Paris has an amazing number of “temporary” fairs and markets. The first that come to my mind are the open air food markets that set up one or two days each week in designated spots. One we go to is called “Popincourt” and it’s Tuesdays and Fridays on Boulevard Richard Lenoir. You will find stands for fruits and vegetables, for cheese and dairy, for meats, and for fish. There are also various “specialty” stands like one that sells a dozen or more varieties of olives, dried fruit, and herbs. Or you might find a clothing stand that sells sweaters or pairs of shoes. Or you might even find a potato peeler at the “hardware” stand. These stands can really provide much of what you need on a daily basis. Though there are permanent grocery stores and cheese shops and butcher shops in the neighborhood, there is something special about wandering through the outdoor market in search of the perfect avocado, listening to the various sellers hawking their wares.
Another type of outdoor market that I LOVE is the antiques markets or the “vide-grenier” (literally “empty attic”) markets. These can be like yard sales here in the States, or like craft fairs here. I don’t know of anything that’s really exactly equivalent. These markets seem much more random, in terms of location and day, and so whenever we would happen across one, it was always a fun surprise, but I always thought it would be REALLY great if there was a way to know when and where to find them. Guess what? There IS! A wonderful app for the iPad and iPhone that my husband found called “BrocaBrac” – here is the link to it:
I’ll warn you that it’s in French, but it’s VERY easy to figure out. When it opens, you have a choice of searching by “departements” (Paris is 75), or by “city” or by “distance.” We click on “departements” and then scroll down to “75”. Up pops the markets/fairs by date. Today, for instance, it says there are four markets on Saturday, Feb. 23rd, one in the 11th arrondisement, two in the 15th, and one in the18th. When you then click on the entry it tells you a little more about it- sometimes it will say how many exhibitors/sellers there are, or it might describe what will be for sale. I bought wonderful wine glasses at the last one that I went to– I’m told they are from the 30’s. I don’t know for sure, but what I do know for sure is they are a LOT more fun than something boring that I could have found at a regular department store and they were 6 euros each, which seemed like a bargain to me! Here’s a photo of a stand at the last one that had all kinds of silver- flatware, dishes, platters, etc.
Drum roll….. the manuscript is officially on its way to a potential agent! I made final edits, added a prologue, and sent it off with all fingers and toes crossed. In an attempt to continue to build “buzz” for the book, I will continue to “tweet” regularly (my handle is martyalmquist) and will also continue to work on using social media for marketing without having it drive me crazy. This blog has now become an important part of my “escapism” to Paris so it serves my own selfish purpose, as well as hopefully introducing people to fun stuff in Paris. Please tell any friends who love Paris to subscribe! I’m hopeful a new chapter is opening for me…..
Different cities seem to have different “street foods” and one of the best street foods in Paris is crepes. There are tons of creperie restaurants, but what I really love is the crepe stands. The French don’t seem to snack much (which may be one reason they stay slim!) but one thing you will see is people eating crepes while walking around Paris. The Left Bank has more crepe stands than the Right Bank– not sure why that is, but I know they are easy to spot along Boulevard St Michel near Place St Michel (which is right at the river). It could be a window at the entrance to a small restaurant/cafe/bakery, or it could be its own little stand.
The most common choice of crepe is a “beurre/sucre” or butter/sugar crepe, but you have a wide variety to choose from- maybe Nutella? or a savory one with ham and cheese? Be sure to choose a crepe stand that doesn’t have a stack of pre-made crepes– some stands cook the basic crepe ahead and just add the filling. It only takes two minutes for them to make one for you fresh, and it’s absolutely better. I love to watch them spread the batter, then flip it, then slather butter on it, followed by a nice sprinkling of sugar. On a cold, windy afternoon at 4:00, what better way to give yourself a quick energy/sugar boost to get you through the rest of your busy sightseeing day?
Want to find free concerts in Paris? Want to see if your favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie is showing? You have to go to your nearest newsstand and ask for a “Pariscope, s’il vous plait.” It will cost you 40 “cents” and it should be your go-to source for finding out what’s happening. It comes out every week on Wednesday. There is a theater section, a movie section, an arts/exhibitions section, a music section, and a restaurant section. Last Saturday, at 4:00 PM, I went to a free concert at a church in the 3rd arrondisement, featuring music of the 18th century. It was a group called “Les Muses Galantes” and they perform each month, once in a church on the Left Bank and once in a church on the Right Bank. Though the concert was free, they did ask 5 euros if you wanted a copy of the program, to support the musicians, and, of course, for donations if you enjoy the music. It was a small group of musicians and singers and they were absolutely wonderful. And I found out about it in Pariscope. There were a huge variety of other concerts listed, some free, and some for a fee.
Or how about a movie? Instead of choosing the concert, I could have gone to see North by Northwest- a Hitchcock classic. It was playing in the 5th arrondisement. When was the last time you got to see a Hitchcock movie in a theater?
Pariscope will let you know all the great things to do during your Paris visit. Too bad it can’t help you figure out how to get it all done before it’s time to head back home….