Last Photo Gallery of 2007

December 19th, 2007

Please click here or on the image to see the last Vagabond Gourmand photo gallery of the year.

Paris lights up: Marchés de Noël

December 14th, 2007

Inside or outside, a shopper’s options expand with the Christmas season’s very special markets across northern France. Alsace and eastern France hold the most festive marchés, where pine cabins strung with brightly lit garlands shelter vendors for the month of December. Marchés de Noël offer gift-shoppers goods and goodies from all corners of the globe.

On a recent windy, wet morning in Paris, I found (and tasted) my way around a few of these seasonal markets. I was looking for regional French products, good gifts, and a little Christmas cheer. All of the above can be found – along with Russian amber, warm Canadian caps and Peruvian ponchos – especially in the aisles spread across the historic Place St. Sulplice in the 6th arrondissement. Mingling aromas of hot chocolate, roasted coffee beans and cheese-enriched specialties of the Savoy region, this market offers a delightful variety. Watch a knitter deftly creating gloves of French mohair, stop to marvel at a mountain of Corsican air-dried country hams, talk with honey vendors or wine makers. Take the metro to the Saint Sulpice stop, from December 5th to 24th, stalls are open daily from 10:30 to 7 p.m.

A few blocks away, the smaller Saint-Germain des Près (Metro line 4 to Saint-Germain) stretches along the boulevard. Here, a more global collection of vendors sell jewelry, saws and cutlery, shawls and objects for interiors as well as sweets of the season. Hot crèpes, deep-fried Chi-Chi, mulled wine and pain d’épice tempt lovers of street food.

After sundown, the market at La Défense is a magical sight, a vast temporary town of 250 white, pointy-topped tents from November 28th until December 29th. Take the Metro to Esplanade de La Défense for shopping daily, and from 11:00 until 8 p.m. on Saturday. At the Maison de l’Alsace, 39 avenue des Champs-Elysées in the 8th arrondissement, the spirited Alsatian mood expands from demonstrations of making sweet specialties every afternoon to fairy tales told on Christmas Eve. From the Metro line 1 stop at Franklin Roosevelt, stroll along the famous, sparkling avenue to this animated Marché de Noël … the City of Light.