Sunday, September 4, 2016

While enjoying our café crèmes and morning pastries in Paris, an elderly lady dressed in her Sunday best asked us in French if she could sit in the spare seat at our table.

Of course, we smiled and motioned to her to please sit down since my French is solely based on ordering food. Then, our African-German friend, who’s fluent in French, German and English, started speaking to her in French. That’s when we learned the historic market of Marché d’Aligre – a true neighborhood market established in 1777 – is under threat by the local council. Now, we may not have understood everything exactly, but from what we did understand, this grandmotherly, French lady told us she is one of the local activists who is trying to make sure this market remains for centuries to come.
How sad that the neighbors would complain that the market is too noisy or should operate on fewer days! Or that the council should try and raise the stall holder rates so fewer stall holders can afford to operate here! What’s the fun in buying sterile produce at the local Monoprix?

I love markets! And Marché d’Aligre, located in the 12th arrondissment, is no different than others we’ve visited around the world – vibrant, bustling with local flavor and bursting with seasonal produce so ripe that you could smell the summer melons throughout the market. I love wandering through the chaotic noise of vendors touting their wares, taking everything in and sampling any sweet thing or a tasty bit of heirloom tomatoes or melon that may be offered to me.
Marché d'Aligre, located in the middle of Place d’Aligre, started as a hay market before the area was even part of Paris, back when it was still the suburb of Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Later, the vendors sold cheap clothes to the poor; and in the 19th century, the neighborhood became home to North African immigrants, maghrébins, travelling by train from Marseille. I learned that many of today’s vendors are third- or fourth-generation maghrébins who have followed their parents and grandparents in the family trade – with the market permits being passed down from father to son. The market has a mix of Arabic, French and a few odd tourists like ourselves thrown into the mix.

Next to the plaza is a historic, covered market called Marché Beauvau that was built in the mid-19th century. Inside, you’ll find vendors selling charcuterie, fresh produce that will cost you a bit more than the outside stalls, beautiful pastries and some of the most amazing fromage you’ve ever seen or smelled.
If you like cheese that smells like sweaty, old running shoes or loads of black truffles, then Fromagerie Hardouin-Langlet is your place. I love stinky, oozing cheese and couldn’t resist buying a triple crème, half of Chaource and a wedge of brie layered with black truffles. Not
cheap at 21.53 euros, but totally worth it!

Another place we loved inside Marché Beavau was JoJo & Co, a delightful pastry shop owned by pastry chef Johanna Roques who creates gorgeous gateaux, marvelous macarons and terrific little tarts.
Right outside the market is another recommended pastry shop called Boulangerie Julien. If you don’t mind standing in line for a 10-15 minutes, you’ll be treated to flaky croissants and other pretty pastries.
The outdoor stalls that fill Place d’Aligre are only open in the mornings from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays to Sundays. The inside covered market operates in the mornings as well as later in mid-afternoon. Best to check the websites for exact details.
Come the afternoon, the streets will be swept clean of any veggie scraps and floral stems and you’d never even know a market and had been there!

Every time I visit Paris, I learn something new about this amazing city. I don’t focus on the touristy sights, instead choosing to wander with my camera and follow up on a few foodie recommendations. No two visits are ever the same. Thanks to our French-speaking friend I learned insider knowledge about this market. A smile goes a long way even when you don’t speak much French.

If you happen to find yourself near Place Bastille on any day but a Monday, please do yourself a favor and wander on down to the magical Marché Aligre before someone decides to shut it down! Your taste buds will thank you for it!
I couldn’t resist buying 200 grams of these gorgeous mushrooms to make my Chantrelle Mushroom Risotto at home in London.
Other interesting articles I found online about Marché d’Aligre:
My Traveling Joys

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Julia said...

Grrr, it seems no matter which country you read about these days, they have markets that are under threat. People LOVE markets. It's always the powers that be that are trying to remove them. So sad.

BacktoBodrum said...

Agree with Julia. markets are all being sanitised and hidden away.

Joy said...

@Julia, I know. I don't understand it either. This one seemed like such a vibrant part of the community.

Joy said...

@Annie, So unfair! What's the fun in shopping at a supermarket?