A piece on David Lebovitz's facebook page today caught our eye and brought back a flood of memories from our trip to Paris in the autumn of 2010. David shared a link to a nice little article by Alexandra Schwartz in The Atlantic (online- here) about the Marché d'Aligre in Paris' 12th arrondissement. The premise of the article is that Paris, in many of the areas frequented by most visitors, has been sanitized to within an inch of its life, and to get back to la vrai chose she suggests a visit to what she terms "the city's last great daily market". We had the great pleasure of spending a week in a splendidly charming apartment just a stone's throw from the Marché d'Aligre, and we can vouch for it being a jewel.
The 11th and 12th Arrondissements lie to the east of Le Marais and Place de la Bastille, and since the area's inception the settlements to the north and south of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine (which divides the two boroughs) have housed the workshops and homes of Parisians who make things. Long in the past they crafted furniture & housewares that served the royal court at nearby Place des Vosges. In the 1990s artists discovered the underutilized atelier spaces in the area's disctinctive courtyards, and as usually happens, where the artists head the modern-day gentry soon follow. Nowdays the cours and passages are populated with design firms and ad agencies along with the occasional exquisite boutique. A little further to the east the area's population is made up more of immigrant communities. And at the crossroads of these two zones lies Marché d'Aligre.
And yet the assemblage does indeed feel like the real thing, probably because you know that you're pretty much the only non-residents in the vicinity. The bobos who can afford the spectacular flowers inside the market's doors are more than happy to rub shoulders with their Algerian neighbours as they both negotiate the best price for undergarments at the table up the street. At the end of the day, they are all just modern working families shopping at their local market, the way it's always been done.
We truly hope that this is one corner of Paris that does get overlooked by the scrubbing brigade. An honest, hardworking little market should be left to do what it does best- to simply serve its community according to their needs without having to worry about wearing its Sunday best in front of the visitors.
place d'Aligre & rue d'Aligre