Monday, January 26, 2009

Paris Grenelle Market

One of the things I love about our XVth arrondissement neighborhood in Paris is the open-air market. Doesn't matter what the weather's doing--freezing, raining, sizzling--the sights and sounds, colors and aromas are too much fun to keep me away when I'm there. According to Paris in a Basket: Markets--The Food and the People (by Nicolle Aimee Meyer & Amanda Pilar Smith), ours (Grenelle) is one of the 5 Star markets in Paris. (And if you are looking for times, locations and ratings of other Paris markets, the book lists an entire index of them all.)

Located underneath the above-ground metro between stops Dupleix and La Motte Piquet on the 6 line, it runs every Wednesday and Sunday between 7am and 2pm. So much to see and smell, from the breads, cookies, pastry and candy to the dead carcasses of wild hare hanging from a butcher's booth (which I will not show here).

~There are booths with foie gras and escargot...

~All kinds of seafood...

~Olives & peppers of shiny, bright colors...

~And cheeses of all varieties...

~We are addicted to the sweet, plump dried apricots and
tangy ginger...

~And many a lunch comes to our table

~I adore the flower stands who,
even in freezing weather, have
bundles of perfectly stacked flowers of
every shape and hue. In the winter,
some vendors set up outdoor
heaters for the flowers to keep their tender hearts from freezing...

...similiar to the heaters used outside cafes meant to keep our hearts warm!

~There are salads of all varieties, including some
made from pigs ears and feet...

~Weren't sure you believed me,
did you?

At our market, I love the feeling of transitioning back and forth between getting lost in the sea of shoppers and lookers ~with the tiny pinging bells of the cash drawers and the vendor's yells to attract buyers to their booths~ then mentally shifting back to taking the entire place in all at once as a whole.
I love that I can buy whatever is the latest fashion--extremely inexpensively--off any of the outdoor racks. They're cheap and will soon be out of fashion. And when my ship comes in, I will gladly trade in my new 10 euro boots for something more haute couture. But I will never give up the Paris outdoor markets!
The other markets are not the same for me. Some close by, like the St. Charles Market and the President Wilson Market, are either smaller or simply run down the sidewalks of the street. All have their own beauty and charm but are not my Grenelle Market.
My only bad experience at Grenelle was a few years ago when I stopped at a vendor with clothes folded on his table. I vaguely heard someone speaking to a customer in French--only to realize too late it was the owner of the booth and he'd been speaking to me. When I had "ignored" him long enough and had picked up something I was interested in, he loudly began shooing me away from his booth, making it very clear that I was not allowed to buy from him.
At first I was confused until I realized our miscommunication. I tried to apologize but couldn't think of the word for "to hear"--as in "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you." And he began yelling louder.
"Parlez-vous anglais?" I asked hoping to clear things up but that only inflamed him more--that I had the gall to come to his country and not even be able to argue with him fluently. He turned away and angrily offered to help someone else.
Now...I was mad.
"Excusez-moi, Monsieur, mais pourqoui moi?" I decided to get as loud as he was and actually enjoyed the look of surprise on his face. As he yelled again, I yelled right back in my limited French. While he had been shooing me away to make a point and assuage his clearly assaulted ego, now he really wanted to get rid of me. I was making a scene and startling his clientele. I made a little more of a stink, told him I wanted nothing of his and fumed away.
The next couple of times I walked the Market, I stopped with whoever I was with, waited until I knew he saw me and pointed toward him, clearly speaking about him and wagging my finger back and forth toward his table in the French gesture for "No, no, no." "No buying here.
Mechant. Mean!"
After that, I had to smile when I saw him. And I swear, he smiled back. In that way, we both apologized for our bad behavior. So...I was bad once in Paris.
Maybe it means I'm becoming French!
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen


  1. I LOVED seeing all those pictures of your Grenelle market, makes me even more sad I missed it all! Although I have to say that it looks a lot like all the food markets I've seen here. Maybe a bit more sophisticated though! I'm leaving here Feb 2nd. Winding down.
    Yes, and I really liked your BAD French story, cute!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Gretchen. Sorry you missed it too. There are definitely similarities between the French and Italian markets. But both are so much fun to peruse. Safe travels home!


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