Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Day at the Parisian Markets

Usually when I find myself fortune enough to head over to Russia for the summer, I try to book a layover in a country I haven't been to before so that I can experience a new place. This year, however, airline tickets were exasperatingly expensive. Paris and London were the two cities that fell within my budget for layovers so Paris it was.

I'd been to Paris before, and had been amazed by its beauty, but never felt like I'd really seen the city. Although I'd most certainly seen the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysee (and probably too much of it at that) and the Louvre, I felt like I hadn't seen Paris properly.

This time I wanted a new experience. I wanted to see Paris properly, a Paris beyond the fancy shops. I figured the best place to start would be the Parisian markets, the ones where Parisians buy their fresh produce and daily breads and cheeses.

In a word? Incroyable!

It was a day of perfection. I wandered with no real plan, and kept finding lovely surprises. From delicious fruits that the vendors handed to me with calls of "Bonjour, Jolie!" to the most amazing freshly made chestnut creme crepes served out of little stands.

All the stories of rude Parisians that worry American travelers? Not here. Fish vendors laughed and posed for me as I tried my extremely limited French vocabulary on them.

The sheer variety of produce and products was amazing. From the standards of cherries, apricots and more cheeses than anyone could possibly imagine (according to my New Europe tour guide there are 370 different varieties of cheeses in Paris--awesome) to almonds still in their fruit fresh from Turkey. There were candied fruits, fresh fish and decadently sweet melons. Vendors sliced off pieces of everything for people passing by to try, but also to sample themselves.

On top of that, the people watching was incredible. The mixture of people there was incredible--little old ladies with their wheeling carts stocking up on onions and fresh fish mingled with the fashionably hip.

And it wouldn't be Paris without the snippy little poodles all over the place.

It was the perfect way to spend my first day in Paris, and I'm starting to feel as though I'm seeing more of the Paris I've always wanted to see.

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