Paris is a feast

Reviewed on 09/10/2010 | No Reviews

Places

Enjoy the sound of shouting salesmen

It needs a poet or a painter to grasp the buzzling scene of a Paris street market where vendors of all moods and kinds display their goods like precious fare. Here, between stalls and stands, the riches of the world come altogether and they’re for sale.

In fact, there’s no better place to find out why Paris sometimes thinks its the center of the universe. It is, first of all, the heart and the stomach of a country blessed with endless coastlines running alongside two oceans; a country that can boast of great plains where exceptional cattle and corn is bred and harvested; a country lined with mountain ranges where culinary culture involves a variety of cheese and cured meats that is quite exceptional.  And if you feel the need for mangos or passion fruit, for exotic fish or rare spices, for Chinese coffee or Iranian pepper, don’t fear: Paris will deliver. Paris is a very generous market place. It really is: a feast.

Everyday is market-day somewhere

You walk – and you find that everyday is a market day somewhere in the city. On Tuesdays and Fridays huge markets are ramped up on Boulevard Richard Lenoir or Boulevard Raspail or up in Belleville, on Wednesdays and Sundays Boulevard Grenelle turns into a trade show, on Thursdays and Sundays vendors gather at Place de la Bastille, from Tuesdays to Sundays they fill the splendid Marché Aligre. It’s hard to keep up, actually, so you better study the official list handed out by the “Mairie de Paris” so you don’t pick the wrong day or the wrong place.

Fish for the feast

Smell and touch

But once you’re there, just open your eyes and enjoy: you’ll find stands specializing in butter, cream and cheese exclusively from Normandy or from Brittany. You’ll find stalls displaying sausages and cured pork direct from the rustic Auvergne or Limousin regions. Butchers will cross your path who only work with products from the Basque region or from Corsica. You’ll see vegetables, herbs and fruit of stunning quality, from the Loire and the Rhone valley or from nearby Meaux and Melun. Take your photo with the giant spider crabs, delicious guiltheads, Mediterranean “rouget barbet”, smell and touch seabasses and sardines, mackerel and mussels piled up on endless tables. Enjoy the sound of shouting salesmen, remember: this could be unforgettable.

Everything you can imagine

It’s not for tourists only, this i’ real life

But avoid coming to some false conclusions: the street markets of Paris – there’s round about 80 of them – might look like tourist attractions but they play a key role in the supply chain of the city. A typical working week of a typical household in Paris contains one or two shopping tours to the street market nearby. When you go there early, you’ll find old ladies buying two tiny sardines for lunch next to housewives dragging huge carrier bags containing the family supplies for half a week. You’ll meet cooks, too, who purchase what they will need for their menus of the day. And you will see and hear a lot of people just chatting with vendours and telling them their life-stories.

Becoming one of them

It is indeed true that Paris is made up of many villages. Lots of people never ever leave their own neighbourhood. And in this funny urban universe the street markets really do play the role of the main square. It takes some time, but then, slowly, steadily, you start recognizing familiar faces, and you start saying “Bonjour” to people that you see every Wednesday or Saturday. Finally, while buying your fish, your carrots, your mushrooms, your cheese, you’ll be considered one of them, you become one of them: one of the villagers of Paris.

Unique and special

All over the web you’ll find listings ranking “the best” street markets in town. Thing is, they’re all unique and special. Yes, it’s true, some are more touristy and others feel almost too local. But they’re all worth a visit anyway. It also depends where you stay. So my recommendation would be to simply go to the market nearby. And if you happen to be close to Place d’Aligre, don’t miss the market there…

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