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New Orleans Flea Markets: More Than Parades, Beads And King Cakes

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.

⚠ COVID-19: Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, show schedules might be subject to change. Please consult promoter’s social media and website before heading out. COVID-19 live updates

Stalls were make-shift and sparse with inventory and vendors upon our arrival. Typically 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 find anchored a couple of 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 lead to a palette of ethnic foods to tempt even the most discerning appetite. Meats, vegetables, baked goods…all regional fare with requisite condiments.

A flavor of Central American cuisine
A flavor of Central American cuisine

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 are treasure and bargain hunters 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 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.

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