Text and Images: Emily Sands-Bonin
Newly refurbished and opened in late September last year, the Marché de l’Olive has been hailed as very “Baltard” by Bertrand Delanoë, mayor of Paris, an allusion to French 19th century architect Victor Baltard, designer of Les Halles, Paris’ mythical central market. But if Les Halles, destroyed in 1971, has given way to the Forum des Halles, a tacky shopping district located in the heart of Paris, overrun by tourists and nocturnal drug deals, the marché couvert La Chapelle, located far from the beaten path, is alive and well.
The marché couvert La Chapelle, commonly known as the “Marché de l’Olive,” is located in northeast Paris, where épiceries exotiques loaded with plantain bananas brush shoulders with colorful batik cottons, and where, the Mairie of Paris hastens to point out, the “last pockets of insalubrity are disappearing,” as the quartier slowly gentrifies.
The 18ème is vibrant and lively; one can be literally carried along by the late afternoon crowds and the scent of fried food, the stately 19th century Art Nouveau architecture sitting proudly above France’s postcolonial melting pot.
Situated on a little square off the main boulevard, Marx Dormoy, the market is surrounded by cafes and grocers. Through the automatic doors, stately wrought iron arches support a glass pavilion roof, flooding the space with natural light and rendering the piles of fruit and vegetables even more enticing. There were very few people in the market on a weekday afternoon, but the spacious corridors between the stalls can accommodate Saturday morning crowds with ease. Like the surrounding neighborhood, many of the commerçants are North African or Asian. The presence of a Moroccan traiteur with a steaming bowl of couscous reminds us, yet again, of France’s postcolonial plurality.
The Marché de l’Olive is definitely not for vegetarians, or for the faint of heart. The meat is lustrously displayed; sausages and patés are abundant and the chickens still have plumed heads curling hooked black claws. I saw furry rabbits hanging above a butcher’s stand and, in the corner stand, above a selection of preserves, a stuffed fox looks on, posed next to what appears to be a stuffed crow, gripping a round box of camembert in his beak. The scene evokes the fable by La Fontaine, “The Fox and the Raven.” Flattered by the wily fox, the raven opens his beak to respond and drops his cheese, which the fox snatches up for lunch.
The Marché de l’Olive itself is similar to many a farmers’ market, but it is the newly renovated 19th century hall, as well as the bustling, multicultural quartier surrounding it, that make it part of the contemporary Parisian experience.
Le Marche de l’Olive
10 Rue de l’Olive 75018 Paris
Ferme les dimanche et lundi apres-midi
Metro: Marx Dormoy (Ligne 12)