This morning I went to the Marche’ Bastille, a mostly food market in the 11th. Easiest-to-find place I’ve been to in all of Paris. You step off the Metro at Bréguet Sabin and voila!, you are right in the market.
I loved it. Still grinning from ear to ear at such a typically French experience.
First I cruised the market, which is relatively small, to see what the offerings were. I think one booth must be really popular at first, but quickly realize it’s a tour guide and his minions; he’s explaining the market to some tourists who appeared to be American. Not sure why a farmer’s market was so difficult to grasp that it needed to be a tour stop, but whatevs. Of course, they’re blocking real customers from patronizing the vendor whose booth they’re stopped at while they snap pictures.
I was surprised that there were lots of non-food vendors there. I picked up a few small gifts and a comfy pair of shoes from a very cooperative vendor, congratulating myself on my negotiating skills. Well, at least until I realized a couple minutes later that I paid asking price.
A nice man with jewelry flirts me up. His English is pretty good, and he asks me to come back Sunday. I think the French men flirt with all women who are alone just for the fun of it. It is a good way of thinking. Why not? As long as it isn’t crude or pushy, it makes us both happy.
I then started making food selections. At this point, I realized it might have been helpful to brush up on the metric system so that I understood the pricing. And that the words, “a little less” or “a handful” might have been helpful to know. Since I can’t quite comprehend the pricing unless it’s by the piece, I use the Bobby Brady method of selecting my vendors. I just buy from the friendliest ones. There’s an Italian stand that is very friendly. They’ve got an amusing ongoing chatter that they share with passersby. It makes me smile.
I am surprised that fruit was far more plentiful than vegetables. It seems the French are not vegetable lovers, so much. You really don’t even see much in the way of vegetables at restaurants. I picked up some green beens, zucchini, tomatoes and eyed the one bunch of broccoli I saw. Broccoli is in scarce supply here, but I passed because it looked bad. Bananas were also limited. A vendor insists that I take a sample of cantaloupe and a cherry. They were sweet and delish. But then I was stuck with cantaloupe rind and a cherry pit in my hand. No trash cans in evidence at this Marche’, so I’ll be turning down any samples that have remains in the future.
I head back to buy my fruit from a nice boy who smiled at me and said hello sweetly. I buy some raspberries, green grapes and an avocado. Then I stop at a bakery booth and buy one crostini and one pain du chocolat.
I am giving you the actual items I bought not because I’m obsessed with detail and think you really need to know what I’m eating. Oh no, there is a method to my madness. Because the sweet total for all the food items was under 10 Euro. Far, FAR less than you’d spend for produce in any of the grocery stores here. Or in the US, for that matter.
There’s a good saxophonist playing jazz, lending an nice ambiance to the morning, so I drop a euro in his basket and walk on. I haven’t quite learned the casual euro toss, so I expect it tips off that I’m a foreigner. I then stop at the fish and meat booths, marveling at both the selection and the odor. I can’t quite wrap my mind around buying meat that way. The meat booth does appear to be refrigerated, but … still. It seems suspect. That, I’m sure, is just an American sensibility. I also shudder at the thought of wrapped fish in my bag on the hot subway. So I pass. Next time I come back, I think I’ll make more of an effort to buy from those vendors who appear to be French.
It wasn’t quite the photo op I expected, not exactly pretty, nor was the people watching all that great. But the experience was great and very economical for food. Next time, I think I’ll take pictures of the fish, much more compelling.I head home relaxed and happy with some healthy food, which is very difficult to find in France. Cream sauce, butter, chocolate … no problem, 🙂