I figured I would just check out the nearby Marché Richard Lenoir from home base for this week, my humble flat in the 11eme. Take some pictures. And so I did, agog at the green trees, the fountains, the bustling Friday morning market-goers. I ogled the scarves. Did not buy. Resistance melted when I saw Made in France espadrilles.
Finding the right size amidst this system was - interesting. I spent 15 minutes looking for a particular coloration of a certain striped espadrille in a size 40, which I thought was my size. I finally asked if I could try on the shoes - the monsieur said, yes, of course - there's a chair right behind here. I tried on the size 40s I had finally found in 3 colors and patterns I loved. Too big. I'm a 39. Start over rifling through the bins for the 39s in just the right color combination of stripes. I end up with 2 pairs.
Having broken through the shopping resistance barrier (a friend calls this first blood--that first purchase that paves the way for the domino effect of more, and more purchases), it dawned on me I really did need to buy some food at the Marché. I go back to the bread guy. Those baguettes tradition had really made an impression on me when I sauntered by earlier.
By the time I get back to him, he is starting to pack up! I am barely back in time to secure the baguette tradition - but also a sampling of some of his specialty breads. I am a sucker for dark whole grain breads with nuts and fruits. Toasted, with butter - oh yea. I see one can purchase just a slice or two. When the clock is ticking to the market shutting down, one finally makes quick decisions. Unfortunately, my decisions ended up with my getting more bread than a single person living in Paris for a week really needs. I now have sliced whole wheat bread from the grocery store, a baguette tradition, two slices of that gorgeous what bread with nuts and, my favorite, the one with figs, raisins and nuts.
I realize if he is closing, then the other stands might be shutting down too. And so I start to panic. It dawns on me I really do need some food. Bananas, strawberries, some of those beautiful little mini-peaches or abricots I've been seeing at a stand here and there. I realize I should have done the produce first, the espadrilles second.
I start walking briskly. Where were those strawberries I liked? Sure, most everyone has strawberries. But the purpose of the market is to shop around, compare prices and quality. I had not done this from the outset. Now I was stuck there in the middle of the market - a large one - wondering where I saw those gorgeous strawberries??
I go to the organic stand. Surely these are lovely and high quality.
Yes, they were. They were also 6.5 euros. Uh, non. That seemed like a lot. Surely I could do better. But in fact there was no time to do better. I randomly pick a stand and get 2 bananas - and some avocados - and some apples.
Oh such a mistake. I forgot to tell him which ones I wanted. So I really have no one to blame but myself for the awful overripe avocados (managed enough out of 3 of them to make a salad) that I ended up purchasing because I did not take charge of that situation.
Did not like the look of his strawberries at all. I scurry along, briskly briskly as the stands are coming down here and there. Finally get the strawberries. Laden with several bags now, I decide I should stand in line for whatever everyone else is standing in line for at the sandwich stand. I am so laden with packages, I drop my bread, and a nice man behind me tells me I'm about to lose my "plan" (my booklet of Paris by Arrondissement) so I thank him and adjust all my packages and purse and backpack.
Yes, it was the bread that caught my eye. For someone trying to do paleo high-protein in Paris...well that's not going so great...this was not a great idea. But the bread is just a small thinly crisped on the grill vehicle for tasty insides it would turn out, so not a bad carb experiene in the end it would turn out.
The lesson learned here at the Lebanese sandwich stand applies to the producer stands at the market:
1. Follow the crowd can be a good rule. If no one is standing in line at one particular vendor, there's probably a reason.
2. Be assertive. I watched several sandwiches being made and asked about them before deciding on mine. Did not want to waste this opportunity. Same goes for picking out the produce. Take your time. Chat. I forgot this rule because I was being, well, American. I started to rush. Bad.
If they know you're a visiting tourist, just in and out for this one shopping trip for entertainment purposes, they really do not care about their reputation and selling you something less than stellar. You are not going to be a frequent customer, so why bother making sure you will come again by providing you with the best of the best of the vendor's produce. I get this.
3. Be assertive. Ask for a sample. My strawberries turned out to be fine. Not perfect, but not awful (like those avocados). And the breakfast this morning (day 3) of those strawberries, almond yogurt drizzled on top from last-minute stop in the Casino grocery store, chopped almonds on top -- while the TSF jazz radion station is playing and I am drinking coffee...all good.
As is Paris in June.
(house boat on Seine, looking back onto the Right Bank)
(Ile St. Louis...enough said)
(Place des Vosges...nap time for some person with the right idea)