Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Marche des Ternes

I love Paris when it does scruffy. I was born in English suburbia, and my upbringing was a voyage around the ordinary, a trip decorated with poor town planning and minimal frills. I guess that this is the kind of environment where the inner me still feels most at home.

Paris, with its highly polished shops and tempting displays of beautifully crafted goods, is of course a constantly heart-lifting experience, but deep down I know that I'm an intruder in this world. Naturally then I was delighted to discover the Marche des Ternes, a place that positively breathes the homely banalities of my youth.

The building that houses the market is already more typical of a post-war British city than of a district in Paris that is in shouting distance of the Champs Elysées. A 1970s block in a colour that the French would describe as 'caca d'oie' (duck crap), it can hardly be classed as attractive, but the market is clearly comfortably installed inside.

Inside and outside. There seems to be no principal entrance to the market, but on all four sides of the block it spills out into the streets, with tables from a cafe or signs for a flower stand occupying the surrounding pavement. I'm drawn inwards, unremarked, but not unwelcome. I can take my time, wander around, compare prices. Nobody here is forcing their daily specials on me.

"Libre service, servez vous", announces a sign, not forgetting to also politely tag on a 'merci'. Onions, potatoes, garlic overflowing from boxes, pots bubbling with the recipe of the day and sausages hung up on strings. Colours clash throughout, reflected in mirrors, burning in the gleaming glow of artificial light.

In all honesty it's a mess, and yet its undeniably human. Nobody arrives here because they've seen it mentioned in a guide book, but instead it is an integral part of the community in which it sits. A market, not a supermarket, but equally as useful and convenient.

Choosing fruit from one of the stalls, I don't feel like I'm sullying the produce just by standing near it and I don't have the sensation that I've somehow made the wrong choice by not selecting whatever is this season's star product. As unpretentious as its decor, it feels like home to me.

6 comments:

e said...

A lovely post and a place I would venture into as well.

Owen said...

Ah, so there is more to Paris than the Champs Elysées and the Place Vendome ?

Good to see it and hear it...

I wish I could have known the market at les Halles when it was the market of markets in Paris long ago. Was probably a very human place too.

Laurie said...

OK, time's up--you really need to get a book deal. No one sees Paris as you do, and it's so illuminating and fascinating.

Peter said...

I have a similar place close to where I live, in the same dull 1970 architecure. When I see photos of what it replaced, I have of course some regrets! :-)

Adam said...

Peter: I know what you mean. The market here used to be housed in a Baltard styled pavillion too, and we can regret that it was pulled down in 1970. However, if it was still here, I'm sure it would be far more of a 'heritage' spot, and curiously a lot less authentic.

Cushyco said...

The market sounds like a really enjoyable place to visit. I agree with Laurie. It would be great if you get to put out a book - words and photos or even just words.

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