping? Christmas of course and this mecca to all things shiny does not disappoint.

Galeries Lafayette has a suspended Christmas tree every year, the first of which was hung from the dome in 1976. It’s a gorgeous spectacle to behold!

The department store has been open since 1912 . The architect Georges Chedanne to head up the first major renovations which were completed in 1907.

Ferdinand Chanut, Georges Chedanne’s apprentice, designed the store’s stunning 43-meter high Neo Byzantine dome.

In 1932, the store was renovated with an Art Déco style by an architect named Pierre Patou.

It’s well worth a tour around to just soak in the glorious, shiny magnificence of its xmas spectacle.

Old Town

Mykonos Town—called Hora by the locals— is the Saint-Tropez of the Greek islands. Beloved by the rich folk and beautiful people.

Put on the map by Jackie O in the 1960s the old town is a maze of white washed houses, colourful doors and glamorous shops.

Its cube like houses and the churches, with their red or blue doors, domes and wooden balconies are perfect examples of classic Cycladic architecture.

The Greek Archaeological Service acted to protect the town so the Old Town has been impressively preserved.  It’s almost like a film set!

We arrived super early in the morning to avoid the inevitable hideous crowds so we got to enjoy the picture postcard streets completely alone.

The only downside is that the shops don’t actually open until around 10am so we didn’t get to enjoy the colourful displays until the cruise ships starting disgorging literally 1000s of people !

A fairly unique feature of the Hora are the grey painted stones that mark out the meandering streets. Some of them are real stones and others have been painted to look like them.

Although blinding white is the overriding colour of the town, there are lovely splashes of vivid colours that break up the street scene.

Another thing that you’ll see everywhere are the painted staircases that most shops have.

These are a pretty architectural features that also double as displays for tourists to browse the shop’s wares. They also make very nice floral displays!

Painted doors double as shop adverts, shocking pink bouganvilla drapes itself lavishly around weathered old buildings and open squares provide an oasis of shade later in the day.

The hubby finds a furry feline friend, just one of the many moggies to be found all over the island.

The island has a population of nearly 12,500 and most of them live in the Chora, so it’s the only place on Mykonos that you’ll ever feel crowded.

Colourful Chinatown

Even though we turned our eyes westward for our honeymoon we can’t quite escape our love of all things Asian. So we’re heading to Chinatown for a snoot around.

Manhattan’s Chinatown is home to the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere with an estimated population between 90,000 and 100,000 people and is one of  12 Chinatowns in the New York metropolitan area.

Manhattan’s Chinatown borders the Lower East Side to its east, Little Italy to its north, and Tribeca to its west.

The bustling street scene stretches for several blocks with greengrocers and fishmongers  around Mott Street, Mulberry Street, Canal Street and along East Broadway.


Then there are also lots of shops selling the obligatory good luck charms, paper goods and other colourful items. Naturally I stock up!!




Bye bye Don Quixote

The time has come to make our last visit (of this trip at least) to the mecca of consumerism that is Don Quixote!

This temple of tat, paradise of products, hallowed ground of goody grabbing . . .

How we will miss it. Where else can you stick your head through a “traditional” Japanese welcome sign and then buy tiny chocolate geishas by the bucket load?

Or indulge your inner child with these adorable plushy Pikachu and Hello Kitty hats.


Or cosplay as a little furry alien or slightly disturbing deer (or moose?) with a pink nurses hat?


How we miss the zany, multi coloured fantasy world of Don Quixote!! Still mourning it 12 months later . ..

Here are a few more random snaps of the types of colourful, crazy consumerables on offer!

The man models some “interesting” underpants . .

It’s an intriguing mixture of delicate, traditional Japanese style crafts and gifts and tacky, plastic rubbish!

Then you get high end, designer brands such as Luis Vuitton, but all displayed as if it’s Primark!

Bundled together in wire baskets and tackily on show circa the old Ratnor’s style marketing . .

For the Halloween lovers amongst us, the Japanese seem to love this season and there’s lots to choose from.


But for people with a less blood thirsty side there is endless cutesy cute stuff too.

