M is for a week full of Markets

I had to laugh this morning when my eldest asked what letter of the alphabet I’d reached in my A-Z – I replied M, he then started to ask what I was going to write about then checked himself by saying ‘Stupid Question….. It’s Markets isn’t it?’ gave a snort and wandered off to make breakfast – to be honest what else could it be??

One of the market streets in Forcalquier, leading down towards the 'Cour des Artisans'

One of the market streets in Forcalquier, leading down towards the ‘Cour des Artisans’

There’s no getting away from it – the markets in Provence are incredible & over the years we’ve perfected the art of ‘just happening’ to come across them whilst we are out for a cycle ride or en route to a walk etc ………… More recently though the boys have cottoned onto the incredible number of happy ‘Is there really a market??’ coincidences, so we’ve had to change our approach – although we do still manage to visit several markets every time we’re there (usually by bike with the promise of lunch!!)

Bike parked up after the cycle to L'Isle Sur La Sorgue

Bike parked up after the cycle to L’Isle Sur La Sorgue

Markets are a way of life in France and of course we’re more than happy to adapt our routine to make the most of them and as a result we’ve adapted our shopping habits to fit around the markets. Whereas at home we tend to do big weekly shops, planning what we’re going to eat for the week ahead, that’s not the case in France. There we decide what we’ll be eating based on what we see in the market that day – it may be fish, a ‘roti’ chicken or some lovely local cheeses and will always include a selection of the fresh local fruits and vegetables that change with the seasons.

Fish stalls are lovely & a favourite meal is fresh Langoustines with aioli & fresh bread - simply delicious

Fish stalls are lovely & a favourite meal is fresh Langoustines with aioli & fresh bread – simply delicious

Bright clolours of tomato & pesto cheese on a stall at L'Isle Sur La Sorgue market

Bright colours of tomato & pesto cheese on a stall at L’Isle Sur La Sorgue market

Always nice to taste before you buy

Always nice to taste before you buy

Ratatouille - ingredients ready laid out in a metal bowl

Ratatouille – ingredients ready laid out in a metal bowl – no recipe book needed – just some Olive Oil

eating your 5 a day isn't difficult when fruit looks this good - L'Isle Sur La Sorgue market

eating your 5 a day isn’t difficult when fruit looks this good – L’Isle Sur La Sorgue market

Of course the markets are not just about food, they are the ultimate shopping experience and a great place to find everything from clothes and jewellery to beautiful fabrics and hand-made pottery,even local crafts and antiques.

Fused Glass Earrings - Forcalquier - I adore these colours

Fused Glass Earrings – Forcalquier – I adore these colours

Handmade Soaps

Handmade Soaps

Brocante - one day some of these will come home with me

Brocante – one day some of these will come home with me

What I particularly love is the way that the whole town comes to life, with the shops spilling their displays onto the street and enjoying the trade that comes with the visitors who come to potter around the stalls.

One of the attractive displays outside one of the clothing shops in the old town

One of the attractive displays outside one of the clothing shops in the old town

The streets and squares are filled with the happy babble of voices, music from stalls or performers…..

Quite a crowd had stopped to listen to this band, understandably so

Quite a crowd had stopped to listen to this band, understandably so

…….and the mixed scents from the produce on the stalls with the ever-present heady smell of Lavender.

Lavender everywhere....

Lavender everywhere….

They are also so different and their appearance changes with the seasons, I loved visiting just before Christmas one year, when the stalls shone brightly with dried chillies, gourdes & enormous fresh oranges

Bright chillies

Bright chillies

Gourdes at L'Isle Sur La Sorgue

Gourdes at L’Isle Sur La Sorgue

December oranges at L'Isle Sur La Sorgue

December oranges at L’Isle Sur La Sorgue

Of course we have our favourites and over the years have found a great market for every day of the week…….

Monday – Forcalquier

Just across the border in the Alpes De Haute Provence, this vibrant market straddles the main road in the town & has a particularly great selection of local crafts.

Entrance to the Cour Des Artisans

Entrance to the Cour Des Artisans

Tuesday – Vaison La Romaine

The beautiful old town hosts a superb market that meanders away from the main central area and there always seems to be a particularly nice buzz here – it also gives us a great opportunity to wander through the streets of the old town and take in some of its delightful Roman sites.

julies phone 311013 279

Wednesday – St Remy De Provence

St Remy is a particularly good market, with stalls packing the streets and squares of the town centre, with a small area for brocante near the Café De La Place. Renowned for its links with Vincent Van Gogh, there are also some stunning art galleries here, which are also worth a visit.

A shady Square in St Remy De Provence market

A shady Square in St Remy De Provence market

Thursday – L’Isle Sur La Sorgue

The Thursday market in the town is slightly smaller than the one held in the town on a Sunday, but it also tends to be slightly quieter, making it easier to have a good look at the stalls and what is on offer. There are also some producers here that we haven’t seen elsewhere, which is always nice

Love the watery colours & simplicity of this pottery

Love the watery colours & simplicity of this pottery

Friday – Carpentras

I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever managed to see every part of Carpentras market – it is vast & rambles through the town centre & parking areas. However hard I try to put some semblance of order into my wanderings there I always seem to find a new area to explore. One of my favourite purchases from here was a particularly beautiful handmade red leather satchel for work, not cheap, but certainly worth every penny.

Even the garlic is displayed beautifully

Even the garlic is displayed beautifully

Saturday – Apt

This is one market we still manage to get the boys to, mainly because the cycle route goes straight into the town centre and it is a good excuse for a nice bike-ride. The market rambles through the old town leading you from square to square with a great range of stalls, including good local crafts from soaps to handwoven baskets and jewellery.

Lovely handmade basketware at Apt market

Lovely handmade basketware at Apt market

Sunday – L’Isle Sur La Sorgue, Coustellet

Without doubt the Sunday market at L’Isle Sur La Sorgue is my favourite with its selection of stalls, scents, colours, sounds and of course Brocante, but I have mentioned this one many times before so won’t dwell on it. The local alternative is Coustellet- a small town about 6 miles away, which has a lovely Sunday morning Farmer’s market, a good source of great local produce.

Fruit pates

Fruit pates

These are just a few of our favourites – there are many others of all shapes and sizes taking place in towns and villages across the area, so it is always worth checking to see what might be on before heading out for the day.

There’s a good selection of websites now that list all the markets, but a couple of the best ones I’ve found are

http://theprovencepost.blogspot.co.uk/p/local-markets.html

http://www.provenceguide.co.uk/markets/offer-18-1.html

but there are also craft markets and some fantastic pottery markets, where local producers display their wares – great if you are looking for something a bit different – they arer usually heralded by yellow notices attached to signposts etc, but a good list can be found here

http://www.terresdeprovence.org/marches-potiers/marches-potier.php

Fantastic Penguins at Gordes Pottery Market

Fantastic Penguins at Gordes Pottery Market

Bright handpainted mugs - Gordes pottery market

Bright handpainted mugs – Gordes pottery market

Needless to say I can’t wait for the next time we visit & being able to plan my days around the local markets – I suppose it is a bit of an obsession, but surely there are worse ways to want to spend my time!!

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