Most of us know the feeling of waking up in a bed that is not our own; you open your bleary eyes, look up at the ceiling and for a brief moment have no idea where you are. Someones couch? A friends place? Or a hotel room on another continent? Case in point one morning before I jumped out of bed, shuffling across the floorboards to open the window shutters on our apartment, being instantly reminded where we were. Blue sky, soft light illuminating the buidings up and down the street, mums taking their kids to school and an old bloke riding a bike with a baguette wedged under his arm. Good morning Paris!
It didn’t take long before one of us had a baguette in hand, plus a few glistening and flakey pastries, returning from the local pâtisserie while the other was upstairs setting the table and putting some coffee on. I could get used to this. It also wasn’t long before breakfast was done and dusted and we were trapsing the web of streets in the Marais passing locals as they made their way to work, appreciating the fact that we weren’t.
Today was market day and unbeknown to me there was one not too far away. A leisurely walk takes us through Pletzl where we meander beneath covered galleries that lead out from Hôtel de Sully and step onto the glorious Place des Vosges, a beautiful square of green grass, hedged trees and bubbling fountains all surrounded by red brick and stone pavillions. Paris, you’re just too beautiful.
It isn’t long before you’re in the shadow of the Colonne de Juillet, a columnal commemoration to the French Revolution of 1830 where King Charles X was knocked off his throne by his own cousin. Fast forward from those political times to the 21st century and you find yourself standing on a congested traffic circle with roads heading every-which-way; including Boulevard Richard Lenoir that is home to the bi-weekly Marché Bastille.
Paris seems to have three types of markets: covered markets (such as Le Marché de Enfants), roving markets and merchant streets (like Rue Montorgueil). Open-air roving markets generally gear up at dawn beneath shaded canopies along the footpath or median strip and tend to disappear soon after midday. Marché Bastille is one such market. Twice a week – Thursday and Sunday – this mostly gourmet roving market pops up on the tree-lined median strip offering a plethora of edibles to locals, visitors and anybody else that is interested.
Brightly-covered stalls, more than 100 of them, are stacked high with seasonal produce. This is where people wake up early in the dewey morning hours, flocking to the busiest market in town with hand trolleys and empty bags to shop for fresh bread, pungent cheeses, seafood and gorgeous rotisserie chickens dripping their savoury nectar onto golden peeled potatoes. The market has a real pulse to it. It’s where elderly ladies don’t hesitate in elbowing past you to get to the front of the line for their poisson or where that grouchy cheese merchant amps up his French tone when you point a camera at his prized fromage.
Ethnic food stalls sit side-by-side with fresh meats, fruits and veg, amazing local cheeses, ready-to-eat treats like grilled German wûrst with golden chats as well as non-food bits like jewellery, shoes and clothing. This is one market that covers almost all bases.