Between Bastille and Nation there’s a little piece of Paris where you can experience the rare but beautiful feeling of being alone among Parisians. The 12th Parisian arrondissement scores points for its charm rather than its sights. Now that the first stems of asparagus are poking their heads out of the earth in the South of France, every weekend I head there on foot with my rolling shopping bag. The delicious spring vegetable is underappreciated in France. While the whole of Germany is crazy about asparagus right now, in Parisian supermarkets it’s as hard to find as truffles. And because I don’t want to miss out on certain culinary traditions, I have to go to the farmers market to get asparagus.
For me Marché d’Aligre (Place d’Aligre) is the loveliest market in the whole of Paris. Like a little village in itself. The old indoor market halls are open all week, from Tuesday to Sunday, but it is only on the weekends that the whole neighbourhood meets here. “Bobo” families, the Parisian abbreviation for Bohème bourgeoise, which is roughly translated as hipster, come here to buy politically correct fruit and vegetables and mingle with old-established inhabitants and migrants from all countries of the world. Inside there are organic vegetables and all kinds of French delicacies. Outside there is a flea market and other stalls where chattering groups of people push their way through or stop for a chat. Once my shopping caddy is full, I stand in line in Baron Rouge (1, Rue Théophile Roussel) like everybody else. Every Saturday and Sunday, the landlord Bernard picks up oysters, the catch of the morning from a Breton oyster farmer he trusts. This is so popular that the ingenious landlord has built his own prehistoric looking guillotine to quickly and effectively open the molluscs instead of using his hand and a knife. Whoever desires can also accompany these with a bottle of fine wine (champagne is only 40 euros a bottle) from his wine bar and have a talk with God and the world at the standing tables inside and outside.