Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

IMG_2971For me, Paris has always been a paradox. And one of the reasons why I started this blog was to address exactly that, exploring both the city’s magic and contradictory grit, trying to find both the rough and the smooth in its inner soul. But no paradox can, and I hope never will, be as painfully stark and heartbreaking as what the world saw on Friday 13th November, just a short and life-changing week ago. How can something so horrific have happened in a place so beautiful? How can there be forces so dark at work in the City of Light?

I also started this blog to explore my passion for words, but on this particular occasion, there really are none to employ. I simply don’t have the vocabulary to negotiate the reality, and barely have the feelings to reconcile my mind to the fact that such a heinous act took place in my home city, some of the tragic sites merely 300m or so from my previous addresses, on pavements I used to frequently tread. I can’t imagine there are many who have the cognitive function to even process the events, let alone attempt to comprehend any rhyme or reason behind the tragedy.

'I hope the music's good up there!'

‘I hope the music’s good up there!’

But France has provided us with three words at least, that can begin to offer the faintest glimmer of hope that together the city and the wider community can find a way to suppress the evil and find strength again in grief. Along with an awakening to the true nature of our enemy and of the courage to defeat it, that national triptych ‘Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité’ helps to lift us through our heavy place of mourning on the path to a future unhindered by such blind hatred.

The seeds of the sentiment were first sown by Robespierre during the French Revolution, when the country only had to look inside itself to find a bloody and destructive enemy. It took two more revolutions for the maxim to be adopted again, but semantic arguments relegated its importance until after the liberation of France post-WWII when it became incorporated into subsequent constitutions. Up until last week, it silently and officially encapsulated the national spirit on the faces of postage stamps and the backs of coins.

Kim motto 2Now it has been immortalised once again as the symbol of unity in the face of a new, modern terror. But it will hold fast as it always has, and infuse our anguished hearts with its message of ‘Freedom, Equality and Fraternity’ and give us the strength to conquer, just as it so powerfully ignited conviction in the past.

They say luck comes in threes. So I’m going to find faith and comfort in France’s semantic trinity, that channels the national spirit through fortune’s chosen number to deliver it’s defiant message. Vive la Republique. Vive la France. Je suis Paris.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Nick Alexander, the dear friend of a dear friend, who will never be forgotten.




Market hall of fame: Marché des Enfants Rouges

IMG_2562I’ll admit it – after nearly seven years in France’s fair capital, there’s still a list of things I sorely miss from the motherland for which Paris can supply no substitute. It has diminished over time, a mere scribbled shadow of what it once was, but the one thing that remains steadfastly stubborn at the top (and I’m not proud of myself, dear readers), is the British supermarket. Sorry Carrefour, Monoprix et al, but you’re just simply no match for the behemoths I’m used to (and guys, if you insist on selling Marmite at such an offensively inflated price, you never, EVER will be).

IMG_2561In Paris though, there’s one thing on the other side of the coin that floats high above these pile-’em-high grocery warehouses, and that’s the traditional produce market, largely abandoned back home in favour of convenience and the fruitless (ha!) search for the cheapest price. And I don’t mean the status-coated ‘farmer’s markets’ either – throughout the city you’ll find both covered and outdoor markets every day of the week selling ordinary fruit and veg from mere pennies to the more upmarket selections in the more well-to-do arrondissements.

IMG_2559Whereas the supermarket is a relatively modern invention at a mere 100 years old*, showing its true influence in our food culture only in the last 40 years or so, the traditional market goes way, way back into the very deepest mists of time – so far back you can hardly even see the beginning anymore. I’ll leave Tesco, ASDA and friends to contemplate their frustratingly unflinching stranglehold on the UK economy, and instead celebrate the birthday this weekend (8th November) of one of Paris’ oldest and most charming fruit and veg bazaars; le Marché des Enfants Rouges.

IMG_2560You’ll find this rain-friendly covered market in the 3rd arrondissement near the Rue de Bretagne, and its name, ‘Market of the Red Children’ comes from the red-suited inhabitants of an ancient orphanage that used to stand nearby. Though the latter is long gone, the market has stood strong for the last 400 years, though understandably needed a facelift after centuries of trading, and closed for six years for a spruce-up in the late 1990s.

Kim fish and chipsRainbows of produce await hungry punters, but waiting until to you get home to satisfy your hunger sounds like unnecessary torture to me. To save you from breaking your teeth sinking them into a raw turnip, the real draw of le Marché des Enfants Rouges is the huge selection of freshly prepared food on offer from all corners of the world, hot and cold, served in compact glass pod-like structures with plenty of seating scattered around to take the load off. Happily the menu also includes fish and chips, so authentic that you could close your eyes and be sitting in a café on Brighton seafront. That’s another British comfort ticked of my list then.

Things do get manically busy at the weekends, and this one will be more sardine-like than most, so best to take a wide berth if you want to be able to find a seat. And being able to tuck into fish and chips whilst occupying yourself with the weekly produce shop sounds well worth the wait to me. I’ll be at home screwing up my ‘things I miss from home’ list and flinging it into the bin.

Open Tuesday to Sunday.

*The very first was called, wait for it, ‘Piggly Wiggly’