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Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

Paris, France
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Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

I used to visit most of the markets in Paris on a rotating basis, because I was younger and had a lot more energy and time - but it's too difficult now, especially in the Summer. Plus, I'm too old to haul many kilos of fruits and vegetables from a market across town - and I don't care anymore whose famous garden they sprouted from or who else shops there. Now, I stick to Bastille and sometimes Aligre, if it's not too hot outside.

This morning, I got ready to go to the Bastille market, and instead of putting on my usual anti-tour-group battle gear, I just put on a straw hat and a smile. In fact, I had a pretty good time - though you might not find the experience as enjoyable as I did, so here's some advice about how this market changes in the Summer.

At Bastille, a significant number of vendors disappear - going off to sell things in other parts of Paris or France or even farther away than that. Only about half of them remain, but there's still a wide variety of quality and prices, and still a good selection of food items. This market is open Thursdays and Sundays (about 9 - 12:30), and Thursday is always less interesting - and less crowded. But in Summer, the Bastille market undergoes a more radical change, and this is really obvious on Thursday.

The mainly-food market becomes a "souk" - emphasis changes to cheap, colorful clothing (lots of it is the kind of thing that falls apart after one washing, so don't get overly-excited), various accessories, "Ron-Popeil-type" gadgets, and so forth - and the collective atmosphere changes, too. I have brought friends and family here in the Summer, and they were really disappointed, because it wasn't at all what they expected. I saw lots of sad tourists walking around today, too.

Vendors are more insistent - not aggressive, but they really-really-REALLY want you to buy something - and at the same time, they will take time to talk and joke with the customers, too. Usually, the place is much too hectic to stand around discussing a plant you just bought with the lady who's selling you far more cherries than you could possibly eat in a month - but I enjoyed that, today. My French got a good workout - usually during the year, vendors size you up at a glance and start speaking the language they think you do - even if they're wrong - because it would be quicker for them to make a sale. This time, when I spoke French, nobody commented on my "charming accent" - they just responded in French, which was really nice. Usually, someone tries speaking to me in Polish...

So, after about one hour in the hot sun, I came home with a cart full of watermelon, charentais melon, the last good cherries of the season, peaches, prune plums (which I should be eating right now, instead of typing - they are that ripe!), shrimp, avocados, one potato and a nice, red Dipladenia to fill a spot in my window that will help me avoid looking at my grumpy neighbor across the street. I was tempted to buy a brightly-patterned shirt, but knew I would never wear it in public, and was afraid I might frighten my puppy if I wore it at home.

So, to wrap things up - if you're in Paris in the Summer, just be aware that the Bastille market will not be "all that". Sunday will be a little more interesting than Thursday, and this Summer mode lasts from mid-July through mid-August. Lower your expectations, take some nice photos if you like, and buy much less of that beautiful food than you want to. There is more "street food" available on Sundays than on Thursdays, and the nearby cafes are open, if you want to sit and relax over a cool drink.

It's important to know that during this time of year, things ripen much faster than you can possibly eat them. Instead of buying "un kilo" of cherries (2.2 lbs), you can ask for "une livre" (oon lee vruh - 500 grams, or about 1 lb), or "une poignee" (oon pwahn yay - a "handful", 200 - 300 grams, depending on the hand) . When those are gone, you can buy some more elsewhere, but at least you won't have wasted money or thrown away food that went bad before you could enjoy it. In fact, I think those prune plums will have to be made into compote, in about five more minutes...

Luxembourg Palace
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1. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

I saw an amusing post about the notoriously short 'plate life' of the avocado :

Purchase

DAY ONE - Not yet

DAY TWO - Not yet

DAY THREE - Not yet

DAY FOUR - Not yet

DAY FIVE - Not yet

DAY SIX - Not yet

DAY SEVEN - EAT NOW

DAY EIGHT - Too late

Saratoga Springs, NY
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2. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

LOL Peri!!

Great post Patty. Interesting that it changes so much in the summer. So it should be back to normal by the time I arrive on Aug 18 or 23? My husband loves fresh fruit, and can eat prodigious mounds of it. I was buying one (expensive but delicious) livre of strawberries every morning last year, and they would be gone in a flash.

Here, if I want strawberries that are almost (but not quite) as good as Paris, I have to drive 1/2 hour to a farm. The ones in supermarkets here are awful. But I might go ahead and do it today anyway, as they also have fresh blueberries today.

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3. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

The Mr and I loved the Bastille Market! We got some delicious cherries that we ate for dinner the night of purchase. The peaches were great too according to the Mr. :)

Good info Patty!!

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4. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

Tracie - where are you staying? (Lordy - that reminds me of seanbee...)

Things will get back to normal at Bastille around the 20th of August, but if it's not close to your hotel, I would definitely go to the nearest one in the neighborhood. Most of the vendors sell at several markets throughout town.

Teacher - you actually had a picnic dinner in your fancy hotel on Ile Saint-Louis, and nobody threw you out?! Thanks for letting people know that this is OK, as long as you clean up after yourselves : )

Saratoga Springs, NY
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5. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

We are staying near St Michel. I think Labinau/St Germain or Maubert will be our closest market. But my son and I were planning to wander around the Marais this time.

Aw, I wonder how Seanbee's doing

Paris, France
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6. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

If you can hang on until Bastille gets going again on the 24th, I think you'd enjoy it much more than Maubert. I know that market has a lot of fans - and there's nothing really wrong with it - but to me, it's more like rue Cler than a real, bustling street market.

Paris, France
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7. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

I do not recommend anybody going to the Maubert market unless they are staying somewhere within 200 meters of it. At least half of it is now just "tourist junk" -- costume jewelry, souvenir stuff, etc. Then again, that's what some people are really looking for in a market.

Saratoga Springs, NY
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8. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

Really, I'll be looking for fresh fruit for breakfasts and snacks. Preferably strawberries (had gorgeous ones late August 2012 so hoping there are some), but really, hubby just loves fruit.

I think I'm all set with tourist tat from my last three trips ;-)

ETA Rue cler gets such a bad rap, but we got some nice fruit there last year, on the corner of Rue Cler and Rue de Grenelle.

Edited: 17 July 2014, 20:47
Chicago, Illinois
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9. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

one of the great things about Paris is that you can buy fruit that is ready to eat. I probably toss half of the melons I buy in the US because you have to hold them several days and hope you guess right on ripeness. I spent two months in the 17th a couple of years ago and bought the small tuscan melons almost every day from a local tiny greengrocer. I could tell him when I wanted to eat it -- this evening, or tomorrow -- and he would choose one, and every time we had a delicious ripe melon. I bet we bought 40 of them from him that spring/summer.

janetravels44

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Paris, France
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10. Re: Bastille Market in Summer - a trip report...

To determine if a melon is ripe, all you have to do is look at whether the stem is withered or not. The more withered the stem, the riper the melon. What is really funny is to watch people sniffing melons as though that were some sort of indication.