The Bastille Market

by Britta on 29 October 2009

in European Adventure

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

I didn’t realize that markets could have character until I stumbled onto the one at Place de la Bastille last Sunday. I went back again this Sunday because once just wasn’t enough. The Bastille Market is my favorite one in Paris, bursting with life and flavor and color.

The market takes place every Sunday morning at Place de la Bastille, and you can probably find whatever your heart desires. Stall after stall of French veggies: zucchini, leeks, onions, tomatoes, carrots. Fruit, both tropical and temperate: Mangoes seemed to be on the menu today. Oysters. Fish and seafood (including a shark). Cheese, the very stinky kind. Bread, croissants, pastries. Meat and poultry (chickens aren’t fresh unless the head is still on). Olives, hummus, samosas. Clothing, scarves, bags, leather goods. Ceramics, soaps, handcrafts. Even street performers. If you’re looking for it, it’s probably there.

Poulet (Only fresh when the head is still on)

Poulet (Only fresh when the head is still on)

But it wasn’t just what was on sale that was so exciting. It was what I heard, too — vendors calling out their goods and prices, the friendly (and not-so-friendly) competitions being played out across the aisles. It was the activists on their soapboxes, handing out literature and preaching to passers-by. It was the street performers singing French chanson in perfect harmony. It was the murmur of conversation and transactions among the crowd.

Walking down the aisles between stalls, my olfactory senses were assaulted every which way. Stinky cheese on side, fresh baked baguettes on the other. The scent of rotisserie chickens at the end of the aisle wafted through the air, while the man at the herb stall squeezed each bag of herbs for me so I could smell the different combinations. The chocolate man gave me some samples, and the cherry tomatoes I bought were sweet as candy.

Fruits de Mer (Seafood)

Fruits de Mer (Seafood)

The market was packed with people, as it is every Sunday. So packed that occasionally moving between stalls was nearly impossible. Apparently I’m not the only one who knows the pleasures of the market. But the crowd actually made it more fun — I could listen to people choosing a crab at the seafood stall, or watch them pick out the perfect zucchini. Dodging people and trying to squeeze through the holes I found made it more exciting, rather than less, and when I finally had all my shopping done, I was tired but exhilarated.

All of my senses were involved at the market — but not overwhelmed. The market left enough room for me to appreciate my experience, and also left me wishing I had more Sundays to spend in Paris.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Janine October 29, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Wow…. what a wonderful description of the market place… I felt as if I was there with you! I enjoyed the excellent photos as well. I’ve already had dinner and dessert but my digestive juices were wanting more!

Pat Perry November 19, 2009 at 11:13 am

Not quite the Anchorage Saturday/Sunday Market – but similar energy. You have caught the distinctive flavor of markets throughout the world – one of my favorite places to cruise – even when my wallet is empty! Where it’s a traveling market in London suburbs, a supersized grocery in L.A. or Hindu stalls in Bombay…. it’s great to see what the locals eat and buy, plus one of my favorite travel spots to loose a few hours – ask your dad. They just need to be doing the Costco free samples! (of course, I know that’s not financially possible for independent vendors – being one….. but a girl can dream).

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