Stroll Around the Les Halles Market District with Paris Walks

This window at St. Eustache illustrates the links between the market ( here the pork butchers) and the church. 
With four months here in Paris I have time to revisit the same places. Although I know the Rue Montorgueil, and the area around Les Halles, it was still worth taking a stroll with Paris Walks to see what else I could learn about this neighborhood. 
The old marketplace of Les Halles is under a radical reconstruction once again and this current rendition will not be completed until 2016. This area has been home to a market since the Middle Ages and in the Nineteenth Century it was housed under a complex of spectacular iron and glass roofs. By the early 1970s it was dilapidated,  seen as hopelessly out of date, and was knocked down in favour of a ghastly monstrosity that was widely decried and is now being replaced. Interestingly when we were in Manaus in the Brazilian  Amazon we visited the Adolopho Lisboa  Mercado which was manufactured in France,  constructed in 1882 and modeled on Les Halles. It's a  fascinatingly incongruous  place to visit and reminds one of what was once  here in Paris. 
The large stone head lying on its side is a sculpture which will be a feature of the new garden.

But enough of the past, above you can see that the area is completely torn up and  below is a rendition of the completed site. As you can see the existing historical  rotunda is at the bottom right and  the new cultural center (with it's undulating transparent roof) is at the top left.  I caught the shot while  someone was helpfully  pointing out St Eustache, which we visited at the end of our tour.

Although the food market was moved out to Rungis when the area was redeveloped in the early 1970s there are still a large number of specialty food shops, cookware shops and restaurants - as well as the famous market street Rue Montorgueil. This is a street which is always alive with its  mix of shoppers, patisseries, butchers, fishmongers, restaurants and purveyors of all kinds. It always feels like there's something going on here, yesterday they were having a small fete with a brass band, circus performers on stilts and and exhibit of fashion mannequins displaying outfits made by students from recycled scraps.
I love this street and  nobody describes it like David Lebovitz so for more details visit his fabulous blog, I can't even begin to compete and so I defer to him! However I can't resist a picture of the savories  at Stohrer the oldest patisserie/delicatessen in Paris. As you can see outside the store they have a sideline in postcards including cards of the Queen on her last visit to Paris sampling their wares!

Though I was familiar with much of the destinations on the tour I had not seen the covered passageways in this area of Paris. They are always fun to visit and the cast ironwork roofs are a reminder of the architectural heritage of of Les Halles.

Towering over the neighborhood is the church of St. Eustache an architectural mix of late Gothic and Renaissance style  which has long been linked to the surrounding  market, shops and food producers. Indeed it has its origins in a small eleventh century chapel erected  for the fishmongers.
The church also does considerable social outreach work including programs for those with HIV/Aids which was recognized in the donation of  Keith Haring's altar piece which can be seen in one of the small chapels. The detail below showing his distinctive and exuberant style.  After all of the Rubens, Delacroix and others it's nice to see some modern art in a church.

As you can see the church backs right into the major building work.
As a area known for food purveyors and restaurants there are a number of historic signs in this neighborhood including the bee hive below, the escargot above the famous restaurant patronized by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the hanging Palais du Fruit sign. If you want to see more examples the Carnavalet Museum has a wonderful collection of artisan and shop signs.
By the end of the tour I was running out of steam. I enjoyed the stroll but there were far too many people in the group, more than thirty which is just too many for a walking tour even if it only costs 12 euro! We ended behind St Eustache next to the old market favorite Au Pied de Cochon but as I didn't feel like a plate of pig trotters for lunch I headed home!
Tip: If you are looking for lunch or dinner in this neighborhood I can recommend the wonderful Pirouette. In an area with a lot od tired old restaurants this is a fresh new face. This is excellent  modern dining and a great value at lunch.