Carnet de Voyage: Le Marché des Enfants Rouges

Carnet de Voyage: Le Marché des Enfants Rouges

Travel notes from the real France. Carnet de Voyage is a weekly personal travel story in France sent in by readers. If you’d like to write a story for Carnet de Voyage, head here for details on how to submit.

While I’ve always liked the elegance of Parisian cafés, with their terraces and smartly dressed garçons (waiters), I’ve always been more of a fan of covered market halls and their loud, pungent and “messy” atmospheres. My sister had told me about such a place in the heart of artistic Paris and so, one day, hungry for adventure and a spot of lunch, I set out to uncover this hidden gem – the Marché des Enfants Rouges.

Nestled in the historic Marais district, the Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest covered market in Paris, dating back to 1615. Its construction was ordered by Louis XIII and the poultry, game and other wares sold there would fill the pantries of the Place Royale (the current Place des Vosges). It earned its name a little later, in the 1770s. “Market of the Red Children” is said to originate from an orphanage nearby, where the children were dressed in red as a sign of Christian charity.

Turning corners and meandering through narrow alleyways, I stumbled upon the entrance to the market, not far from the rue de Bretagne. As I stepped inside, the vibrant kaleidoscope of colors from the stalls overwhelmed my senses. Fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and aromatic spices beckoned me to explore further. The air was filled with a symphony of sizzling pans, simmering sauces, and the laughter of vendors engaging in lively banter. Just what I needed that day.

Parisians come here to shop for fresh produce of course but it’s the little delicatessen stands that hold the true treasure: italian cured meats, organic products, moroccan specialties, lebanese dips and sauces and even japanese snacks!

I picked a mix from almost every stand I fancied for my apéritif dinatoire with friends tonight, enjoying the chit chat of the vendors with their regular clients.

My bag full for that evening, I set out to look for something to eat myself for lunch and opted for a culinary trip to north Africa. Soon enough, a steaming plate arrived before me, adorned with a medley of flavors and colors. The dish was a gastronomic masterpiece – a succulent Moroccan tagine adorned with vibrant vegetables, fragrant couscous, and slow-cooked chicken. The first bite was an explosion of taste even more enhanced by the subtle sweetness of dried fruits and the earthy aroma of spices.

As I savored each morsel, I couldn’t help but observe the eclectic mix of diners surrounding me. Locals engaged in animated conversations, tourists marveled at the authenticity of the market, and I even spotted an art student sketching the lively scene.

To think the Marché des Enfants Rouges almost ceased to exists in 1994! Luckily and happily, it has effortlessly woven itself into the fabric of this Parisian district.

As I bid adieu to the market, I left with a satisfied stomach, a camera full of memories, and the promise to come back, this time for a fresh Japanese bento!

Read our other Carnet de Voyage entries here.

Lead photo credit : Marché des Enfants Rouges © shutterstock

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