Zipping through the beautiful countryside at about 300km/hr from our last port-of-call, Béziers, the train headed up to Paris where we'd spend the last days of our trip living like locals in a Marais apartment. What's a French holiday without a visit to Paris? This was my third visit to Frances capital and it was also one that felt a litttle different to previous stays. Food. It's not like I didn't get into the food so much the last two times, it's just that I didn't bother photographing and sharing it as I do now.
One thing that I love about Paris is how accessible it is. It's such a walkable city. Why take the underground metro when you can explore the streets and discover amazing little places you'll never see from a hot and crowded train carriage? Places such as this - Le Marché de Enfants Rouges.
Located in the high-brow district of north Marais, it's the oldest covered market in town. The name literally means The Market of Red Children, apparently due to a nearby orphanage where the kids donned lovely red outfits as a symbol of their status. The orphanage was constructed in the early 1500's and closed at the beginning of the 17th century where, in 1615, it was transformed into a market to commemorate the charitable establishment that occupied the site for almost 100 years.
Today the market holds a bounty of florists, cheese mongers, wine and seafood merchants and a glorious array of charcuterie. Scatter a few small restaurants into the mix and you also have Italian, Japanese, Lebanese and Moroccan food to enjoy before you grab yourself some beautifully stinky cheese and crusty baguette to take home.
Lunch-time seems to draw a lot of the residents and workers to the market restaurants and with the limited seating available it doesn't take long for the tables fill up. The vibe of the whole place is static with people sitting amongst crates of fresh produce with the heavenly smells of food and (not-so-heavenly) cigarette smoke wafting up from French chatter in a sunny central courtyard.
The longest queue seemed to be at the little Moroccan restaurant and takeaway called Traiteur Marocain, a rustic set-up adorned with glazed patterned Moroccan tiles and counters displaying huge tagines overflowing with colourful vegetable and meat dishes. Traditional sweet mint tea is served in shimmering glasses and meals arrive on terracotta plates delivered by one of the jovial guys that are eager to help with your choices.
With such a tempting selection of tagine and couscous dishes it can be a little tricky choosing when all you want to do is try all of them. Especially when nothing costs more than €14.50, being the authentic pastilla made with pigeon meat, something I tried once in Marrakesh many years ago. For me it was a toss-up between the pastilla aux pigeons and the tajine de kefta. The small size of the pastilla had me choose the latter as I needed something with a little more substance but in retrospect I should have just ordered both.
Mr K decides on pastilla aux poulet which is much the same story as the pigeon variety, except with chicken. The flavour and texture is just like the one I remember from Marrakesh - slow-cooked meat shredded and mixed with almonds, saffron, eggs, cinnamon and sugar before being cocooned in ourka (or warka), a very thin pastry.
The couscous merguez is as rustic as Moroccan food can get, something our friend V Mary H (flew in from the UK for a few days) was hanging to get her teeth around. She does like her exotic sausages. Fluffy couscous topped with vegetable tagine and two grilled merguez sausages, something I was enamoured with back on our canal journey and just had to try. The tajine de kefta is another dish I had several times in Marrakesh, and now in the heart of Paris. It's a delicious tomato-based concoction of lightly-spiced meatballs simmered with eggs that are cracked over the top. Piled over couscous with a soft pillow of khobz, a traditional bread torn into pieces and used to scoop the stew rather than use a fork. Truly a sensational lunch.
In a city like Paris you never have to travel very far to find a patisserie and just down the road from the market is a great little place glistening with all things sweet. La Fougasse is a contemporary patisserie and boulangerie that teases any sweet tooth with its beautifully decorated pastries, tarts, chocolates and macarons. It was here that we stopped and picked up a couple of must-haves like the zingy bande abricot and silky crème brûlée pistache; just a little something to nibble on back at the apartment whilst peering over the balcony watching un Parisien go about their daily lives. I could get used to this.Marché de Enfants Rouges39 rue de Bretagne75003 ParisTues-Thurs 10.30am-1pm, 4pm-7.30pmFri-Sat 8.30am-1pm, 4pm-8pmSun 9am-2pm----------------------------------------------------Traiteur Marocainlocated inside Marché de Enfants Rouges0033 01 42 7755 05----------------------------------------------------La Fougasse25 rue de Bretagne75003 Paris0033 01 42 72 36 80Tues-Sat 7am-8pmSun 7am-2pmMon closed