When Jim and I decided to spend our last day in Paris at Versailles, we thought it would be fun to take a picnic lunch to enjoy in the famous gardens. But, our vacation was almost over and we still hadn’t explored an outdoor market, an activity definitely on our “to do” list.
So, before catching our train to Versailles, we went to the market at the Place d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement. It’s a good thing we arrived early, because there was so much to see! Not only did we stroll through a seemingly never-ending block of open-air fruit and vegetable stands, full of bright green beans, white asparagus, and colorful flowers, but we also perused the Marché Beauvau, a covered market where we found stalls of fresh fish, meats, and tons of cheese. I’ve read that this part of the market has been open since 1777, so our picnic wound up having quite a historical background.
The streets surrounding the market are lined with small, ethnic eateries as well as gourmet shops selling fresh bread, wine, and cheese. During our initial investigation, we bought olives at a Greek restaurant, and some Dijon mustard at another small shop to take home with us. Besides the overwhelming amount of food on display, there’s also a flea market in the center square, with busy merchants making deals at every turn.
After making a few more rounds at the market, we found everything we needed for our picnic: a half-bottle of rosé and a corkscrew; a doughy baguette from a bakery called Moison and a knife for slicing; cured meats and cheese. We bought a hard and a soft cheese: a goat cheese and a raclette. Oh, but those olives. We cannot forget the olives.
Once we arrived at Versailles, I was more excited to eat our lunch than to take our first tour of the interiors. We quickly strolled through one of the ground floors (there are so many, I can’t remember which one. Besides, I was hungry), then went straight outside to stake our claim on a picnic spot. We grabbed a seat on the stairs overlooking the estate, and settled in with our spread. The cheeses were strong and pungent, as were the cured meats. I’m usually a big fan of softer cheeses, but both were excellent.
The only thing we forgot: cups. So, Jim and I embarrassed ourselves by taking sips of rosé from the bottle. Very classy, as usual.
But I don’t think we imagined the envious glances we received from other tourists as we layered slices of our fresh baguette with our cheese and meats.
I would have been jealous too.
Our lunch refueled us long enough to enjoy the rest of our day at Versailles, where we continued to explore the amazing gardens and interiors. We even had leftovers for the train ride back to Paris, always a treat.
OK folks, this is the end of my Paris series. It’s time to get back to reality. I hope you enjoyed hearing about it!