Farmers’ Markets and the Eiffel Tower: Familiarity and Foreignness

I woke up this morning in quite a panic. Had I slept through breakfast, after my host family told me that we were all going to have breakfast together this morning? My night had been a bit rough. Not only was I jet lagged, but around 1:30am, a group of teenagers decided that the front of the apartment building was the perfect place to throw a karaoke dance party. They eventually stopped, although I found out the next morning that this was because someone had thrown a large bucket of water on them.

Anyways, thankfully, my body seems to be more responsible than I give it credit for because it was only 9:00am. Neither of the children had woken up yet, and I heard the whisking of batter only just commence in the kitchen.

I stepped out of my room and was embraced by the wonderful smell of waffles. On the dining table, the family had set out an amazing collection of toppings: apricot jam (made by the father’s mother), blackberry jam (la mûre), maple syrup, powdered sugar (the brand was Daddy, which made me laugh), rhubarb jam, peach jam (peche confiture), and powdered cinnamon. Those waffles and those toppings, accompanied by a wonderfully hot mint tea, started my day off right.

After breakfast, my host family took me to the farmers’ market, and my-oh-my it was one of the most incredible sights.

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Cherries Galore

Never had I seen so much color. Every inch of the market was vivid, and the energy from the hustle and bustle was palpable. The air was filled with “Bonjour!”s, and there were endless tables of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, meat, and so much more. The family told me that the vendors often give free fruit to cute kids. I surprisingly scored three free cherries from a vendor, although I think he was taking pity on me because the little girl in my host family scored six cherries and 2 apricots. Well deserved, as she’s absolutely adorable.

She’s also much cuter than I am.

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Fruitful Day

Now, the reason why I wanted to study abroad was not only to visit Paris, but also to learn directly from my environment. The farmers’ market was a perfect place for that. Every sign was a chance to learn something new. I learned that eggplants are aubergines, that avocats means both avocados and lawyers (this made me giggle), that ananas are pineapples (not bananas), that cerises (cherries) and peches (peaches) were in season, and that potatoes are incredibly poetic – pomme de terre (apple of the earth), the French say.

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Fruit Lover’s Dream
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Melon-ger

On our way back home, we stopped by the local boulangerie et pâtisserie, which supposedly makes the best baguettes and pastries in the neighborhood. I was immediately dazzled by the jocondes and éclairs, and the smell of fresh bread put me in a trance. Thank goodness I wasn’t the one doing the buying because I might’ve left with the entire store. The father had much more self-control. He got two baguettes.

After the farmers’ market, I decided to head out, as I was meeting some friends to do some typical, tourist-y things: the Trocadéro and the Eiffel Tower.

Even though it was only Day 2 for me in Paris, I can quite confidently say that I’ve gotten hang of the metro system (it really is very easy to navigate). With a 30 minute metro ride from le vingtième to le septième, I emerged from the metro stop and arrived in central Paris, which is filled with countless beautiful buildings.

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Charge!
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Pops of Poppy

I met up with my friends at a café and we made our way to the Trocadéro.

Now, let me tell you, this may be one of the most incredible places to view the Eiffel Tower.

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Trocadero

From the grand, sweeping, boundlessness of the marble floor emerges the Eiffel Tower, perfectly in place. Indeed, there were many tourists, but at the moment, I could only imagine what it would feel like to watch the sunset or sunrise, alone from the Trocadéro.

What a sight that would be.

After a decent amount of pictures, we decided it would only be acceptable to take more pictures even closer to Eiffel Tower, so off we went, walking through the gardens and eventually making our way to the bottom of the Eiffel Tower.

 

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Garden View
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High in the Sky

Now, at the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, I truly began to appreciate its architecture – the symmetry of the iron, the intricacy of the lattices, the balance of strength and elegance, the almost cathedral-like arcs that extend and frame the landscape.

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The Stiff Neck View
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Symmetry: Bottom’s Up
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The Arc de Eiffel
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Lattice Arcs

Even after we left, the Eiffel Tower peeked out from afar, and I continued to admire the magnificent buildings on either side.

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Peek-a-boo
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Up-close
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Champ des Mars
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Gray Skies
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Cream and Lace

Having walked for a good three hours, we decided to sit down at a café and split two orders of glacée (ice cream).

Unlike ice cream in the United States, French glacée is extremely dense and rich. It was as if an entire bar of dark chocolate had been condensed into this little scoop, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t overpowering. There was a wonderful balance of sweetness and bitterness. As cheesy it is to say, I was reminded at that moment of the duality of my identity in Paris. With the Eiffel Tower, I feel foreign, but with the farmers’ markets and glacée, there is a strange feeling of familiarity.

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Glacée

Afterwards, I headed back to my host family’s, and for dinner today, we had ratatouille, baguettes, and, of course, more cheese. When my family told me that ratatouille would be served for dinner, I got so excited that I started rambling about the Disney movie in broken French. At this point, my family seemed slightly concerned at the possibility that I only knew ratatouille as a Disney film about a rat who can cook (pretty darn impressive, if you ask me). After I assured them I knew it was a classic French dish, they seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.

Phew, dodged a bullet there, they must’ve thought.

I still like the movie a lot though.

Anyways, dinner was wonderful, as usual, and my host family even offered me red wine! The mom tried to guess all the notes of the red wine – It smells like licorice…with some leathery notes…it’s also quite fruity…

The dad read the description on the bottle and the mom was spot-on. Again, this family knows their stuff.

So, it is with sore feet, a happy stomach, and even more wanderlust that my second day in Paris comes to an end.

Tomorrow, we’re going to another wonderful spot in Paris. Where? You’ll have to stay tuned, and with that said, it’s time for me to go to bed (that rhymed! I’m basically Dr. Seuss’s long lost child).

Bonne nuit, et à bientôt!

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3 thoughts on “Farmers’ Markets and the Eiffel Tower: Familiarity and Foreignness

  1. Sounds like Paris is treating you wonderfully–as I knew it would! Glad to hear you got a hold of the metro fairly quickly 🙂 Farmer’s markets and buying fresh ingredients every few days are some of the things I miss the most from Paris. And the French truly do know their stuff when it comes to wine and cheese and food. Keep writing and keep enjoying every moment!

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