Allez au Marché!

At the end of my last post, I promised to take us indoors into Paris’s museums and galleries, BUT I forgot that we have one more outdoor excursion left. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the many wonderful open-air markets of Paris on this blog – les beaux marchés en plein air!

My small neighborhood market in le Marais - two days a week!

My small neighborhood market in le Marais – two days a week. The perfect place to pick up ingredients for dinner on the way home…

Historically a predominately Roman Catholic country, France more or less shuts down on Sundays, and Paris is not much of an exception to this rule. (This despite the fact that modern France is one of the most secular, non-religious countries in the world – yet another example of how religion and culture so often become intertwined). Bakeries operate on reduced hours and most other businesses are closed altogether. But the markets… oh, the lovely outdoor markets… they are open and busy! Of course, many of Paris’s markets are open every day, but heading out to the market on a lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon is pretty close to my idea of a perfect day.

There’s the lovely market in the 11eme arrondissement

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There’s also -one of my personal favorites- the busy, colorful, and vibrant Marché d’Aligres not far from la Bastille on the Right Bank. There, you’ll find yourself in the midst of huge crowds of Sunday shoppers looking for good deals while fruit and veg vendors create a cacophony of sound, shouting out their prices to entice new customers – “One kilo of tomatoes for 4.80 euros! C’est un cadeau! (It’s a gift!)”

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You can also check out the (less exciting) covered portion of the market…

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And the flea-market area that’s packed with all kinds-o-stuff…

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And don’t forget to pop into one of the many Middle Eastern eateries that flank the market for a quick treat – so delicious!

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It was at le Marché d’Aligres that Paris delivered one of its little surprises to me – the young group of French adolescents singing English-language pop songs, remember those cuties?

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If you’d rather hit up a market where you can purchase food that you don’t have to cook yourself, then you should definitely head over to le Marché des Enfants Rouge on the busy Rue de Bretagne…

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This market is technically covered, but parts of it feel more or less open-air. No matter, no matter… It’s Paris’s oldest covered market (established in the early 1600’s) and its name translates to “The Market of Red Children,” which refers to the uniforms worn by the children who lived in an orphanage that previously occupied the site. There are small restaurants offering all kinds of tasty cuisine – Lebanese, Japanese, Italian, North African, and more. (Philly friends – think kind of like a Reading Terminal Market). I had one of my tastier Paris meals there – Moroccan cous cous and chicken so tender it fell off the bone. YUM.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos inside the market, only a few at the random vintage photo booth located near the restaurants – another kind of treat altogether…

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The lack of photos is an unfortunate result of the ‘resident-tourist’ dilemma I was having while living in Paris… but more on that in a future post. Oh well – my taste buds remember le Marché des Enfants Rouge, and that’s all that really matters. Yours will too if you go there!

While le Marché des Enfants Rouge is a feast for the stomach, le Marché aux Fleurs on  l’Île de la Cité is a feast for the eyes. Color, color everywhere!

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Lastly, for antique collectors and anyone who loves odd old things: BEWARE. Le Marché aux Puces de Vanves in Porte de Vanves at the southern edge of the city is très dangereux. It is packed to the brim with beautiful and strange antiques – the vast majority of them screaming out, “Take me home! Take me home!” During my visit to the market, I was overwhelmed by my desire just to HAVE so many of the things there…

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But alas, I was broke and had luggage weight limits to consider (which was ultimately a good thing, I think). I made it out with only one purchase – a beautiful piece of tatted lace that I recently used to create a drawing in my studio…

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And so… our brief tour of Paris’s lovely marchés en plein air has come to an end. I’ve shown you only a mere sample of the many, MANY markets that bustle throughout the city on Sundays and all week long. If you find yourself in Paris someday (or anywhere in France, for that matter), be sure not to miss the opportunity to browse through as many markets as you can – you won’t regret it!

Next up on the ‘great post-sabbatical report’ – Paris museums and galleries. No, really! Museums and galleries, I promise! Until then, au revoir…

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