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The French Way

Markets, outdoor markets.  The French are famous for them and my first introduction to these marvellous places was this past summer when I was in Provence.  I was lucky enough to visit several markets–some quite small, and one, in Bedouin, very extensive.

Paul and I made the decision to stay in St. Antonin Noble Val until Sunday morning so that we could incorporate the market experience for the first time together.

It was a bit of a dreary, cold morning, so we bundled up, grabbed our shopping bag and headed out at 9:00AM.  I knew it was important to get there early, and besides, I knew Paul had a lot of work to accomplish later in the morning.  Not to mention we wanted to miss the rain that was forecast for later in the morning.

As we made our way down the street, Paul remarked that I should keep an open mind and not be too disappointed if the market didn’t turn out to have more than a few vendors.  I didn’t have any expectations, I just hoped that it would be somewhat decent.  I had told Paul how much I enjoyed these markets, and I wanted his first experience to be a positive one.

Many stalls specialise in one product only. Can you guess what this one sells?

Many stalls specialise in one product only. Can you guess what this one sells?

We found our way through the narrow ribbon-like streets and came upon the main square in the village.  WOW.  It just went on and on the further we trouped down the street.  We found ourselves stopping frequently to “ooh and ah” over what we came upon.  You name it–everything from fresh produce to cooked chickens and other delicacies, to organic wines and a myriad of delicious looking breads, pastries and and an infinite number of ? cheeses.  Where to start!!??

This stall only sold goat cheese

This stall only sold goat cheese

We bought a few things at one end of the market and then, because it was so cold, we decided to stop at the cafe on the square and partake of a cappuccino.  It was nice to warm up a bit inside and to watch the village come alive with the comings and goings of the locals.

Paul frightens the stallholders

Paul frightens the stallholders

These open markets are a true slice of life, particularly here in France.  There were old people plodding slowly along with their shopping bags on wheels, and younger people armed with their shopping baskets.  People bring their dogs and stop to converse and hear the latest happenings in their community.  A shopping event combined with a social gathering.  How wonderful to be part of all of this!  It seemed like another time and place.  We had remembered the scenes in “The Hundred Foot Journey” that were filmed here in 2013 and I was hoping we might have the same experience as that portrayed on the screen.

The market was full of old tarts

The market was full of old tarts

It is great to be part of this vibrant way of life, and it certainly does make shopping for the necessary food staples an exciting and enjoyable pastime not to mention a chance to use my French as much as possible.  When I get stuck on a word or phrase I go to Google Translate to help me out.

For those of you interested in the French way of living, you would do well to read anything by Peter Mayle.  He is funny and his descriptions are provocative and educational.   The Provençal markets have been in existence for over five hundred years.  One of the most famous markets is in the town of Apt Provence.  This market has been held on Saturday mornings ever since 1523!!  You can drive around and find a market for every day of the week in Provence.

The sellers at these markets are also the suppliers, and often the growers.  This makes the shopping experience personal, as opposed to an anonymous experience in a supermarket.  And—the sellers are personally accountable for their produce.  And how nice to live in an area where you visit the same market regularly and to be able to develop a personal relationship with the seller!  We sort of did this with a delightful English lady who, along with her English husband, produces organic wines and beer.  We had a great time speaking with her and received some useful tips as well about the best vendors to go to.

We had only planned to spend maybe an hour there at most, but it quickly turned into two hours.  We left the market to make our way back to the Hymer with big smiles on our faces, and a very full and heavy shopping bag between us.

This was a day to talk about long into the night and one that left us with numerous delightful impressions.  We are blessed and most grateful once again for all that this life style provides us.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Terry (Terence) Watson November 6, 2016, 4:41 pm

    Sounds like you are having fun, long may it continue. We continue to enjoy life afloat on the North Oxford canal on n.b. ‘Trade Winds 2’, but your road trip is certainly food for thought.

    • Paul Smith November 8, 2016, 12:25 pm

      Hi Terry,

      The lifestyle isn’t quite as easy or relaxed as boating, and there’s probably much less space than you are used to on your boat, but it certainly allows you to see more of the world than you could in a boat, all in relative comfort. I highly recommend it.

  • Alan B. Cranford November 6, 2016, 5:38 pm

    Somebody took superb photos of the street market! THANKS!

  • Ian Carrington November 6, 2016, 7:11 pm

    Always a pleasure to read of your latest adventures. We have recently moved to our place in the Spanish countryside and after a lifetime of school followed by work, we are slowly adapting to our new life in the sun.
    Best wishes to you both
    Ian

  • peter mace November 7, 2016, 9:10 am

    Hi / Paul Cynthia
    I am glad that you enjoyed your visit to one of the many Provence markets .
    You both always seem to have a great time were ever you go.
    Believe me I am quite envious in the way that you always turn a negative into a positive.
    Carry on with this great stuff.
    Best of luck to you both
    Pete

  • Jean Moir November 7, 2016, 5:35 pm

    No live chickens in this market then?

    The old tarts look delicious.

    • Cynthia Smith November 7, 2016, 7:17 pm

      Thanks Jean! No, all the chickens we saw were cooked—and we brought a nice juicy one home that will provide us with a few meals. Tarts did look delicious, but no sugar for us!

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