The market hall of fame: Aligre/Beauvau

Kim aligre 3Way back last summer, I filled my reusable canvas grocery bag full of veg and got my toes rolled over by many a granny shopping trolley (which by the way seems to be the height of fashion over here), all in the name of research. The goal was to cast your collective eyes towards the delightful produce on offer at one of Paris’ cheapest markets, nestled along the Boulevard Barbès. You know me, the budget drives the car (or should that be Autolib) in my Paris life, and food is the honorary passenger being chauffeured Miss Daisy-style in the back seat.

Kim aligre 6Today though I nudged the produce pandemonium at Barbès Rochechouart into second place, when I headed for a long overdue exploration of one of Paris’ equally vibrant and cheap markets, the jewel of the 12e, Marché Aligre (metro Ledru-Rollin). Situated so central you’d expect prices to make your eyes water, the market is in reality a twin endeavour, with the outdoor stalls nestled around a huge place bleeding into the side streets, and a covered hall (the Beauvau bit) dominating the middle.

Kim aligre 1Carnivores would do well to venture inside to make the most of many a meat merchant, whether it be fresh slabs of marbled beef you’re after, or a rock-hard saucisson as long as your arm. You can pick up some cheese and fish too if your incisors aren’t that keen, or even some horse if you’re determined to test the deepest, darkest corners of your Frenchness.

Outside is far more varied and livelier, with bric-a-brac competing with Levis for a tenner, second-hand clothing and vintage books. The colourful display of veg on offer really gets the cash flowing though, and let’s face it, Kim aligre 5out of everything, that’s the stuff we really need (put that replica Ming vase down). Unlike Barbés where price comparison is a futile exercise (and essentially impossible given the density of the crowds), at Aligre you have both ends of the spectrum, from bunches of herbs for 40 cents and assorted lots for a mere euro each, to seasonal greengrocery and the bio crowd, whose virtuous intentions push the prices further towards the heavens.

Kim aligre 7For the finest bargains, timing is the key; head there towards the final hour of the day and you’ll regret not bringing a horse and cart to wheel your own spoils home in. You’ll be able to fill your boots with cut price fruit and veg for mere cents, though be prepared for high spirits and loud voices trying to compete to sell you those two watermelons for a euro that they are adamant you can’t live without.

Open six days a week it’s also more accessible than most; for official details (hours, location and ‘ting), check here.

Advertisements

The market hall of fame: Barbès Rochechouart

Market barbes2Whenever a person thinks of France, and I’m really sticking my (frog’s) leg out here and generalising, I can be almost certain that the flashing procession of images contains a market in there somewhere. The place is fabled for them, making sure our happy bellies are full of technicolour produce, to-salivate-for meat and without a doubt the smelliest cheeses in the world.

Having lived in Paris for over five years (so I can safely consider myself somewhat of an expert), I’m well used to the gulf between the glittering tourist clichés and the more mundane and unspectacular reality of what the city is actually like. But these bustling markets, filled with a plethora of goodies and traders trying to push juicy figs into your mouth as you idle past, straddle the both ideas, being both the romantic cliché, and the happy reality.Market barbes1

Just as the 20 arrondisements are a patchwork of different cultures and salary brackets, so is the catalogue of the city’s produce markets. Ranging from the organic wonderland of the Boulevard Raspail where the prices can leave you saucer-eyed and open-mouthed, to the lower end of the scale where you can fill two carrier bags full of fruit and veg for 5 euros (and I’ve done it), there are different markets to see you through every day of the week.

Given the premise of this blog though, it’s only fair that I point you towards the cheapest. After extensive research (I still have the fig moustache), I can confirm that if it’s veggie bargains you want, then it’s to Barbès Rochechouart you need to head. The market takes place every wednesday (8am-1pm) and saturday (7am-3pm), extending along Boulevard de la Chapelle, under the metro line (so you’ll be nice and dry if it rains).

Market barbes3Along with the odd hardware and clothes stall, there’s are plenty of the usual suspects selling fruit and veg, cheese, fish and meat, and a handful of specialists selling delights such as olives and spices. You’ll also have to make sure you look out for the herb guys who plonk themselves right in the middle of the pedestrian traffic – if not for their fragrant green bunches, at least to save your shins.

It’s a busy ol’ affair, so if you’re not keen on elbowing through the crowds, competing with the masses to get served, or losing your heels via a fellow shopper’s loaded trolley being pulled with reckless abandon, then you’ll have to get there early. Given the rock-bottom prices, you won’t find a whole host of organic or local produce being sold by ruddy-cheeked farmers, and none of that ‘posh’ veg (watercress, asparagus, kale), though the quality is reasonable and the sales patter always lively. Who needs bananas exactly the same size and length anyway??

For more information on this market and others near you, check out http://meslieux.paris.fr/marches