Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tomatoless in Paris

The sun is still with us and a lovely morning it was yesterday when we left for the secret heirloom tomato sale. Notified by a web alert from, we hopped on a bus to Frenchie, a hot new restaurant in the Sentier where a local grower was scheduled to sell flats of heirloom tomatoes to in-the-know buyers.

Lots of in-the-know buyers, it turns out, and you were out of luck if you hadn't reserved your tomatoes! Guess who hadn't reserved her tomatoes? They were in fact heirloom types, just like the ones you see everyday at the Monterey Market in Berkeley for $2.99 a pound, but I haven't seen these in any market in Paris yet. Apparently they're still a secret worth reserving ahead to get. Who knew?

Here's the dealer checking the reservation list we weren't on.

Tomatoless, we dropped in on Isabelle, who lives around the corner from the secret rendezvous site, and had a chat in her garden, an oasis of quiet and greenery in the middle of the city.

A pizza in the sun on busy über-hip rue Montorgueil, and a stroll back home via our new favorite hangout, BHV, to get a hairdryer since mine had died mid-dry. I'm here to report that we are still their favorite customers, with salespeople going out of their way to be nice to us while beating away other customers on the first day of a giant sale. No doubt we'll need to go back for something or other again. Reports will follow.

As evening came on we begain hearing noises in the street on the Bastille side of the building, young voices laughing and shouting. We didn't pay it much attention until leaving for our dinner at a friend's house way across town. Normally this would be an uneventful 30 minute metro ride. Not this time.

As we left the building we passed at least four young men separately peeing against buildings, a third floor resident pouring water down on them, and crowds of young people yelling and pushing and generally having what passes for a good time when you're drunk and twenty. There were many hundreds of them all over the Place de la Bastille.

Rushing to the metro entrance we ignored the intermittent shoving matches and headed for the train platform, which became more and more crowded, overseen by uniformed transit police who periodically moved in. By the time the train came in, the platform was elbow to elbow, and so was the train that pulled up. There was no way we were going to get on it, even if our better instincts hadn't been yelling no.

Turning around, we headed for the surface and realized that all the streets leading into the Place had been closed off and the only traffic was official. By this time we were 10 minutes late for dinner. By some quirk of fate we walked down a tiny street on which we found a taxi driver who hadn't known of the mess and was trying to get out of the web of closed streets. We jumped in and made our escape, getting to dinner only half an hour late. We never did find out what had been going on. "Un fête" was all the policewoman said when I asked her.

This morning on the way to the Sunday market, the only remnants of the excitement were in the gutters.

The market was its usual lively self. It's nearly impossible not to want to buy everything in sight, but I contented myself with photos this time.

Okay, maybe I don't want to buy the boudin noir...

Or the pig's feet en gelée

The herbed Toulouse sausage looks good though.

And the entertainment is first rate.


Anne said...

You can find heirloom tomatoes at the organic markets on Boulevards Raspail and Batignolles, and at the Avenue President Wilson market in the 16th. No reservations needed, just plenty of cold, hard cash.

Julie said...

Ooh, those tomatoes look lovely. Sorry you couldn't get any. Peeing on the side of the building? Sounds like our old office on 13th Street.

Jo said...

Glad you found the taxi on the side street. Wonder if Nuit Blanche will be similar?

Shelli said...

Julie, the tomatoes were beautiful but it was probably just as well. I don't think we could have used them up before they passed their peak.

Anne, just how much cash are we talking about? I once found myself paying 35 euros for a farm chicken, cooked, I grant you, at the Raspail market. Not something I can do too often.

Jo, now you have me worried. We'll have to find alternate transport for Nuit Blanche. No way am I going into the metro again when it's like that.