No wonder the French are so famous for their gastronomy! Even in the very heart of such a cosmopolitan city as Paris, fresh produce markets can be found in at least one of the many quartiers (neighbourhoods) just about every day of the week. Why would you shop in sterile, impersonal supermarkets when you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, eggs, seafood, meats, pastries, breads, sweets, just about everything for the fridge or pantry (sans packaging and processing), straight from the farm, from people who brighten your day with a little chit-chat or a taste of their beautiful olive sourdough bread? And you'll be helping to support local farmers who, struggling against the monopoly of supermarket chains, drive from the rural outskirts of Paris early in the morning in the hope of selling their goods to the people of this truely amazing city.
These photos are taken amongst three markets which I visited regularly - the fresh produce markets of Auteuil, Le Boulevarde Raspail and La Rue Mouffetard.
Whilst in Paris, I lived in the Auteuil neighbourhood, which is situated in the southern part of the 16th arrondissement (not too far from the Eiffle Tower or the Bois de Vincennes). Twice weekly, possibly on Tuedays and Thursdays (I can't quite remember), there were fresh produce markets on Rue de Boulainvilliers, as well as in the square near the Michel-Ange-Auteuil metro station. I would often stop by to purchase a pastry, or two (there were some almond croissants which were to die for!), and some fresh fruit for breakfast or morning tea. I also pleasantly surprised to discover that every few weekends there was a small, yet interesting antique market at the Michel-Ange-Auteuil market site selling brick-a-brac, framed oil paintings, decorative items for the home and the odd piece of antique furniture.
As mentioned in a previous post, I studied at the Alliance Francaise, which is located on the Boulevarde Raspail. There is a wide medium strip in certain sections of this boulevard, on which once or twice weekly, store holders set up stands under a tarpaulin (presumably too keep the Parisian winter rain out). This market is very busy, as many pedestrians verge off the regular footpath and walk through the markets in order to see what is available. This was a perfect place to buy lunch, usually a baguette of olive sourdough bread (by far the best bread I've ever tasted) and maybe some creamy goats cheese and, if the weather permitted, I'd walk around the courner to the Jardin du Luxemburg and relax amoungst the beautiful sculptures and gardens before going to class to be be utterly confused by French tenses and verb conjucations (when do you use le imparfait, le plus-que-parfait, le subjonctif, le futur, le futur simple, le passe compose....why can't there be just one past, one present and one future tense? It was all just too confusing!)
If you love fresh produce markets, you cannot go to Paris without visiting le Rue Mouffetard! One of the oldest streets in Paris, located in le quartier latin of the 5th arrondissement, it is a gourmet's dream! The street is lined with restaurants, cafes, and small boutique-style shops selling everything from wine to seafood. The store holders are very knowledgeable about their products and are more than happy to give recommendations and samples. No one could complain that there is a lack of variety. There is so much to choose from, that it is difficult to decide what cheese to buy, when there are 100 options, or what wine to drink it with, with another 200 options. Whatever you need for a Sunday lunch for the entire family, or just a quiet dinner for one, Rue Mouffetard will awaken the Masterchef in you!
For restaurant meals however, you're probably best to go off the main drag and into one of the side streets. Rue Mouffetard attracts many tourist, so meals tend to be pricey and of questionable quality.
I'm assuming the stores on Rue Mouffetard are open everyday, but don't quote me on that - they may be closed on the weekends, or perhaps only until early afternoon Saturday, Sunday and Monday, as is the way in Paris. I remember one Sunday going to Les Galleries Lafayette, the world famous apartment store in the 15th arrondissement, only to find the doors bolted shut. It was only then that I learnt that most stores in Paris work only a half day Saturday and are usually closed Sundays and Mondays. Although this could be an annoyance at times, it enables workers and business owners have free time to relax and spend time with their friends and family. The French adore their sparetime, so much so that in recent years they have demonstrated against state discussions about the possible rise in retirement age, the lessening of their legal 6 weeks annual leave and the lengthening of the average working day (but then again, the French hold a manifestation for almost any reason. At least once a week we'd hear shouting and megaphone sirens from our classroom). The need to have access to stores 24/7, to work stupidly long hours and to work til we literally drop, which is becoming a painful reality in Australia and other countries, is boardering on the ridiculous if you ask me.
In order to get to Rue Mouffetard, I'd suggest that you take the metro line 7 to Place Monge, go west along Rue Lacepede until you reach Rue Mouffetard and walk down hill from there (It's alot easier to follow the crowds downhill, than strain yourself going the opposite direction). The street itself is quinessential Paris - cobblestoned street barely wide enough for one car, beautiful stone apartment buildings with boutiques on the ground floor, street lights suspended from their facades and geraniums hanging from planterboxes - as if it was straight out of a picture book.