Passionate About Paris: 7th December 2011

Welcome to another post in my series Passionate About Paris.  Maybe you’re a first-time visitor, or like me a can’t-get-enough-of-Paris devotee. Perhaps you’re mildly curious about the City of Light.   Whatever your feelings about Paris, I hope you’ll find in these posts some ideas to inspire, hints to help and a sense of sharing what’s great about this awesome city.

This week I’m going to focus on the delights of food shopping in Paris.  ‘But I’m on holiday’, I hear you cry.  Stay with me reader, I may just be able to convert you to the utter delights which await in Parisian street markets – as well as department store food halls.

Whether last week’s blog post is tempting you to the delights of an apartment holiday, or you’re tempted by a picnic, or whether you just want to rub shoulders with Parisians and listen to the banter, a Parisian market is a true feast for the senses.

The French as we know place great importance on their food.  So you can be sure that your purchases will be both fresh and tasty as they need to satisfy the most pernickety Parisian shopper.

You’ll find farmers, fishermen, bakers of artisanal breads and pastries along with specialist producers of everything from cheese to pâtes as well as ready prepared dishes.

Parisian markets have been part of Parisian life since the 1500s – a Parisian institution, many of the stallholders travel to Paris from all over France, which provides a great opportunity to try regional specialities too.

Here are some of my favourites:

Rue Cler, 7th arrondissement.  You’ll find everything you could possibly want here, from prepared dishes, meats, cheeses, baked products, a chocolatier and a wine shop.  Dizzy with choice and assailed by so many aromas, you may just want to gratefully sink into a chair on the pavement café at Café du Marché while you ponder the options.  Also in rue Cler are two supermarkets, Franprix and Leader Price, good for basic groceries.   Rue Cler market is open daily except Monday; on Sundays it closes at 1 p.m. and gets really busy after 11 a.m. as the Parisians tumble out of church and scramble to buy their baguettes, wine and cheeses.

While in the area, don’t miss the outstanding Lenôtre for take-away gourmet foods, ready prepared dishes and patisseries in adjacent Avenue de la Motte Picquet, next to the métro station.  The Avenue leads to two lovely parks – great spots for a picnic from your purchases.

Also in the 7th arrondissement is the market on rue de Grenelle, open Wednesdays to Sundays from 7 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.  A true neighbourhood market and located between the Motte Picquet and the Dupleix  métro, the area isn’t pretty but you’ll finds a true slice of Parisian life – as well as excellent quality, prices and choice for a whole range of fresh foods.    Get there early before the hungry hordes.

The Saxe-Breteuil market has to be one of the prettiest, framed by the Eiffel Tower and the beautiful building of Les Invalides which houses Napoleon’s tomb. It   starts at Place de Breteuil and continues to Avenue de Segur. Here you’ll find many regional specialities as farmers and producers come from all over France to sell their goods. The market has a long-standing reputation for high quality and choice of organic foods and is open every Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. (Saturdays are much busier).  Look out for the lady who travels up from Toulouse each week to sell her duck pâte, as well as the wide choice of cheeses on offer, not forgetting the merchant who sells olives prepared in 40 different ways, with oils and accompaniments.

For an indoor experience, head into a food hall such as that in Galeries Lafayette at 40 Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement.  Selling top-class groceries, sweetmeats and seasonal gifts, the displays are an experience even if you don’t want to buy.

Another is at La Grande Epicerie, 38 rue du Sevres and also inside Le Bon Marche at 24 rue du Sevres.  With Christmas ahead these are fabulous places to pick up some gorgeous gifts for fellow foodies at reasonable prices.

On the subject of Christmas, here are a couple of markets that might just make present shopping an experience to savour:

Jardin du Trocadero – it can’t get much better than shopping in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  With an ice-skating rink too this is the place to be.  The market is in the Place de la Trocadero and opens on December 9th.

The market on Place Saint Sulpice offers crafts and artisans selling their wares – just the place to find a truly original present, as well as stalls selling goods to support charities.  Listen out for cries of “Chaud Les Marrons” and let your nose guide you to the roast-chestnut sellers to add to the Christmas ambience.

Paris News                                                                                                               There’s been a mini-revolution – but thankfully no beheadings.  Paris is enjoying a world-first by introducing the electric rental car, the Autolib’.  Available 24/7 the service requires registration as well as the production of your driving licence and a credit card.   If you’re brave enough to take on Parisian drivers, full details can be found on  http://www.autolib.eu/

And finally, there’s another ice rink to add to those listed last week. On 15th December an ice rink will open on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower, where you can swizzle and glide with a view to die for.  Open every day from 10.30 to 22.30.  Skating is free but you need to pay the Tower entrance fee.

À bientôt!

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