Off the beaten path, this quirky little shop, tucked away in a secluded courtyard, steeped in history is where you may find the perfect, lightweight vintage Parisian souvenir.
Let me introduce you to La Galcante.
Look out for this façade of Hotel de Trudon, once home to King Louis XV’s sommelier and later a candle making business, delivering 1,000 candles a day via secret tunnels to Le Louvre.
Located in the centre of Paris, half way between Le Louvre and Les Halles in the 1st arrondissement.
Follow the cobbled passage to a small inner courtyard, don’t be nervous, you are welcome and here you will find La Galcante, pronounced la Gal-Cont, a play on two words fused together to represent this unusual stores business; Gallery and Brocante, (a seller of vintage ‘trash and treasure’), Brocante is often used for the flea markets in Paris.
Pull down on the handle, push open the creaky French door to discover a quiet, dusty treasure trove of all things printed matter.
Bursting at the seams and literally packed to the rafters, the store lined with books has archive boxes full of old newspapers, vintage maps, engravings, journals, magazines ranging from The New Yorker, Paris Match, Vogue, Playboy and postcards inscribed with romantic get aways of times gone by.
Check out the names on the boxes above, Sartre, Hugo, Colette …
It may appear to be rough and tumble but the people who work here are passionate about what they do and if you ask them for it, (they speak English) chances are they will probably have it and will know exactly where to find it.
On a recent visit, I overheard a young lady ask for a newspaper with a specific date, the date of her father’s birth and they were able to fulfil her wish, a unique birthday gift for her father.
If you don’t fancy a copy of a 1950’s Vogue with Brigitte Bardot on the cover to pop into a frame when you get home you may be happy to simply wander around, gaze up at the glass ceiling in a room that was once a small chapel for troubled young ladies and ponder the history of the building or buy a few vintage postcards of Parisian landmarks like I did.
The hour or so that I spent flicking through old postcards until I selected what I wanted enabled me to observe daily life in the store.
Couriers rushing in and out with deliveries, a man with bright green pants and a large artists portfolio slung over his shoulder was well known to the proprietors and two young ladies were told there was no need to pay for whatever it was they were picking up.
Then everyone seemed to disappear, leaving me alone in the shop until finally a man came down from upstairs.
He had no idea what to do with the bundle of vintage postcards I handed him and referred me to his colleague, he also had no idea what he was going to charge me.
He counted them in French, called out the final score with a glance and a nod, counted them again in English, sized me up and gave me a very reasonable price that sounded more like a question than a statement. The experience was friendly, comical and sweet.
Museums and collectors rely on La Galcante to supply historic print for research and displays but occasionally they welcome more famous customers.
Martin Scorsese once paid a visit to collect original old newspapers to place in a stand at the train station movie set for the filming of Hugo.
Sophia Coppola needed props for her film Marie Antoinette and where did she go … you guessed it La Galcante!
If they can’t find what you require in the shop or upstairs in the attic, it might be out here tucked away in the courtyard.
One thing is for certain, after you close the door behind you and slip down the passageway, back to the hustle and bustle of Paris outside and encounter tourists pouring over maps on nearby street corners, you will have a small wicked smile on your face like I did, knowing that you discovered this secret gem away from the madding crowds and off the tourist radar.
If I have not enticed you enough, perhaps this short video in English of charming Pierre with his gorgeous French accent will do the trick.
Video Credit: Weld Art Collective. Sonia Gemmiti & Edwin Barnett
There are many secret treasures to be discovered in Paris, you just need to know where to find them.
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