A Tour of Les Halles

This morning, we led the group on a tour of the Les Halles neighborhood where we lived during much of our time in France. We lived at 17 Rue Etienne-Marcel on the corners of Rue Turbigo on the edge of the 1st and 2nd arrondissments. We began with a walk through the passages, covered archway alleys of Paris lined with small shops that were designed in the late 1800s as a way for Parisians to shop away from the noise, mud and horse manure that made up the city’s streets.

Then, we wound our way through Rue Montorgueil, the famed market street lined with excellent butchers, bakers, wine merchants and cheese sellers. As part of the walk, we stopped at Le Maison Strohrer, the oldest baker in Paris, which has been running a bakery in Paris since 1731. (It’s so famous that the Queen of England and William, Prince of Wales, stopped by here in 2004 when we lived her; you can buy postcards from their visit from turnstiles in front of the store.)

We walked down Rue Monmartre to pass by Le Tambour, a rowdy all-night bar and eatery that we used to frequent, toward the restaurant supply stores. There are four main outlets:

  • E. Dehlierren has been open since the early 1830s. It’s got everything, including 17 different sized whisks, copper pots, gadgets, knives, authentic crepe pans and excellent quality, though inexpensive stainless steel pans. The staff is fantastic and they all speak English. (18, Rue Coquillière)
  • A. Simon actually has two stores, one for reasonably priced tableware, and the other specializing in gear for patisserie (46, 48, rue Monmartre)
  • Bovida has a variety of gear, but is my favorite for knives and specialty spices, which can be purchased in small home-size tins or bags weighing several kilos. (36, rue Montmartre)
  • Mora down the street has a smattering of everything, including the largest collection of cookie cutters and cake decorating products that I’ve ever seen. (13, rue Montmartre)

We also visited a number of specialty shops, including three excellent outlets for foie gras and dried morels, all on Rue Montmartre, and then peekd inside L’Escargot, the shrine to snails on Rue Montrogueil.

All of this takes place around the site of the former Les Halles market, once the site of a sprawling wholesale market but now a park that rests atop a great subterranean shopping mall. We finished the tour with lunch at Au Pied de Cochon, a famed 24-hour eatery that has been serving excellent French onion soup to people since the 1800s. I think it’s the best French onion soup in the city, but Mike is willing to do the research to test this out.

In the afternoon, we left the group as they went on a guided tour of the major sites of the city, and then rejoined them for dinner for excellent crepes at Creperie Josselin. The crepes here are well browned “double crepes” stuffed with a dense selection of whatever you’ve ordered – and here, whatever you’ve ordered is good.


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