When I finally landed on 1 May after a long flight, it was to cloudless sky but a chilly 4°C welcome. Perhaps my idea of Paris in Spring will need to be complemented with thicker leggings and a new coat.
A French colleague I first met just two weeks ago insisted on meeting me at the airport and taking me to my accommodation. This saved me three stops using the RER and Metro and a long walk with two heavy bags. What more can a traveller ask for (besides sponsored business class tickets)?
After unpacking I venture out in search of food as I am starving. The vegetarian special meal on my two flights was disappointing – not an option I will choose again.
But 1 May is a public holiday in France that is taken very seriously, so many of the retailers are closed. So, after a long walk and settling disappointingly for a few consumables from one of the only open stores, I make my way back through the windy streets, not feeling too sure about where I am.
And then to my utmost delight I discover a huge open food market close to La Bastille. The aromas of fresh shellfish and cheese are music to my nostrils. After an hour of meandering I wish I had brought a bigger bag, as the one I have is now filled to the brim with some of my favourite flavours.
Watching the locals order food is fascinating. Not only am I reminded about the special rules related to quantity and food from my French lessons, but the shoppers and market producers treat each request with much politeness and respect. No-one is rushed … it takes me 10 minutes to order a floret of broccoli. And then another 10 minutes to get the whole-grain baguette and chaource – a cheese I adore.
What strikes me is that no-one leaves the market with processed, packaged, sugared junk. Everyone has large bags or wheeled trolley bags filled with fresh produce, some cheese, meat or fish.
An important lesson: what you eat starts with how you shop.
Can you fill your basket or trolley with much more fresh produce than packaged goods?