French markets offer a true sensory experience. Sight, sound, taste, smell and touch, they're all there and they're all delightfully strong. Take last Sunday's trip to a neighborhood market, for example. The first thing I noticed was a fish and seafood stand that seemed to stretch on into infinity. Displayed on the bed of ice were all kinds of under the sea creatures. There were enormous oyster shells, flat fish the size of hubcaps, and shrimp of all kinds just begging to be looked at. Not to mention the people-watching potential of such gatherings. French markets rank right up there with international airports as one of the best places to sit back and just watch.
My sense of hearing was put to use listening to the shouts of the merchants as they tried to sell their wares. You get to use your sense of taste if they offer you a piece of fruit as a marketing ploy. Doesn't the strawberry taste delicious? They're only 3 euro a pack! My sense of smell was probably the busiest of all. Roasting chickens, aromatic cheeses, spicy olives, simmering seafood paella - your nose doesn't know where to lead you next.
And touch? Well, touch I discovered why standing by a low table of colorful spices and dried beans. In the corner, away from the eyes of the busy-at-work merchant, I saw a little boy digging his hand into one of the bags of white dried beans. He was obviously fascinated by the feel of the tiny items passing through his fingers as he lifted them out of the sack and then went back in for more. Just look at this picture I took of said beans. Can you blame him? If I had been little enough to avoid unnecessary attention, I might have done the very same thing.