Rows of brightly colored tents shade shoppers as they meander from stall to stall sampling lemon-honey tea and tiny sausage cubes.
People sit at long, reclaimed wood tables and benches eating hot crepes, warm meat pies and sipping fresh espresso. The rise and fall of different accents and dialects create a symphony of human voice, as Elizabeth and Mike Lind, the owners of La Cigale café and market, bustle between stalls, stopping to chat with an acquaintance and seeing to the needs of the visitors.
The Linds opened La Cigale nearly 19 years ago after frequent trips to France for their textile business. Their love of the French extended from food to fashion to design. They wanted to share France’s culture with their fellow Kiwis in Auckland, so they found an old bus depot and converted it into a thriving café, market and clothing shop.
The shop and café are open Monday–Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the market is open Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visitors to Auckland can find the café, shop, and market all in one convenient location, 69 St Georges Bay Rd in Parnell, a suburb located five minutes from the University of Auckland.
“At the time that we were looking to start something new, France wasn’t represented very much in this country,” Mike Lind said. “There was an opening to do something based on French lifestyle.”
The business started small, as a shop that sold French home goods, gifts and gourmet food. Over the years, Mike and Elizabeth have cultivated their shop into a bustling market and bistro. Forty-five stallholders come to La Cigale to sell their goods at the market every weekend. There are several French companies represented, but any artisan is welcome to sell their goods such as food, produce, beverage or clothing. Visitors can enjoy the bustle of the market on Sunday, and return for a quiet cup of coffee on Monday.
“I like how everything is made fresh,” John Christall, a monthly patron of the market, said. “I buy some veggies to take home. They have a pretty good international flavor represented in their stallholders here.”
The shop boasts French fashion, antiques, garden decoration and more for sale daily. Elizabeth Lind makes a trip to Paris two or three times a year to visit clothing suppliers. The fit, style and textures of the clothes can be best ascertained in person.
“Our market is well-priced, good value clothing that looks stylish,” Elizabeth Lind said, gesturing to the neat racks of clothing. “We trust our suppliers’ judgments. They are in a place to know what is trending.”
During the weekends when the market is in session, La Cigale sees its highest traffic, pulling in a lot of visitors and tourists into the friendly and boisterous atmosphere. Entry into the market is free.
“It’s nice to work here because we see customers who come back every week,” Morgane Merien, an employee at French Crepe, a stall which serves fresh, made-to-order crepes, said. “We know their toppings. Seeing the children grow up is one of the best parts [of working here].”
In addition, French Crepe also offers a variety of fresh produce, drinks, fish filets and even locally made sausage. Another stall, L’Authentique, serves a variety of sausages and pate. They are a small French company based in Auckland that has sold locally sourced, natural sausages at La Cigale for the last five years.
“I love to come here,” Malike Hautefeuille-Sahuequet, quality manager at L’Authentique, said. “When the people try our product and they like it, I like to see that first hand.”
La Cigale market also offers a variety of clothing, soaps, jewelry and antiques as well. The Bee Corner makes organic products from honey and beeswax from small beekeepers around New Zealand. Owner Edith Schmind keeps away from corporations and makes all her goods by hand.
“This market is very friendly,” said Schmid, who runs the stall with her daughter, Victoria. “There are lots of tourists, food selections and a fresh calm atmosphere. It’s not too big, not at all intimidating. It’s a real community here.”
Visitors interested in visiting the market or bistro can find free parking at La Cigale at 69 St Georges Bay Road in Parnell. It is easily accessed via the buses, an Uber or a quick stroll through the streets of Auckland.
“We continually work at making it better,” Elizabeth Lind said. “It’s not static. It needs to evolve all the time.”