Friday, May 8, 2015

Sunday is Bird Market Day

We human beings have always loved birds. From the most ancient civilizations right up to the present, we’ve revered them, imbued them with magic and mystery, hunted and eaten them, used them as messengers, and kept them as pets. What is their secret? Wings and flight? Feathers? Colors? Song? They fill our dreams.

During the High Renaissance in the 1600s, French bird cages became ornate works of art, as the popularity of pet birds soared. So it’s no surprise that Paris still has a Sunday bird market on l’Ile de la Cité.

The Paris bird and flower market has been around for over two hundred years.

Here’s how the Boston Globe describes it:

“We can’t imagine a more delightful way to spend a Sunday morning than visiting the charming Marché aux Oiseaux [Market of Birds] in Paris. Louis-Lépine square [just across the Notre Dame bridge] on the island of Ile de la Cité is home to the famous flower market. On Sunday, the birds arrive.”

“Traders set up cages teeming with colorful, chirping birds of all kinds. Delicate doves and bright canaries, exotic parrots, multihued budgies, and screaming macaws vie for attention, as their owners chat with fellow traders and would-be buyers. On the ground, lining the street, are more cages – some ancient and ornate – filled with chickens, hens, and roosters, and aquariums filled with hamsters and guinea pigs.”

“The sights and sounds of this enchanting, twittering market, in the shadows of Notre Dame Cathedral stayed with us long after we left.”

I live just a few steps from here, and every Sunday, the Marché aux Oiseaux gives me pure enchantment.

Parisian dogs always act so cool and refined — until they see chickens!

And let's not forget the bunnies!
lapin nain = rabbit dwarf/miniature      30 euros = 40 dollars

It is wonderfully unique for me to live in this neighborhood. As a child, my perception of “Really Old Stuff” was something created before 1920. Once, on a family visit to the Old West tourist town of Virginia City, Nevada, near Lake Tahoe, I was allowed to hold a silver dollar with an embossed minting date of 1889. My fingers slowly rubbed across the numbers. It was the oldest history I ever experienced as a kid.

Now I’m living in a culture that thinks the “modern” world began around 1850. “Old” is around 1600 (or more like 1300), and “really old” has been around since BCE. I wonder when Paris first had marchés aux oiseaux? Did the ancient residents of Lutèce — the name for Paris when the Romans first came — keep birds as pets? It wouldn’t surprise me.

I saw a post on TripAdvisor where a traveler was asking about the Paris bird market. Was it still there? He’d never forgotten his visit to it as a child. Now he wanted to take his children there. I wanted to tell him, “Yes, every Sunday. No worries. It will be there for your grandkids to share with their children.”

How does Paris manage it? Things change in Paris constantly – and still so much remains the same.

I hope to see you at the Marché aux Oiseaux next Sunday!

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lapin nain = rabbit dwarf/miniature      30 euros = 40 dollars