Our first full day in Paris, Suzy and I woke first, confirmed the rain had stopped and decided to get out and about, before the others were up. We were both eager to visit our first destination, the open-air food market on the Boulevard Raspail.
The five of us arrived on Saturday for a week-long adventure in Paris to celebrate my upcoming significant birthday. In addition to my friend Suzy, I also roped in my sister Erica and my mom’s college roommate Pat and her sister Linda. We rented a glorious apartment in the 7th, very close to the 6th, on Rue de Grenelle, and settled ourselves in for a week of food and culture.
A bit about the apartment, since it did work out so well – we found it on VRBO and after a little back and forth with the owners, decided that it was the right place for us. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, with a petite salon (which we used as a third bedroom), a grand salon with dining area and a very well appointed kitchen. The apartment also has an elevator, a requirement for our group, and a washer/dryer, another requirement. Living together for a week with a group this size meant we also needed enough personal space (bathrooms) in addition to comfortable public spaces. The location was also important, and this apartment did not disappoint – around the corner was Poilane, a famous Parisian boulangerie. Down the street was Berthelemy, an equally famous cheese shop. And the apartment was a 5 minute walk from Bon Marché, the large left-bank department store and food emporium.
Back to our plan for the day. Suzy and I decided to run out to the Marché Raspail, which on Sundays is an organic market. The market runs down the length of the street, between Rue de Cherche-Midi and Rue de Rennes. It was not hard to miss.
Our mission was to bring back food for breakfast; fruit, bread, cheese, yogurt. With our plan in hand, it was easy to move through the market without becoming too overwhelmed. I loved the colors of the fruits and vegetables; the beautiful cheese displays (I wanted to buy one of each); the difference in the meat displays (our butchers don’t usually display the chickens with their heads still on) and the fact that in one place, a shopper could find everything they needed for the week.
According to my friend Sophie, who lives in Paris with her husband Thierry, each of the four quadrants of the city of Paris has a market almost every day. Most Parisians do their shopping daily, or every few days. At the Raspail market, I was unable to determine who were the actual farmers selling their produce vs. the vendors who represented many producers. Also, even though it was an organic market, I did not notice signs indicating produce or foods that were organic. That could be because they all were, or because I don’t really read French. Either way, something to learn next time I visit.
Suzy and I had fun completing our transactions in French, using my miserable high school French along with a good deal of finger pointing and hand waving. We followed the long lines to find the good vendors, and were disappointed that we did not need dinner, since the line in front of the fish monger was long indeed.
After breakfast back at the apartment, we set off with a larger group to visit the Marché aux Oiseaux (Bird Market) near Notre Dame, and then off to the Marché Parisien de la Création (Arts and Crafts Market) down in the 14th. The very helpful little book, Markets of Paris by Dixon and Ruthanne Long, provided us the information on the many market choices around the city.