With our schedule clear until late afternoon on Sunday, we asked Paris-based designer Andrew Gn about his favorite diversions in Paris on the weekends. The first thing that came to his mind was a visit to the dynamic farmer's market on Boulevard Raspail. He goes for the organic vegetables and armloads of roses and peonies, the whole shopping experience an entertainment in itself.
So off we headed on Sunday morning, the concierge at Hotel Regina recommended that we walk as the Raspail market was just across the Seine, up a few blocks, turn left and a few blocks more. Never trust a Parisian to advise an auto-spoiled Houstonian about the proximity of anything. We walked for at least 45 minutes. Not complaining, mind you, as walking in Paris when the weather is perfect (as it was) is sublime. Just sayin' . . .
The market is just off Boulevard Saint-Germaine-de-Prés in the sixth arrondissement, Metro stop Rennes, easily accessible and well worth the short jaunt whether you make it earlier in the week or on Sunday, when the focus is on organic goods and start time is 9 a.m. rather than 7 a.m. as it is Tuesday through Saturday. In addition to the "organic" offerings, there are many of the same merchants who sell their products there throughout the week.
We wished that we had brought a shopping bag to carry the load of goodies that we picked up for our picnic lunch. The temptations of summer fruits such as the fragrant raspberries, luscious figs, rosy red cherries and perfect peaches beckoned. If you are thinking of picnicking along the Seine or in the Tuileries, this is the place to find your provisions. For the record, we bought the most beautiful apricots, prosciutto to go with the figs that were as large as goose eggs, a heavenly nut and fruit bread, a baguette and pain au chocolate for dessert.
The delightfully crusty baguettes, all manner of savory tarts, breads filled with fruits and nuts, vast selections of cheeses, cured meats, roasting chickens, potato galettes cooked on the spot, crepes, prepared foods such as salads and pastas — the market is a gourmand's dream. Of course, the pastries beckon as well — beautiful fruit tarts, pain au chocolate, eclairs, even cookies and brownies.
And if there is a vase in your room (or even a large Evian bottle with top cut off), you will have to grab an armload of the peonies, roses or wildflowers that are simply too beautiful to resist.
Not to worry if you end your visit loaded down with goodies and your hotel is a few miles away. A taxi stand sits at one end of the market and the Rennes Metro station at the other.
Even if you aren't food shopping, the visuals here are fantastically colorful and delightfully charming as the French make artwork out of their fruit and vegetable displays.
Although this is clearly a locals market where Parisians come with their shopping bags, some on carts, to stock up for a few days (fresh eggs, organic dairy products, fresh fish, butchered meats, etc.), we encountered a number of tourists. It's crowded on Sunday but the crush merely adds to the energy of the scene.
Beyond food, the market has a few vendors selling the most fragrant of handmade soaps and a few others selling clothing and handbags, but not enough to spoil the nature of this visual carnival of food and flowers.