If I had to choose only one activity to do on a vacation, I would wander a farmers’ market. it combines many of my favourite things – people watching and food among them – and is a great way to sample the local culture of the place you’re visiting. So I was pleased as punch to visit the Rue Montorgueil street market during a recent trip to Paris with Steve (also – meet Steve! He’ll pop up in posts occasionally – he’s pretty swell).
Smack in the centre of Paris and just a short walk from Étienne Marcel, Les Halls or Sentier on the métro, the market is a great place to visit if you only have a short amount of time. Pedestrian friendly, flat and wheelchair accessible (it’s closed to traffic), the market’s three-block radius makes it easy to sample some of the finest food shops, bakeries and kitchenware stores Paris has to offer in one stop.
Tasked with the all-important “acquire le lunch” plan, I set out to tackle the street while Steve gave his knee a much-needed rest. My game plan was simple – I needed a nice fresh baguette (preferably warm), some berries, a strong cheese (the kind that, as my Dad says, “bites back”), something sweet and of course red wine. The beauty of a market is that all of your senses come alive, so I decided to let my eyes and nose make the decisions for us and hoped my (basic) French skills wouldn’t let me down.
First stop – fruit. I figured this would be a good easy acquisition, and stopped at the well-named Palais du Fruit. It was beautiful. Baskets of all sizes dotted the shop with brightly coloured raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and gooseberries artfully displayed. Thick stalks of white asparagus caught my attention and I picked up a neighbouring nectarine and held it up to my nose – heavenly. I could have easily purchased the entire contents of the shop, but exercised restraint and picked up two small half pints of raspberries and blueberries (thankfully that was all I purchased, because those suckers cost NINE Euros – about $14).
Next stop – something sweet. I have, shall we say, a slight taste for chocolate (replace slight with massive and taste with constant cravings) and thought a small truffle would perfectly compliment the meal. I popped into L’Ateilier du Chocolat and quick settled upon two Grand Marnier truffles which might go down as one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made. Now, to find bread.
My nose led me into Maison Kayser – not as famous as some of the other boulangeries on the street, but sometimes you just need to go by instinct – and my eyes zeroed in on a stack of pain aux cereals resting in baskets behind the cash. Crispy with a crust of crunchy millet and flax seeds, I was sold. There was a small line winding around the shop but I didn’t mind the wait – the smell of freshly baked bread wafted through the air, making it difficult to choose just one baguette as they all smelled delicious.
For the cheese I needed Steve’s help (not just for his bilingualism, which admittedly came in rather handy for this trip) and we opted to let the cheesemonger at La Fromagerie make the decision for us (another move that might go down as one of the best life decisions either of us has made). It was slightly salty, strong and would pair well with the baguette and berries. Now, what was missing? Right, the most important part – the wine!
A highlight of the market was Le Repaire de Bacchus, our supplier of wine for the afternoon. We weren’t sure whether we could in fact enjoy a glass (or two) in public and upon inquiry discovered that it is in fact illegal…but everyone does it. Oh to have the sense of nonchalance towards life that the French have! Our lack of glasses (and worse, a corkscrew – apparently the French don’t do screw tops, classy folk) was quickly solved by the helpful gal in the shop, and she set us off with all we needed and a pre-opened bottle of delicious and reasonably priced vino to pair with our lunch.
We enjoyed our spread in the grassy park surrounding the magnificent Église St Eustache, soaking up some sunshine on a warm spring afternoon before tottering off to the brilliant Musée d’Orsay (more on that later).
If (for some reason) the stalls of the market don’t satisfy your cravings, I’m sure any of the charming cafes and restaurants dotting the street would. Perfect for people watching and spending an afternoon with good company, which seems to be an unofficial French past-time. This was absolutely one of my favourite markets! And I’m not just saying that because I got mildly afternoon drunk on a weekday.
Have you been to Rue Montorgueil or do you have a favourite market from your travels? I’m always on the hunt for new ones to explore – let me know where my senses should guide me to next!