When I first moved to Paris, I was astonished at the number of traditional food markets springing up every week in my neighborhood alone. Watching the marchés volants ( meaning temporary, or literally "flying" markets) come up and down seemed to mark the passage of (Parisian) time, which is much less frenetic than, say, New York or Tokyo time. A dedication to taking the time to live and eat well is still fairly pervasive in Paris (despite local fretting over the growing hold of panini sandwiches and "Mac Do"). This dedication is perhaps no more apparent than in the continued popularity of traditional farmers' markets. It's little wonder, considering that the tradition extends back to the 5th century, when Paris was known as Lutece and belonged to the Roman Empire.
It's admittedly taken me years to come around to eking out time for the market ritual, and in busier weeks I still do all of my shopping at the supermarket. But whether you're a visitor or a resident, few places promise more color and animated social exchanges with the locals than a trip to a nearby food market. Fruit vendors call out the latest bargains in singsong tones, coaxing you to come sample a juicy wedge of tangerine or garden tomato. At the cheese stand, you can solicit an expert opinion on which goat cheese is best paired with the wine you bought. If you're learning French, hitting the local Paris food markets can be a great way to practice and interact. Even if you're staying in a hotel, why not take a whirl and browse the market, buying a little fresh fruit for breakfast or cheese to go with your baguette? I also recommend heading to the open-air or covered markets to get stocked up for spring or summer picnics in Paris.
- Complete Paris Food and Dining Guide
- Best Paris Bakeries
- Paris Gourmet Foodshops (from About.com Culinary Travel)
- Readers' Best Food and Dining Pictures of Paris
- Rue Montorgueil in Pictures (traditional market street)
- Top Gourmet Paris Restaurants
Image: ©2009 Kevin Gessner. Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.