Le Marché, the market
Almost every French town has a market and a market day. Some are indoor markets using old halls, many are typical outdoor markets with stands. Some are historically famous and date back hundreds of years.
Most markets are very busy and continue to thrive, however in some towns the spread and incrustation of the powerful supermarkets have had a detrimental effect and the market stands have dwindled.
To encourage the return of the markets a few towns have introduced “evening markets”, “local producers”, “organic” or other themed ideas, attempting to encourage the market goers to return to the stands.
Which days of the week are decided by the “Marie”, the town hall. In some towns this can be once, twice or even daily. The market can be just food produce or clothes or a mixture of products and produce. Many markets begin early in the morning and they will close up just after midday.
My favorite is the food market with the incredible mixture of flavours and colours, this is especially true when you head towards the south of France. The fruit and vegetables are proudly stacked by the sellers, plates are often filled with chucks and slices to taste.
When you’re travelling in the South of France try to visit the large markets in the coastal towns, they are bustling with life and have a very friendly atmosphere. Take your time and also enjoy a drink in a nearby café.
The fish mongers lays fresh squid “encornet”, prawns “crevettes” , cod “morue”, sardines and many other fish and shell fish on stacks of ice. If you’re on the coast, many of the fish will have been caught locally.
There are huge pans bubbling with freshly made “ratatouille” (an impossible word for anglophones to pronounce without being laughed at).
You’ll find spices and herbs from all over the world, these stands are always spectacular with arrays of colour and the odors will tantalize your nose.
You see many varieties of garlic and often the famous Purple garlic from the very beautiful Tarn countryside in the Midi-Pyrénées.
Local farmers display goats cheese in order of fresh to dry, if he offers you some to taste, then please do. You’ll see fresh bread, roasting chickens and of course sweets and chocolate stands .
The French Saucisson will surprise you with all the different shapes and taste. The are some many recipes with pork, duck wild boar and other unusual meats. Others with mushrooms, truffles or spices. Once again if the seller is offering you a piece to taste, please do.
As you walk around the streets you can but become hungry as your mouth waters.
Haberdashery and more
Generally the fresh produce is in one section whilst the clothes, hardware and other items are in another area.
If you’re looking for woven shopping baskets, dresses, jeans, shoes, frying pans, cutlery, bed linen, your sure to find something that you suits you on one of the stands.
There is always a stand with a keen seller talking to a small crowd about a magical vegetable knife or ever-clean windows. He’ll carefully spin his web, cutting the price and adding more and something free. Being a salesman starts here.
As you walk around, you’ll notice people taking the time to talk to each other. It’s a meeting point, a place of social interaction. The market is a place to talk to other people, a place where you can argue and haggle and a place to express yourself.