Marche d’Aligre, Musee D’Orsay, et Picard

July 7, 2008 at 6:25 AM | Posted in Paris 2008, Paris markets | Leave a comment

I had a wonderful end to my weekend. I spent the morning at the biggest outdoor market in Paris, the Marche d’Aligre, which is a ten minute walk from my apartment. It’s about five blocks full of vegetable and fruit stands, and most of the stores behind the stands are boulangeries, charcuteries, fromageries, etc. It was so much fun to see all the vendors and the huge variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, most of which are arranged beautifully. Also, every item is labeled with its place of origin, so it is really easy to tell if you are eating peaches that are grown in France or peaches that are imported from Algeria and probably sat around for awhile before getting to the market. Not to mention that it’s about ten times cheaper than the grocery store–I got half a kilo of cherries, half a kilo of haricots verts, half a kilo of mushrooms, five nectarines, and a bunch of green grapes–all for about 3 euros. And I couldn’t get over how many vegetables people were buying. Almost everyone had a “bubbe cart” and filled it with fresh produce. The mushrooms and haricots verts were amazing–unfortunately, the cherries were sort of soft.

Then I met up with Annie and Marc, who were passing through Paris again. We went to the Musee D’Orsay, which is an incredible Impressionist museum in an old train station, and when we first got there the line looked way too long to be worth waiting in. But it was moving really fast, so we just got in line, and while we were standing there we learned that the museum is free on the first Sunday of the month–which was yesterday! So we waited about 15 minutes and got to see some amazing paintings (even though it was really crowded), and the building itself is a work of art (this picture was taken in the museum cafe).
I had been hearing a lot about Picard, which is a gourmet frozen food store, so I checked it out at lunch–there’s one right near my office and another across the street from my apartment. Amazing! I have never seen anything like this place. It’s basically what would happen if you crossed Harris Teeter with Trader Joe’s and made it all frozen food. The food all looked really good, and seemed pretty healthy (you can read all the ingredients on the label, or at least you can if you speak French). There was no gluey macaroni and cheese–just really good-looking food with preparation instructions that aim to make the food taste like you actually made it (for example, they mostly recommend using an oven or skillet, rather than a microwave, to defrost things). I’ve met several people for whom Picard forms the majority of their diet. I got Moroccan fish tagine with apricots and couscous. For less than 2 euro. How did it take me a week and a half to find this place? Lunch is forever changed.
I have made several friends at my office, and everyone eats lunch together in the canteen area. After sitting there for about an hour at lunch today, I said that I should go back to work. One of my new friends worked in the US for 10 years, and she told me that in France, the culture around work is completely different. It’s highly discouraged to eat at your desk (apparently someone at our office comes around to patrol once in a while), lunch is at least a full hour, and everyone makes espresso/tea afterwards and just chats. Nobody is in too big of a hurry to get back to work–their work will still be there when they’re done eating. What a change from my previous office jobs!

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