Whenever I visit a city… any city, I make a point to find their local markets & food stores. If there is an open market; I will be there comes rain or comes shine! I find that walking in a city’s market place or food stores tells a lot more nuanced story about the place, its people and the type of country it is. For example; I love the market place by the Harbor in Helsinki, with its small stands selling creamy bowls of salmon soup with warm rye bread and the beautiful seasonal produce.
Helsinki Market in the Summer – Photo credits from Visitelsinki.fi
When I go back to France, every Tuesday is “le Jour du Marché” or “market day” in our neighborhood. On that day, the city blocks the largest street and replace the busy traffic of cars by rows after rows of independents merchants tightly installed and selling everything from organically grown local apricots to “made in China” kitchenware! I just love walking slowly down the long alley; surrounded by noisy negotiations and heated discussions among buyers and sellers. I sample from the fruits, admire the vast selection of cheeses and buy crispy peasant bread while enjoy the loud messiness that I have slowly grown accustomed to forget, here, in my Nordic adoptive city.
While other will go and check out the local national museum, usually you will find me between two neatly organized shiny rows of the city’s best food stores taking photos! There are probably few happiness more bizarre than walking around a well stocked foreign grocery stores, but here it is : It has become a habit that everyone who trvels with me has gotten used to! When reminiscing of a visit anywhere in the world, among the standard “toes in the sand” pictures be sure to find “28 varieties of eggs from the Singapore market” photo!
Recently I got the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen for the weekend thanks to a Yoogaia challenge I won in the summer!. For those who love food; i must warn you; Copenhagen is probably one of the most incredible city to have a mind blowing food experience. It seems they are ahead on the organic quest and have a COOP food-chain dedicated to provide affordable organic ingredients. It’s called Irma and you can find it everywhere!
Finally, my favorite stop on the “food shopping” quest brought me to a magical placed called “les Magasins du Nord“. Once you enter; be prepared; rows of beautiful lined products, arranged in matching shade of colors and size. The eyes are soothed with the serene display, but the brain is permanently aroused by the incredible variety on offer. I
Sprinkles; edible flowers nonchalantly placed next to baking gold (!!) dust and other ingredients for accomplished bakers (a.k.a not me) competing for my attention with endless compositions of jams & marmelades – Plum vanilla anyone?
It feels like a game : “think of an ingredient” in which the winner is the one who finds the one thing that they don’t have .. (In case you wonder; it’s Macha – & I won!!) These places are dangerous for me. More than shopping for a new outfit, I would rather my time shopping for new ingredients! I love bringing back local specialties, they carry me into the visit long after I have returned home.
As I sip a cup of green tea; I look at these pictures and vivid memories of these few days in Copenhagen reignite; and I realize: this is how I get to know a place!
How about you; how do you discover a new city?