Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Paris Markets

                                                         Les Halles Centrales by Victor Gilbert 

Amid the great silence of the empty streets, the produce wagons made their way toward Paris, the rhythmic bumping sound of their wheels echoing against the houses, asleep behind the indistinct rows of elm trees.  At the Neuilly Bridge, a cabbage cart and a pea cart joined up with eight wagons of turnips and carrots from Nanterre. The horses made their own way, heads lowered, their steady and slow manner made slower still by the climb.  High up on top of the load of vegetables, stretched out flat on their stomachs, covered with their black and grey striped capes, the drivers slept, the reins around their wrists.  A gas light, appearing out of a patch of darkness, illuminated the heel of a shoe, the blue sleeve of a smock, the edge of a cap, barely seen among the enormous flowering red bouquets of carrots, the white bouquets of turnips, the overflowing greenery of peas and cabbage.  And, on the road, and all the neighboring roads, in front and  behind, the distant hum of other wagons, an entire convoy crossing the obscurity and deep sleep of two o'clock in the morning, gently rocking the dark city with the sound of the passing food. 
                          (Travel Oyster Translation from the French, Le Ventre de Paris by Emile Zola, 1873.)

The famous Les Halles market  that Zola wrote about is just a memory and today the food of Paris arrives by plane and train and truck.  The traditional market, however, lives on.  In spite of the growth of modern superstores, open air markets remain at the heart of French culture.  There are 69 markets in Paris.  (Click here to find their locations and hours.)  When you are in Paris, be sure to visit one of them.  Buy some pate, cheese, fruit, a crusty baguette and some wine.  Then find a nearby park and enjoy.

Trying to match the literary beauty of Zola would be a mistake so I'll say no more and will leave you with these photos of red bouquets of tomatoes, white bouquets of mushrooms and the overflowing greenery of peas and artichokes.  (To see more photos, click here.)

A bientôt,

Translation and Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor

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