Les Halles by
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Prompted By Dawn

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Les Halles

I went to Europe for the first time in the late 1960s with my husband Alan on a belated honeymoon.  We spent a few days in Copenhagen where we saw Victor Borge in concert in Tivoli Gardens.   And then a week in Paris where our hotel room reeked of garlic –  thanks, we soon discovered,  to the foul breath of the chambermaid!

But of course everywhere we went and everything we did in Paris was a treat,  including our pre-dawn visit to Les Halles.

The enormous glass and iron structure that housed Les Halles,  the retail and wholesale Parisian food and flower market,  was built in the 1870s,  an architectural wonder in fin de siecle style,  and was the setting of Emile Zola’s novel of that decade entitled  Le Ventre de Paris,  and translated as The Belly of Paris.

Les Halles was the bustling hub of food distribution in the city for almost a century with tons of fresh fish and meat bought,  butchered,  and sold during the night hours while most of Paris slept.   But by the 1970s,  several years after our own nighttime visit,  Les Halles was no longer able to compete in the new market economy and was also in need of massive repairs.  It was decided to move its operations elsewhere,  and the iconic Parisian structure was demolished.

But years earlier as Alan walked around taking pictures,  I explored the market on my own,  enjoying the hustle and bustle,  and soaking up the wonderful sounds, sights and smells of Les Halles at dawn!

–  Dana Susan Lehrman 

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Les Halles, Paris, Food markets
Characterizations: been there, funny, well written


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    How wonderful to be able to experience the real Paris in all its glory, Dana. Such a vivid description of the sights and smells. I suppose nothing lasts forever, but marvelous that you were there! Thanks for taking us there too.

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    Le Ventre de Paris indeed!
    I am sorry it wasn’t there when I visited in 2021. Sounds like Boston’s Quincy Market with French flair.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Wonderful memory of Paris and the beginning of the day. I think they have a central distribution place that opens early, where many of the local markets get their fresh produce, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have the charm and history of Les Halles. Loved the detail about the garlic breath of the chambermaid.

  4. Sweet story of love, hotels, and the remarkable marketplace. I went there on my first European foray as well, still functioning in 1964. Strange to think of it gone, a new scenario on the millennial evolution of a very old city. A glass pyramid at the Louvre; I can dig it.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    What a wonderful experience, Dana. Too bad so many great things disappear in the name of progress.

  6. Jim Willis says:

    Les Halles sounds wonderful, Dana! Somehow I missed it on my one and only trip to Paris. Thanks for sharing.

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