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??
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!!)
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.
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.
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.
The streets and squares are filled with the happy babble of voices, music from stalls or performers…..
…….and the mixed scents from the produce on the stalls with the ever-present heady smell of Lavender.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!!