I took a crazily early train from London to Paris on Tuesday morning; the 05.40 train in fact. I had picked this one with the idea that I would be in Paris in time for the croissants to still be warm from the oven and certainly there is nothing wrong with a decision based on a warm croissant. It was a touch awkward with market shopping in mind though, as I was laden with my suitcase for part of the day. But up and on, nothing can crush your spirit when in this magical place.
As my friend Clementine was cooking for me this evening, my market visits on this first day were purely recreational and a chance to soak up the atmosphere as well as graze, obviously. I come on this trip armed with my own ‘market’ research as well as a hefty list from our French friend and owner of the wonderful wine and tapas bar Tinto, Pierre. He knows his Paris markets extremely well so I was eager to delve right into his recommendations.
First was Marche Maubert which is in the 5th arrondissement. My sleepiness faded away as I dashed around to look at the vast array of gorgeous looking fruit and veg, creamy cheese and (sometimes gasp inducing) cuts of meat. It’s a small market on Place Maubert very near the Sorbonne. Pierre tells me that it started it’s days in the 5th century as Marche Palau which was the very first open air market in Paris, before moving to Maubert a couple of centuries later.
There’s a nice local atmosphere as people mosey around with their baskets, chatting with the producers and choosing their daily fare. I choose a couple of figs from one of the stalls and make my way into the beautiful fromagerie overlooking the market. And what a fromagerie it is. I taste a few (several) of their compte samples and choose a small chunk to take with me to devour later for lunch.
I will myself on despite being in desperate need of coffee as I’m adamant to catch a second market, knowing they will all shut up at 1.30. With that thought to buoy me up, I make my way to the rather famous Marche Raspail in the 6th. I say famous as on Sunday this market becomes an exclusively organic affair (which I’m sorry to miss on this trip) but for now it is a mixture of organic and non, as many of the markets are. This was one of the first outdoor markets in Paris following the closure of many indoor ones at the beginning of the 20th century. It certainly made up for this closure as it is one of the largest and most bustling I have seen. It’s on an island of a long and busy boulevard which I think gives it this heightened atmosphere, in complete contrast with the much calmer Maubert. After a few lengths of the stalls, sampling, smelling and touching, I retire to a bench with a crusty baguette and launch myself on the comte. A productive morning.