L. Dickson, a reader from Houston, writes, "One of my favorite memories of Paris is shopping the outdoor market for fabulous produce...tomatoes so plump and sweet they needed to be eaten like apples. Is it still like that?" A longtime American expat friend said she had never missed a Saturday morning market in her neighborhood. I feel the same way, but I tend to go on Sunday mornings to the organic market on the Boulevard Raspail (especially now that my greengrocer has gone to Portugal and Brittany for the month of August). The Raspail market is a feast for the eyes -- zucchini blossoms, fresh fish, cheeses -- that later delights the stomach. Once, I encountered an American selling homemade muffins and banana bread out of the back of a truck. I said, "Hey, shouldn't you be in Napa or Sonoma?" which made him laugh.Another good one but very different in tone is on the Boulevard Ornano in the 18th Arrondissement, on the north side of the city. It's an African immigrant neighborhood. There are so many stands, you can barely squeeze along the sidewalk.
Another reader wrote to say that August is the best time of the year in Paris. I beg to differ. All, I mean all, my little neighborhood shops are closed. I have to go to the grocery store on the Rue de Buci for things like toilet bowl cleaner. Invariably, I forget my grocery sack.
L. Kulakowski of Seal Beach just returned from a month in France and says my portrayals of the French don't match her experiences. While here, she never met a single French person who disliked Americans. That's terrific, but I don't think I said the French dislike Americans. Some do; some don't. Why should a cross-section of the populace here be any different from one in the U.S., where some dislike the French and others don't?
Pierre Sarradet, a Parisian, advised me to seek out the eel fisherman on the banks of the Seine in front of the Hotel de Ville. "He took 480 eels since March. It is the most common fish in the Seine. In the evening he gives his fish for free usually to Asian ladies. If you ask him for some, he will give you the critters alive!" Well, my sister likes eel, not me. They're too much like snakes.