Just A Peek: The 14th Arrondissement & Buying Cheese

I never imagined that buying cheese could be that fun.

The city of Paris is divided into a spiral of 20 arrondissements, each is it’s own municipality complete with a mayor. And each is distinct not just in architecture, but in people and personality. Our apartment is in the 14th and the photo above was taken from our bedroom window.

We’re staying just off of the Rue Daguerre, around the corner from the Rue Daguerre street market. From cheese shops and bakeries, wine shops and produce stands, to fish markets, flowers and ethnic specialty shops, whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it.

(Our living room and kitchen look out over this courtyard)

We have a whole list of outdoor and indoor markets to visit all around the city, but our first food buying excursion happened yesterday just a few blocks away at the Mouton-Duvernet Market. We’re renting our apartment from a woman named Catherine who lives right above us. She assured us that, yes, the quality of food is good at the daily Rue Daguerre street market, but for the freshest vegetables, fruit and fish, we should visit what the locals call the Town Hall market (it’s across the street from the Town Hall) on Tuesdays and Fridays. I’m glad we took her advice.

As Emily Dilling advised, we looked for “long lines and dirty vegetables.” One of those lines ran along an impressive display of cheese. We know very little French and as we stood in line, wondered how we would achieve our goal of buying a selection of cheeses when we didn’t recognize any of them, nor did we know how to ask for assistance in choosing.

The kind-eyed older man ahead of us turned to me and spoke a sentence; I didn’t understand a single word. I replied with my best Tarzan impression,  “Je ne parle pas Français. Parlez-vous anglais?”  (“I don’t speak French. Do you speak English?”) He shook his head, “Non, non, non.” Then he said another sentence I didn’t understand. And I said, “What is your favorite cheese?” Then we both laughed realizing that neither of us knew what the other had said.

Commence charades.

I started pointing at cheeses with an inquisitive look. He responded mostly with a nodding head and a thumbs up, except for one where to which he wrinkled his nose, held his throat and made a low choking sound. I held my nose, he nodded, and we both laughed again.

Then it was our turn. “Parlez-vous anglais?” The answer: “Yes.” And suddenly we were trying generous samples of a dozen cheeses and buying hunks of them with reckless abandon, five varieties to be exact: Brie, Comté, Gruyère, some kind of creamy, semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese and Chèvre (of which there are 300 varieties in France!) At 720 grams or a little more than 25 ounces, a bargain at 15€. When we motioned that we had enough, he insisted that we try one more: creamy and speckled with coriander and walnuts, a cheese so good that it makes you close your eyes and sigh with satisfaction. He cut a large slice from the wheel, “Here, I want you to take this.”

We wanted to make French Onion Soup and Baked Eggs in our little kitchen, so we asked if the shop would be there again next Tuesday, the next day of the market. “No,” he replied, “but you must come visit us on Sunday, we’ll be Villemain Market.” And then proceeded to draw us a map on a cheese wrapper.

These are just a couple of examples of the warmth and kindness we have felt since we arrived. It is good to be in Paris!






11 responses to “Just A Peek: The 14th Arrondissement & Buying Cheese”

  1. nagimaehashi Avatar

    You opening line captivated me…what do you MEAN you never thought shopping for cheese could be that much fun??! 😉 Shopping for ANY cheese is fun! I am green with envy Marissa. I love seeing a sneak peak into your holiday and I especially love the MAP!!! <3

    1. Marissa Avatar

      haha! Nagi, if you and I had both been there, we would have left with a slab of EVERYTHING. 🙂 xo

  2. Tom_Colo Avatar

    Yippee – Marissa and Keith are on another adventure.
    Great start!
    Looking forward to your stories, adventures, and pictures.

    Next time you hit the cheese vendor look for Explorateur. It has a rocket ship on the wrapper. Named after the US first satellite – Explorer. (google it – lol)

    This triple whipped cheese is the “la crème de la crème,” in my book.
    If you do not feel like eating all of the cheese you can still enjoy it by just spreading it directly on to your hips. :-). The butter fat content is WAY up there. The flavor is wonderful.

    Soooooooo Good!

    Look forward to reading all of your stories and adventures.

    BTW – my son-in-law is wandering the streets of Paris this weekend also. He has meetings south of Paris for the rest of the week. Then he will be meeting my daughter in Rome for a BabyMoon. on Friday. Yep Colo is going to be a grandparent once again!

    1. Marissa Avatar

      Congratulations, Tom!! Another grand-baby on the way…yay!!

      And thank you for the recommendation – we will certainly be on the hunt for Explorateur while we’re here. We trekked halfway across the city to a little boucherie for some authentic Jambon de Paris – I think it would go very well with some triple whipped cheese. 🙂

  3. Mon Petit Four (@byMonPetitFour) Avatar
    Mon Petit Four (@byMonPetitFour)

    Ohhh how I long to be there with you smelling stinky cheeses and lost in translation! :p Your spot looks perfect, the 14th is a great area. Your apartment is also beautiful, nice new kitchen perfect for whipping up food from your market adventures! I hope you continue to have an amazing time and truly enjoy everything Paris has to offer! Lots of love sent your way – I look forward to following your adventures <3

    1. Marissa Avatar

      I wish you were here too! And, yes, we love the 14th – a recommendation from a friend that I’m so glad we took. It’s funny, we’ve been here nearly a week and have only eaten out once. Not by design, but because baguette, butter, a variety of meats and cheeses and a big salad have sounded so wonderful every night that we’ve been eating in…with good wine, of course, too. xoxo

      1. Tom_Colo Avatar


        Mea culpa, Mea culpa, Mea culpa

        While you are wandering the streets of Paris, I have been unfaithful.
        I went to Mon Petit Four’s website and found a recipe that I had to try. I am not a fan of root vegetables, but they are my sweetie’s favorite. So tonight I made Mon Petit Four Butternut Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons recipe. As she modified (tailored) the original recipe, I had to leave my mark also.

        The apples and nutmeg made me reduce the chicken stock by a couple ounces and use Pommeau de Normandie (Ladies Calvados) to complete the required liquid. Amazing! A great fall dinner was had in Virginia. I made the Gruyere Croutons with the soup and added a rosemary lamb lollipop on the side for protein. This wonderful meal was enjoyed with a simple but wonderful Corbières.

        Thank you Marissa for introducing me to Mon Petit Four!
        Don’t worry you are still my number one.
        I look forward to your next entry!

        1. Marissa Avatar

          Isn’t Beeta wonderful!? I love her and her blog. Funny, I just told her that I was going to make that soup while we’re here and now it’s an absolute must! Thank you, friend… 🙂

  4. KevinIsCooking Avatar

    Yeah fo rthe bounty of French cheeses, no? I am so happy for you guys. What a wonderful apartment. My usual go to in the 3rd, which is a showbox with no kitchen. I love the area, but may need to rethink the rental next time. Did you hit up Carette yet, I hope the map I sent assisted?

  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella Avatar
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Aww what a gorgeous story! You’ve perfectly captured the joy of travelling Marissa! I’m so glad that you’re having a wonderful time! 😀

  6. Dorothy Dunton Avatar
    Dorothy Dunton

    Hi Marissa! Your descriptions and pictures make me feel like I’m there! How wonderful to explore all the food opportunities! When we were in Toronto on our honeymoon there was a Chinese festival and the communication system was really quite simple – I would point at something, the vendor would hold up his fingers as in one, two etc. for how many, I would respond in fingers and then ask the price, again in fingers, one for each dollar. You don’t have to speak the same language to communicate! Food brings all people together! ENJOY!!!

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