Oh! The loveliest of days in Paris today, far away from the maddening crowds, spent amongst gorgeous food, Parisienne locals and glorious gardens.
We have an early start, straight in to the Marche Bastille. If you love food, and we do, it’s hard to find a happier place than a French market.
Good food starts with perfect produce, and marked by this yardstick, Marche Bastille delivers above and beyond.
Perfect summer fruit and vegetables, mouthwateringly endless varieties of cheese and charcuterie, seafood so fresh there’s barely a scent of sea and dressed meats for all occasions. Bliss.
We’re in foodie heaven. We lap once, twice, three times and succumb to a Tomme aux Truffe, an aged hard goat’s cheese, a rosemary scented goat’s milk brie, herbed ham and of course, a baguette.
There’s a limit to what we can carry/get away with, hours away from our fridge. Oh to park nearby and to fill the fridge to my heart’s content. That will have to wait until we’re back in village life.
Post market we amble to the nearby Place des Vosges. We’re retracing our first visit to Paris, 15 years ago. Place des Vosges was one of our first stops – all the photos from then have my eyes fixed firmly to the treetops, searching for squirrels, in vain.
We don’t have them at home and I was convinced they’d be everywhere in Paris. Today, I know better – the chances of seeing even one squirrel in Paris are slim, but Place des Vosges does make the perfect stop for lunch – our market treats taste just add good as they look. Chris makes a pigeon friend too, who decided we’re having so much fun he’s like to join in.
Chris is keen to visit a former haunt, another market street: Rue Mouffetard, and set off towards it, along the Seine.
It’s here he fell for the rotisserie chicken and potatoes the French do so well.
He still gets a wistful look in his eye when he talks about it. He also claims he ate the world’s best moussaka in this street, when we were last here.
By the time we arrive, the market is largely closed bar a few stalls. There’s not much more we could carry anyway, but there’s time for a drink, especially as there’s a band playing French classics. A few couples dance enthusiastically and occasionally a new lead singer emerges from the tables nearby. It’s a serene, typically charming Parisienne scene. Chris may have had a point – it couldn’t be further removed from the crowds of yesterday.
Post drinks we walk up the rest of Rue Mouffetard, past the still thriving Greek restaurant (home of Chris’s fabled moussaka) to the Jardin des Plantes, also home to a zoo and the Museum of Natural History. I love these green spaces in the heart of Paris, they’re the perfect antidote to apartment living.
The gardens lead to the Pantheon, and University buildings
then Luxembourg Gardens where we prop for a while.
It’s lovely to see these places again, 15 years later. The Luxembourg Gardens were my first sight of Paris, wandering through in the wee hours of the morning before our hotel was available, exhausted from the flight over. Walking through its tall chestnut groves took my breath away. I was so excited to be in Paris, a long wished for dream destination.
Today the gardens are busy, everyone is out enjoying the last of the weekend sunshine. Paris’s famous green chairs are in abundance here: they’re a local institution and a firm favourite with locals fleeing their 35 hour weeks.
The Luxembourg Palace and Gardens survived the Revolution, if in a truncated format. They were for a while, during that time, used as a prison for the aristocracy. These days the Gardens planted in the their historical form, part formal, part parklands.
It’s another peaceful, green spot. Despite being busy, the are plenty of spots you can secret yourself well away from everyone. Fascinatingly, there are only a couple of spots people are allowed on the grass – most grasses public areas are off limits, right across Paris.
We laze away what’s left of the afternoon, I meet a dog who’s very happy about shopping for a sweater:
then make our way back to Rue Mouffetard, ostensibly to test that moussaka again, but we’re sidetracked. Cocktails nearby lead to dinner and wonderfully entertaining conversations with the Greek owner, our Iranian waiter and then our Danish waitress. Dinner was excellent too: eye fillet steak with potato dauphinoise and a truffled cream sauce. Delightful. Love truffle season.
I read later that Rue Mouffetard is one of Paris’s oldest streets – it was a thoroughfare in Roman times. And Hemingway lived just off it. That’s a pretty good pedigree.
It’s been a fabulously good day.