When people ask me what my favorite thing to do in Paris is, I tell them that it's walking (getting lost, to be more specific) and visiting the markets. My favorite is the Bastille market. There is something so fascinating about watching the locals in their environment. Sure, you can see Parisians dining at cafés for hours drinking wine and smoking cigarettes with their dogs at their feet. Yes, this is Paris. You will see this part of Paris without a doubt if you are visiting for either a day or a week. But when you visit the markets, you see Parisians in the line for the best cheeses, meats, fruits, and veggies. What you see there is not just the three most popular cheeses that end up on your menu at dinner, but the ENTIRE selection of cheese.
There are a few rules to visiting the markets.
- I always tell people watch your belongings. Just be mindful the aisles can get packed and you don’t want to risk getting pick-pocketed.
- If you are going to take photos of the amazing displays of food, please ask first. They will gladly let you take photos as they take pride in their food, but be polite.
- Don’t touch the merchandise! Very important. If you want to buy something, wait in the line patiently. They will most likely ask when you are going to eat the fruit ("today" is "aujourd’hui", or tomorrow is "demain"). They want to know how ripe the fruit should be when they sell it to you. Some vendors will give you a bag and then it's your chance to pick, but wait for that prompt.
Now, you may be thinking: "I don’t have a kitchen in Paris. I am staying at a hotel why would I want to go to the market?" You can kake a picnic with fruits and cheeses! Grab a baguette at 28 Beaumarchais just around the corner and take yourself to Place de Vosges or the Seine. (Read more here).
If you are lucky enough to have an apartment in Paris, grab flowers from one of the many flower vendors in the market. Tell them it's a gift and they will wrap it in an extra special way. I find the prices to be cheaper than the flower spots around the city and the prices are better on Thursdays (and also, the market will be less crowded). There are a few great rotisserie vendors where you can grab a roast chicken and potatoes. It's a great, inexpensive meal. Also try a few different cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. I swear, the fruit tastes better in France than anywhere else! You will also notice the price and origin on where the fruit/vegetable is from is marked above, so look out for French products.
When moving back to Chicago, one of the hardest things to get adjusted to was not going to the markets to grab my fruit, cheese, and flowers. I had a routine I was used to and really missed that part of my daily life in Paris. Here in Chicago, we have a fantastic market called Green City Market. The food is locally sourced from different farmers around Illinois/Indiana. The market is twice a week and I try to fit it into my schedule. Its about a ten minute walk from my apartment so it's pretty easy to pop over really quickly. I will admit its not the same as Paris, but nothing will ever be! I am learning to find my favorite flower, fruit, and vegetable vendors so I can bring a little bit of Paris into my life here in Chicago!