If you are vaguely lost while wandering through uncharted territory, there's nothing like a light house to help you get your bearings.
Even in Paris, it seems.
I embarked on an afternoon walk, sans map of Paris, determined to get lost. (No challenge for me in that department.) I love getting "lost" in Paris. The adventure of chucking the known and the safe forces you to open your eyes, gets you out of your routine. I did an excellent job of it. Totally clueless as to my GPS or other location.
And then, out of nowhere: Ahoy, there, mateys! Somewhere in the 15e arrondissement I spotted the lighthouse and the shipwreck, its tricolore waved by the sailor-stiff at the bow. The graffiti hinted reassuringly that I was indeed still on dry land. Sort of.
I had stumbled upon the Criée du Phare, a seafood emporium which apparently boasts the largest retail selection of fish in Paris, at the most tempting prices.
Being after lunchtime on Sunday, it was empty inside. So the congenial fishmongers gave me the royal treatment. "Bonjour, belle dame!" greeted a smiling scruffy guy with an impressive beard. One after another, and sometimes together with their buddies, they proudly described the seafood they were selling. "We have the best selection! The largest choice! You should see this place on Saturdays -- the crowds are incredible!" They were so earnest and convivial, and the fish smelled so sweet. A worker hosed down the ice every few minutes to keep it chilled and fresh.
"Just look at these live shrimp," said my bearded friend as he placed two beasts on the back of his hand. I reached out to touch them. "Watch out! They pinch!" he joked. He wasn't kidding.
"I've never seen a live shrimp like that before," I admitted. "Are they from France?"
The boys got a tad mournful.
"Ah, non, shrimps can still be found in France, in the Loire and maybe elsewhere, but no one is allowed to fish them," they chimed in. "These shrimp are from Turkey. Even les grenouilles -- ah, don't we all love les cuisses de grenouille -- come from elsewhere, around Armenia."
Wait. So French Frogs don't even come from here any more?
Now I do need to get my bearings. In any case, I'll be back to La Criée soon.
La Criée du Phare
69 rue de Castagnary
01 45 31 15 00
Open seven days a week, mostly in the morning when fish are fresh. Call for other hours.