Friday, February 15, 2013

Marche Madness

One of the most refreshing dips into the pool of French culture, or European culture for that matter, has to be shopping at one of the many open air markets. Even as a traveler without a kitchen at your disposal, putting a light meal together from the wares of various vendors at the markets can be easily accomplished. My first introduction to the markets of France was a book called Paris in a Basket. It listed many of the markets by neighborhood, including one I had been to already called the Marche Maubert in Place Maubert on the Left Bank. On my next trip to Paris, I brought along a list of markets and market days, so they could be explored  in depth. Soon it became apparent that one could spend an entire trip at the markets, so limiting each trip to one or two small markets has become the norm for me. Tip: If you want to take photos, please remember to ask first,  and make it quick, so you don't interfere with the business being conducted. This courtesy is always appreciated and can be as simple as pointing to your camera with a smile on your face.


Location: Place d'Aligre, 75012 Paris.
Metro: Ledru-Rollin #8 Line
Open On: Tuesday - Friday 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. resuming at 4:00 - 7:30 p.m., Saturday 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. resuming at 3:30 - 7:30 p.m.  and Sunday 9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

This rambunctious market is often described as an Algerian, African, or Asian market, because of the variety of specialty produce it offers. It's inexpensive and therefore a madhouse. It could literally be described as shoulder to shoulder, in fact, the crowds can be so massive, it may be difficult to see what is being offered for sale. Any more than two people deep at a stand and my interest wanes. Therefore no photos at this time. It should be noted that the quality of the produce is sometimes suspect, so get a good look at what you're purchasing.


Location: Ave Ledru-Rollin (between rue de Lyon and rue de Bercy) 75012 Paris
Metro: Gare de Lyon #1 or #14 Lines, Quai de la Rapée #5 Line
Open On: Thursday 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and Saturday 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Another of the smaller food markets, Ledru-Rollin still maintained a wide variety of seafood for it's size and didn't waste any space on non food items. It was the first market where there was a wine presence that was noticeable; which made for convenient one stop shopping in this neighborhood.                      



Location: Place Maubert, 75005 Paris.
Metro: Maubert-Mutualité #10 Line
Open On: Tues. & Thurs. 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and Sat. 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Perhaps the smallest of the roving markets, Maubert purchases may always be supplemented from nearby shops selling dairy products, bakery goods, and charcuterie. The market itself sells a variety of produce, cheese, bread, house wares and some clothing accessories, such as scarves and shawls. I've seen French soap, as well as herbs and honey from Provence on occasion.



Location: Place Monge, 75005 Paris.
Metro: Place-Monge #7 Line
Open On: Wednesday & Friday 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. and Sunday 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

For anyone staying near the Place Contrescarpe, the Marche Monge is a good fit. If you want to wallow in food all day long, you can meander your way to Rue Mouffetard, one of the better market streets in Paris, that has a permanent open air market at its southern end. On the day I visited Marche Monge it was a rather small affair, but I've been told it is bigger later in the week. Still, the variety of produce and other food products was good and so was the quality.

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President Wilson:

Location:  Av. du President Wilson, 16th Arrondissement
Metro: Iena #9 Line, Pont de L'Alma,or Trocadero
Open On: Wednesday & Saturday 7a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Easy to walk to from the the Pont de L'Alma Metro stop, or by foot, on the bridge crossing the Seine from the Eiffel tower, I would make another suggestion. If you're going very early, since it opens at 7 a.m., the Trocadero Metro stop will afford you the opportunity for a dawn lit photo of the Eiffel Tower.
Of all the markets visited to date, President Wilson is where the highest number of photos were taken, indicating a very broad range of goods, most of which were food. Several vendors were selling flowers and plants, others were selling house wares such as blankets, pillows and fabric, table linens and cookware. There was a proportionately large selection of prepared foods to choose from for a quick and inexpensive meal or snack, but by far, the most overwhelming numbers of offerings were of produce, seafood, and pantry staples. This is one market that might be appealing to anyone who wants to bring home a French souvenir for their favorite cook or their own pantry.

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Since there's another detailed post of the market, the following photos are ideas for those souvenirs. French gray sea salt and fleur de sel are sold inexpensively in France. The assortments of herbs and spices are easy to pack, but the combination of them in items like Cort Bouillon is a bit more interesting. Flavored salts are getting more and more exotic (cinnamon, mint, truffle) and so are the preserves (grapefruit rose). Although there are no photos, French mustard is sold in various flavors (walnut, truffle, violet, citron, Piment de Esplette and tarragon). Who could resist lavender flavored honey? So many choices, so little luggage space. Just remember not to put liquids or pastes like marzipan in your carry on luggage if you want it to make the trip home with you.

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