Finally let’s just have a final look at one of my favourite things about Japan – all the mental packaging!!

So colourful and so uninformative! Who knows what is inside . . .

Never mind. Just TAKE MY MONEY!!

Colourful clothing and consumerism

As we pass through the streets of Kyoto I stealthily snap away at some of the beautiful, colourful ladies parading in traditional costume.

Locals and tourists alike enjoy hiring these elaborate outfits.

The women we spot are mainly wearing Yukata. These are inexpensive, informal summer robe for summer that’s popular for cherry blossom viewing parties, festivals and fireworks. It’s not quite a kimono but it has much the same feel.

These are teamed with contrasting Obi – these are ornate wide sashes that are wrapped around the waist.

On their feet are Zori, a type of Japanese sandal worn with Tabi, socks with a separated big toe to enable them to be worn with sandals.

Below is a selection of traditional footwear for sale along with delicate fans and intricate paper goods.

I love these cute little cartoon ladies in more detailed traditional clothing and piles of kimono cloth ready for creating new wearable masterpieces.

These sachets of green tea make simple souvenirs and their packaging is exquisitely simple.

Meanwhile the Kawaii delights continue with fabric frogs and adorable old people!

Shopping, shrines and sweeties

We’re back in Kyoto in the gorgeous shopping streets of Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka.

The names Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka, mean ‘Two-Year Hill’ and ‘Three-Year Hill’ .

These are referring to the ancient imperial years when they were first laid out.

Legend has it that you will die within two years if you fall down on Ninen-zaka and you will die within three years if you fall down on San’nen-zaka.

Given that the cobbles are quite slippery when wet, that’s a fair few people done for!!

We stumble across a little green oasis of calm that gives us a breather from the hordes.

Before plunging back into the teaming chaos. Enjoying a browse through some of the trinkets and toys on offer in the multitude of traditional shops.

So many colourful cute things – so little luggage allowance!!! I want it all!

From green tea caddies in the shape of Geisha to delicate fans and garish, tooth ache inducing sweeties, there’s something to tempt even the most shopping weary consumer.

At the end of the streets you arrive at Kiyomizu-dera Temple. A colourful, chaotic riot of a temple. We’ll explore that next.


Hiroshima by night

AKA endless shopping pictures from the mecca of department stores – Don Quijote.

Night falls in Hiroshima and casts new shadows on the brooding A dome. Still ominous and dominating the riverside vista after 70 years.

But the horrors of history are not the whole story of Hiroshima, it’s vibrant and bustling with a neon night life just like any other Japanese city.

Here’s a beautiful dark wood sake bar, the man attempts to make off with a vintage ride.

And joy of joys . . we have our first CERK – Close Encounter of the Robot Kind!

This adorable little fellow is Pepper! According to his makers he is capable of identifying the principal emotions: joy, sadness, anger or surprise.

He is also capable of interpreting a smile, a frown, your tone of voice, as well as the lexical field you use and non-verbal language such as the angle of your head, for example.

The combination of all this information enables the robot to determine whether his human interlocutor is in a good or a bad mood.

All we know is he is darn cute!!!!!


After this heady excitement we swiftly stumble upon another unexpected (and non guide book) treat – Don Quijote, the department store to end all department stores!

It is floor upon floor of consumer delights, from the basement department full of all things snackable and eatable!

This included a mind boggling choices of Kitkat flavours.

There have been more than 300 limited-edition seasonal and regional flavors of Kit Kats produced in Japan since 2000.

These include soy sauce, ginger ale, red potato and vegetable juice!!! I can heartily recommend the strawberry flavour ones . .nom nom.

The snack floor is a cornucopia of mainly unidentifiable, but cute, edibles.

Above are some very tasty Brazilian orange Pocky – this crunchy sweet snack also comes in a wide range of flavours.

Pocky has been a part of Japanese life since 1966 when the Ezaki Glico Company created it. It’s since spread around the world, in fact we first nibbled in them in Thailand back in 2009!

As you head upwards the store then takes a turn for the bizarre with a floor of fancy dress, masks and fake facial hair!

