We have already taken the walk, and arrived at our destination: the Marché, or the equivalent of where you find all your needs from clothes to toiletries, shoes and cleaning supplies, cookware to hardware, and everything in between. There are perishables and non, cell phones and passport photos, butane containers and toys. If you are in the mood, you can linger at a café, eat at a restaurant, or sit at the patisserie. If you have to use the toilet, though, make sure you have enough change, because you will be required to tip the lady at the door.
When we go the marché, it is typically to purchase food: chicken, eggs, meat, bread, yogurt and more bread! Some days I pick out olives. Others I treat JR to a "pain au chocolat". Many days I return home empty handed: the bread or yogurt delivery had not come in yet; the chicken guy was still closed; the meat did not look fresh. There is rarely any consistency in the experience and a lot of it depends on my whims, what is available and how much I feel like lugging back on the stroller and up four flights of stairs.
The marché has several entrances depending on what it is you are looking for. It has both back and front sides and goes around several rounds in a circular fashion. Think if you want of a strip mall and you can have an idea of what to look for. Some stores have street fronts, others are completely enclosed within the structure. There are a number of ramps leading into the shopping area, and in my simple mind I thought they were constructed for strollers and wheelchairs. Only later did I discover their true utility: to cart merchandise up and in.
When on foot, we enter the marché from the west to find ourselves in the "food and drink" section. It is a narrow structure with stores on either side.
and two olive, spices and dried legumes vendors.
and a convenience store that sells everything from refrigerated milk to canned tuna, toilet paper, and mayonnaise.
To the other side of all this you find the "patisserie". This is where we get our loaves and the occasional pain au chocolat.
The marché opens late. Get there at 8 in the morning and you are the only one there. Go at 9:00and it is you and other, inexperienced, people who thought to come early. Arrive at 9:30 and you can help the shopkeepers set up their stalls. By 9:50 most, if not all, are ready for business. By 4:00 in the afternoon, the place is buzzing with vendors and purchasers. I am not sure what time it closes as our family has never ventured that way past dark and very rarely past noon but I hear it closes "late," which could mean a number of things not the least of which is you take your chance with going there at a certain time and find who is open and who is not, much the same as your arrival in the morning as vendors open their stalls on their own personal schedule and whims.
The marché functions according to a set rhythm, its own. Saturdays and Sundays are fresh fruit and vegetable days. The convenience store is cleaned out by Monday. Beef is slaughtered on Tuesdays and a quarter cow is delivered to each of the four butchers. The cowhide, head, intestines, fat, legs and internal organs are also delivered to the marché, but to a store we are yet to buy from. Turkey arrives in vacuum packs the same day. Wednesdays and Thursdays, and again on Saturdays, fresh fish appears. Among these I recognize sardines and trout. There are other varieties but none that I am familiar with. Some times you find fresh shrimp as well. Pita bread and yogurt arrive on Thursdays. Fridays are mainly God's days although some are goat days. Chicken and eggs are everyday and warm loaves are once in the morning and again in the afternoon from the back of a station wagon.
I am not sure how many hands touch the bread before it ends up in ours but I observed that hygiene and food safety are regarded differently at the marché and other food establishments around town that we have been to. Flies and bees feed on human food regularly and they are free to roam on and in anything they desire. Chicken hang from metal hooks each from its head at the store front and they and their eggs are kept at room temperature. The only time I have seen meat being pulled out of refrigerators is at opening time. Otherwise, it too is strung on metal hooks within arms' reach. Even the delivery truck is not refrigerated. It is, however, covered so at least the dust from the road is kept away. I am actually surprised, and feel utterly blessed, that my family has not gotten sick from shopping and eating at the marché.