I have lots of pictures of the snow, which looks very pretty, but I am so fed up with it, I thought that for this week’s Saturday Snapshot I would cheer myself up by posting some photos I took in Paris last May, on a lovely, hot, sunny day when it was so nice we wandered around without coats or jackets.
These were all taken in Le Marché aux Fleurs (the Flower Market), at Place Louis-Lépine, near Notre Dame and La Conciergerie, on the Île de la Cité. It’s one of my favourite places in Paris, and is absolutely fabulous, a riot of colour and perfume, guaranteed to lift your spirits if you’re feeling down (though I’m sure I don’t know how anyone could ever feel down on a trip to Paris).
It really is heavenly. You can smell the flowers before you see them – the fragrance hits you as you step out of the metro at Cité. Flowers, trees and shrubs are banked up high inside and outside the metal pavilions that have been there since 1808, and you find yourself walking through long, narrow alleys of flowers which overwhelm your senses. Along the Quai de la Corse, on the bank of the Seine, there are more stalls housed in metal huts which are surrounded by pots of flowers stacked up the walls and spilling out onto the pavement.
I suppose it’s like a garden centre really, because these are living plants for gardens and homes, rather than cut flowers, and there are all kinds of beautiful garden ornaments hanging from walls, hanging from the glass roof, and displayed on shelves. If I had a fortune I could happily spend a large part of it here, but I don’t, so every time I visit I buy a packet of herbes de Provence, and when I cook with them it’s like having a little bit of French sunshine in my kitchen, and I can close my eyes, breathe in the aroma, and imagine the sights, sounds and smells of the Flower Market.
The market is open every day, and on Sundays the Marché aux Oiseaux, or Bird Market, takes place alongside it, with all kinds of birds, from tiny finches to large parrots, all squawking and cheeping and twittering and singing, and as you walk from the Metro taking great gulps of flowery air you hear all this birdsong. And, despite the name, you’ll see many other small creatures here – fish, rabbits, gerbils, rats and so on. I don’t know about you, but I always have problems with the idea of animals in cages. However, I would have to say that whenever I’ve walked round the market the creatures all looked happy and well cared for.
One of the things I love about both these markets is people watching. There are smartly dressed, elegant women, workmen in their overalls, scruffy teenagers, and pensioners leaning on sticks, peering around and walking very carefully, so they don’t trip over the plants. There are experts who know about plants and birds, and novices who know nothing but are willing to learn. There are people buying and people like me, just looking. And everywhere are people shouting, waving their arms about, shrugging their shoulders very theatrically, and pulling faces in that expressive way the French have, so I like to think customers are haggling with proprietors in a bid to talk the price down and get a better deal.
Anyway, if you’re planning a holiday in Paris, and you’ve never been to the Flower Market, do go, because it will make you happy – it makes me happy just thinking about it. And when you’ve finished looking round it’s only a short walk to the Left Bank, and the Île Saint-Louis. Iconic book shop Shakespeare and Company is just down the road, and there are masses of cafes in the area where you can sit outside and watch the world go by as you eat your lunch.