I have no idea what most of these things are but if you can see a little yellow blob being poked by chopsticks below – this is Gudatama! Basically a clinically depressed egg yolk  . .

As well as adorable plastic toys, there’s also a section for . .  rather more grown up plastic toys!! With a certain amount of trepidation we draw back the curtain .. .

My eyes!!!!! Who knew there could be so many whirling, vibrating, horrifically realistic bits of plastic out there!

All in all, we had a spiffing time in what is basically a department store!! *warning – this won’t be the last time that you are treated to us basically faffing around in a shop!*


Tsukiji fish market

Up early the next morning we’re hitting the road to visit the humongous Tsukiji wholesale fish and vegetable market.

It’s the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind.



The world famous fish auctions in the inner market opens at 3am. with the arrival of the products by ship, truck and plane from all over the world.


The market handles more than 400 different types of seafood from cheap seaweed to expensive caviar, tiny sardines to huge tuna.

As I’m not an early riser, there’s no chance that we’d actually be in time to see the bidding frenzy (and as a veggy I can’t stand the smell of sigh TBH!)

Instead we’re looking forward to pottering around and soaking up the atmosphere and sights in the outer market streets.


The outer market is a ragtag collection of retail shops and stalls that sell fresh seafood, street snacks, and kitchen supplies.


Lots of sushi restaurants are to be found here and some have huge queues due to their popularity.

Every conceivable type of seafood can be found here, on sticks, bloodied in bowls, displayed on ice.

It’s not just fish based items however, it’s also a vegetable market. Above is fresh wasabi and colourful , edible flowers.

Nosey tourists are reminded not to “push” the scallops! Now all I want to do is squeeze them…

There’s lots of colourful characters around the market while the tiny snack bars heave with hungry locals and curious tourists.


Amongst the traditional methods of food preservation you can see “Himono” – a traditional salting and air-drying process used to preserve fish for a long time. The process helps concentrate the  flavor of the fish.

Tiny Sushi sweets, wasabi beans and vegetable chips are more colourful snacks.

Another ingredient that you’ll see everywhere is dried bonito flakes used to make “dashi” (clear fish stock) which an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine.

Bonito go through a rigorous process of boiling, smoking, fermenting, and drying.

There are calls to relocate the historic market. This was scheduled to take place in November 2016, in preparation for the 2020 Olympics, but the move was postponed.


Lucky for us as we managed to see it in its original location before it is potentially destroyed forever.

We also manage to see our first Sumo wrestler! Out doing his shopping . . . and the man spots his doppelganger.


Kitchenware town

On we trot to the next of my key sightseeing spots – Kappabashi Street AKA Kitchenware town!

Easily identified by the humongous chef looming above the entrance to the south entrance, Kappabashi Street is where the restaurant trade does its shopping.

The street is lined with stores selling all the hardware needed by restaurants and other food outlets.

You will find shops full of beautiful dishes and chopsticks through to more utilitarian objects such as pots, pans and cooking utensils.

However I am making a bee line for a few specialist stores that sell the plastic and wax food samples used by  restaurants in their windows.

Look at how ridiculously overjoyed I am! I had been waiting a LONG time to get up close with these plasticiky goodies.

From pizza to icecream, vegetables to cocktails, there are shiny, fake replicas of a plethora of food stuffs.

The attention to detail that goes into each of these mini masterpieces is unreal.  Whether it’s levitating spaghetti wound artfully around a floating fork or tiny, striped chunks of sushi.

Below are some bubbly green cocktails complete with cocktail cherries and a cornucopia of vegetables so realistic you want to take a bite!

Mouth wateringly creamy looking desserts come complete with spoons and man’s best friend makes an unusual appearance.

There’s a ready packaged sushi box , slices of pizza and egg topped noodles.

It’s all starting to make me rather hunrgy!

Kappabashi-dori – the main street’s name is thought to perhaps come from the kappa (raincoats) of nearby residents which were hung out to dry on the bridge.

There are over 170 stores along the 800 metre street and side streets.

If you enjoy a good rootle around kitchenware shops and have a thing for plastic food then its definitely the place to be!

Onwards now to the neon high rises that are so instantly recognisable as Tokyo!