This morning I hopped in the car & headed across to Forcalquier, a short distance from us in the neighbouring Department of Alpes-De-Haute-Provence. Monday is its market day and provides the perfect excuse for a visit (if such a thing is needed?) and it is a lovely drive across along the northern flank of the Luberon, before the views open out across to the Valensole Plateau and on towards the Southern Alps.
Although this morning was slightly misty the snow was gleaming on the towering mountains in the distance & simply served to remind me to make sure that we bring the skis down this year and find out where the closest slopes to us will be (apart from Mont Ventoux of course)
Forcalquier itself is a pretty place with the main road separating the old & new parts of the town and the market straddles both sides. In the summer there is always a Police Officer ready to help visitors cross from one side to the other, but it really wasn’t needed today. Like most of the markets in the area it is much smaller at this time of year, but still has a lovely atmosphere and enough stalls to meet my needs today and to prompt an impulse buy of fabric to make a loose-cover for a chair!
First stop (of course) was for coffee and a chance to sit in the sun in the main square just watching people go about their business & to listen to the gentle babble that always accompanies a Provencal market. It was whilst I was sat there that a man came alongside me and thrust a microphone at me asking if he could do an interview with me for the radio. Now I like to think that I have a reasonable level of French, but I’m not sure that anything I would have said would have been fully understood by any listeners (even if I was fully ‘au fait’ with the subject to be discussed) so we had a brief chat and he then wandered off to a nearby table to chat with others who seemed more than happy to have 5 minutes of fame.
Shortly after & eager to avoid any further chance of being interviewed I took myself off to take a wander around the stalls. In the lower car park there are always a good number of produce stalls and like at Coustellet it is relatively easy to find locally grown & produced food. Today however I was drawn by the quality of the citrus fruits, just piled up on the tables – oh how I wish we could get fruit like this back at home.
Needless to say some came home with me and it is delicious. It also prompted me to look at visitor information for the Menton Citrus Festival, which starts the week after next as I’ve always wanted to visit so fully intend to seize the opportunity whilst I’m here!
After wandering through the market I took a walk up through the narrow streets to the Citadelle, which sits proudly above the old town and offers fantastic, uninterrupted views across to the Alps.
Following the signs you walk up old cobbled streets, before it turns into a path and numerous (slightly uneven steps) that climb to the octagonal structure via the ‘Chemin de la Croix’
Built on the site of the original Chateau of the ‘Counts of Forcalquier’ the beautiful domed building was opened in 1875 and is home to a rare set of 15 church bells (originally 20). The bells are still rung by hand every Sunday morning at 11.30 and on major festival days too.
The flat area surrounding the Citadelle offers stunning views and as such it’s easy to see why the Forcalquier Counts had chosen it for the location of their Castle. There is an orientation table too, helping you to pick out the key landmarks, from the Montagne Du Lure to the Gorges de Verdon amongst many others.
Today the sun was framed beautifully in the centre of the metal sculpture and so I was very happy to be able to spend a good half hour there just watching the shadows and clouds shift across the sky and landscape below, before I really did have to make a move.
I can’t help but like Forcalquier, it’s perhaps a little less polished than some other towns near us, but it does have a lovely relaxed atmosphere and the narrow streets of the old town are nice to explore. It’s also home to a number of thriving ‘Ateliers D’Art’ from the lovely jewellery made by Sylvain Ange and sold from a small shop on the corner of the main ‘Old Town’ Square to the quirky pieces on offer at L’Atelier D’Aneth just a little further along the street. In the summer, when the market is in full swing there is a lovely craft market situated in the aptly named ‘Cour Des Artisans’ just off the main market area, where local crafts people come to sell their beautiful & unique wares and this is always worth a visit.
If you fancy taking some time to explore the Art on offer further then there is a guide book available at the Tourist Information Office on the main square as you enter the town. More information on this and other attractions in the area is available via the website http://www.haute-provence-tourisme.com
So all in all it was another nice morning, followed by a lovely (longer than planned) cycle ride this afternoon.
Tomorrow I really must start to work on some of the things I have to do at the house – all this gallivanting isn’t really encouraging me to get anything done – so it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone …………………
Unless of course something else takes my fancy!