There is something wonderful about a traditional French market and over the years we’ve spent a considerable amount of time ambling around them in different towns across the Country.
The lively Saturday Market in Apt
The nice thing is that each area expresses its own identity through its markets – with the wonderful seafood stalls, full of Langoustines and other delights along the West Coast…..
Through to the more earthy produce including home produced Confit Duck & Foie Gras in the Dordogne…
And of course the fruits, olives and lavender of Provence.
Wonderful fresh tomatoes in Provence
When we’re in France we find that our shopping habits totally change and that our meals shift with the seasons and what we can buy from the markets and local roadside farm stalls, rather than being based so much on what we can get from the local supermarket.
A box of fresh produce from a local roadside stall
The markets are so much more accessible in France than they are where we live at the moment – I know our local city Exeter has a small farmers’ market one morning a week, based on a small corner of a street and we do use that, but that is it and it is a far cry from the sprawling markets that bring the towns and villages to life in Provence.
Many of our bike rides are based around which markets are on & whether we need anything in particular for tea – in fact the basket on my bike is often filled with produce on the way back from a ride.
Miss Daisy’s basket comes in useful
It is difficult to pick favourites and I have already written about Apt, Lourmarin and Forcalquier, which fill the streets and squares with stalls.
Here though are 3 others, which for very different reasons have become firm favourites over the years but mainly we like them for being small, but perfectly formed.
The Thursday Market in L’Isle Sur La Sorgue
These aren’t necessarily the most well-known markets, but each has its own charm and character and is worth a visit.
The Farmers’ Market that takes place in Coustellet on a Sunday morning is a fantastic place to pick up fruits and veg, together with other produce from local farmers and crafts people.
It’s based in the large car park in the centre of the village, where the farmers and small businesses set up their stalls from early in the morning through to lunchtime.
The thriving market in early Spring
The market spreads into the side roads and also across the main road, where you can find more general traders selling a wider range of goods, from fabric to ceramics and (during the summer) a couple of Brocante stalls too.
The flowers and plants are also a good buy here
The highlight though here is the coming together of local growers and their produce is always ‘farm-fresh’ so don’t expect to be able to buy tomatoes in April or Asparagus in October as the produce shifts with the seasons and depends on what the farmers have in their fields.
The Asparagus in Spring is delicious
The quality of the food is always fantastic and it is one of the few places that I have been able to find fresh Sorrel, which tastes fantastic in a cream sauce with fish.
And in September the boxes of local apples sell like hot-cakes – as not only are they delicious, but also incredibly good value and our eldest eats them by the tray-load.
The market here is always vibrant, colourful and fun & it’s nice to sit with a coffee in the heart of it by the old station building, just enjoying the atmosphere and absorbing the smells.
Stalls like this smell heavenly
Due to the nature of the market it is closed during the Winter months and opens in Spring (in fact Easter Sunday this year). Parking can be a bit chaotic so it’s best to arrive early, although generally you can find space in the parking that runs alongside the cycle path on the road towards Robion.
Over the years we’ve grown very fond of Bonnieux, perched on a hillside just outside Apt with incredible views across the Luberon valley.
The cycle up to Bonnieux is worth it for this view
It’s a pretty place to visit at any time of year, but if you happen to arrive on a Friday morning you’ll be delighted by its market, which brings the heart of the village to life.
The market fills the village with life
The market takes place in the main square and in the season, spills down the hill & across the road into the parking area around the church.
There’s always a great selection of stalls from local fruit & veg and cheeses to crafts and clothing.
Seasonal melons & strawberries
There are a few nice cafés & restaurants around the square and in the village, but we always tend to head to the terrace of Le Terrail on the corner of the main Market Square for a coffee & a croissant bought from the Boulangerie below. The view from here across to Lacoste is lovely and there’s a great accompanying babble from the market too.
The perfect place for breakfast
We tend to cycle up, but if you drive there are plenty of parking areas dotted around the village, so it’s relatively easy to park.
Saint Saturnin Lès Apt:
Saint Saturnin Lès Apt is a little gem of a village. Sitting on the Northern flank of the Vaucluse Plateau with great views across towards The Luberon, it is a full of beautiful buildings with an incredible history and is always a nice place to visit & explore.
The old windmill set just above the village with stunning views across to The Luberon
Of course we tend to head there on a Tuesday, when the small market sets up in the main square, by the incredibly moving Memorial to the Resistance.
The market umbrellas in the main square
Again this isn’t a rambling market, but it fills the main square and in the Summer runs into the side streets too.
Even in early Spring the market is a nice one to visit
There is always a good mix of stalls, from fish and fruit to plants, photography and pottery.
Stalls spill into the side streets during the Summer
There are also regular appearances by a delightful couple (normally found at the Saturday Market in Apt outside the Cathedral) selling great cheeses – including my all-time favourite – aux truffes.
It is always good to see produce from a very local farms being sold too – the strawberries from the stall this week were superb!
The village is also home to the workshop of Martin Guimet, who creates gorgeous signs that can be seen across the area.
Her stall is usually found opposite the Bar Des Amis, on the main street, which is also the perfect place to sit with a coffee, whilst watching the market go on around you.
Mid morning coffee under the shade at Bar des Amis
There is plenty of parking available in Saint Saturnin, especially heading down past the swimming pool and so it’s usually relatively easy to park, even in the summer if arriving by car.
Pretty views out from Saint Saturnin
Of course there are many other village markets taking place across the area, but these are 3 favourites of ours.
They offer everything we need from a market and provide a quieter, more gentle option than some of those in the larger towns.
Roussillon’s Thursday Market is also worth a visit
Not only is it a pleasure to do our shopping like this, but we find that we don’t end up with bins full of plastic waste either as the fruit & veg is put straight into the ‘must-have’ basket or bag.
The big markets are always great to visit but next time why not hunt out one of the smaller ones and take the opportunity to explore a new place. You won’t be disappointed.
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