Early mornings have never really been my thing. Mind you, I’m not a fan of late nights either, but if I had to choose, I’d opt for an evening soiree as oppose to an early bird worm – or whatever it is they generally catch.
Ivy – on the other hand – she loves a late night jaunt, but she’s pretty hopeless first thing. The hours I’ve sat crossed-legged waiting to be let out because she’s not yet raised her head off the pillow are beyond belief. Thankfully, I have excellent bladder control. I’m like a camel when it comes to storing water – only more alluring and a tad less smelly.
So I was surprised when Ivy announced we were signing up for flower school. It struck me as quite an odd career choice when you’re not the sort to jump out of bed and jog down to the flower market at crazy o’clock on a dark, cold winter’s morning. Or indeed any morning for that matter! You have to get there so early, it’s dark no matter what the season.
But - choose floristry she did – even though I tried to lecture her on the perils of committing us both to such early weekday starts. Of course, Ivy’s starts are particularly early because unlike me, whose morning ritual includes giving my mane a shake and a spot of doggy yoga, she takes forever. And the older she gets the longer it takes! Over the years, I’ve learned that by the time the whirling noise of that horrendous invention – the hairdryer - goes on, I’m good for another five minutes before I have to think about getting a wriggle on.
Our first introduction to a flower market was in Paris. Situated on the outskirts of the city, Marche de Rungis is its name and boy is it big! They sell pretty much everything there – not just flowers. All the fresh produce for Parisian fine dining generally arrives into Rungis, before it’s sold on to the rats who run the restaurants. And when I say rats, I’m not being rude, I’ve seen that film - Ratatouille. I know how it works. Another poor breed of creature destined for hard labour. I never dreamed at the time when I watched that rat cooking in the kitchen, that getting a job would become my destiny too. How times have changed!
So, bleary eyed, Ivy would often drag herself out of our apartment to visit le marche. She often found the only other stark raving loons to be up and out at that time were delivery drivers and boulangers. All hard at work making pastries and baguettes for the morning influx of hungry workers and tourists. Do you think the rats make the bread too? Or do they leave that to the mice? Not sure. This clearly isn’t the city to sit around if you’re an animal.
Sometimes I dodged the early morning bullets and managed to remain curled up in a ball on the bed until the lovely Vianney swung by and joined me on my morning constitutional. Her arrival at around 10 o’clock marked a far more civilised time to embrace the day and wander the streets of Paris, chatting to my canine chums, accompanied by a pretty fille.
The times I bothered to rise early and visit le marche, I noticed it to be a busy hive of activity with palettes being wheeled in and out and men with half-smoked cigarettes hanging around gossiping.
Flowers – it seems – is a serious business. They arrive from all over the world and there’s often a bit of bartering involved when it comes to securing the best stems for the best price. The array of colours, smells and textures are very impressive. There’s a flower for every occasion. The orchid collection alone makes any fur dandy draw in his doggy breath. Mind, the price makes you howl.
On site, there’s a grand old brasserie, that looks like it’s been serving café crème and croissants since before flowers were even a thing. The male server looks like he’s not seen daylight in a long time. Just a plume of smoke engulfs him and rises like a mist over the brasserie, as workers and customers congregate for this seemingly early morning ritual, sipping caffeine and smoking. There’s not much on offer for canine creatives. Living in Paris, I got into the habit of swigging cognac in the morning.
Despite the lack of alcoholic beverage, stench of tobacco and the sleep deprived faces, there is something quite refined about it all. As soon as the coffee cups are empty, the vans are packed up and driven back along the inner ring road into central Paris, before most Parisians have even set foot down their apartment staircase.
Of course, I still prefer my croissant at more respectable hour of the day. Here’s a picture with me and my very own delicacy at my usual Paris morning haunt – Au Pied de Cochon. “The Pig’s Trotter” to the not-so-well-informed.
A tout à l’heure!