Exploring the Markets

There’s something about a French market, which makes them stand out from any others that we’ve visited over the years. It doesn’t matter where you are, there will always be a market nearby, whether it’s a few stalls in a small village, or a vast event that fills the streets and squares of a pretty town with colour, scent and bustle.

The markets around us in Provence are incredible, and are always worth seeking out if you are staying in the area. You will also find that towns and villages host the sellers on different days of the week, so whenever you’re here, you’ll be able to find one or two to explore.

In the winter the markets still take place, but are inevitably much smaller than the sprawling events of the summer, but whatever the season, you’ll find a superb selection of produce on offer, reflecting the time of year. We now tend to mark the passing of the seasons with the arrival of particular fruits, vegetables and even flowers; from the early spring sight of asparagus, Carpentras strawberries and local tulips…

To the late spring, when trays of local cherries appear, from vibrant ruby red orbs to heavy, deliciously juicy, dark purple fruits…

Then the earthy smells that come with the first of the autumn mushrooms, and baskets filled with Ceps….

And of course the winter sunshine that comes with buckets filled with scented Mimosa from the Cote D’Azur…

You certainly can’t buy cherries in winter or Mimosa in June, but that is part of the joy, as you eat with the seasons and look forward to the new produce, as it starts to appear on the stalls.

There are the general markets, but also a number of local towns and villages host local farmers’ markets too, when you can buy fruit, veg, cheese and honey all produced within a very short distance of the host town. On Tuesday mornings (all year round) you’ll find the farmer’s market in Apt, bringing producers from the surrounding area and the same in Coustellet on a Wednesday evening and Sunday mornings too.

These small markets are lovely and the trays of fruit and veg usually have labels showing exactly where the food has been grown, so you know if your lettuce is from Apt or Menerbes; if your cherries are from Bonnieux or Villars, or perhaps if your goat’s cheese from Saint Martin de Castillon or Gordes. It makes such a difference knowing exactly where your food comes from and they are a great way to support the small makers too.

There are also the regular village markets, which from early spring fill car parks and squares with stalls, their bright awnings bringing even more colour to the pretty streets of places like Saint-Saturnin-Les-Apt and Bonnieux amongst others.

I can’t help but have a soft spot for the Friday morning market in Lourmarin, with the stalls set up under the plane trees that line the road skirting the village centre. For some reason this is always a really sociable place to visit and with its superb selection of street cafes, there are plenty of opportunities for coffee stops, when your arms ache from carrying a basket filled with produce.

Then there are the weekly markets in the larger towns, which are an experience like no other. On Saturday, our local town Apt hosts, what I believe to be the best market in the area. I know I’m biased, but I love the mix of stalls, the way that in the summer, almost every inch of the narrow streets is filled with something to look at.

These markets may be smaller, but they are a still a great way to pass a morning, browsing the stalls, exploring the village and sitting with a coffee and a pain au chocolat, at a local cafe watching the world pass by, which I have to admit, is one of my favourite pastimes.

It has something for everyone, with small local artisans and farmers, side by side with sprawling stalls packed with all nature of goods. Everyone has their favourite stalls and mine include the superb baker, who is always set up on the front of the sous-prefecture square….

The incredible flower stall that always has something to tempt me…

And in the summer a grower, who sells little punnets filled with just what you need to make ratatouille or salsa verde…

It always has a great atmosphere and again, there are plenty of places to stop for coffee, or a cooling drink, taking the weight off your feet, before you continue on again…

If you still feel you need to visit another market over the weekend, then on Sunday (as well as the farmers’ market in Coustellet), there is the incredible market in L’Isle Sur La Sorgue, a beautiful town, laced with waterways, which hosts both a general market as well as a brocante market too.

The general market there is wonderful and again fills the narrow streets and beautiful squares with colour and bustle, but as well as that you can also browse the antiques stalls that line the main road through the town, where you may find that perfect vintage piece to take home with you, to remind you of your visit too.

Each market has its own very special character, so it isn’t a case of if you have visited one, you have visited them all.

Forcalquier market, in the neighbouring department of the Alpes de Haute Provence has a lovely artisan square, filled with local makers of pottery, jewellery and other homewares…

The Tuesday morning market in Banon is also smaller, but gives you a great excuse to visit the traditional provencal hilltop village, with steep streets leading up to the church, used for art exhibitions, which is also home to Le Bleuet, which is considered to be the best bookshop in the area.

And on Wednesday, there is the stunning music-filled market in Saint Remy de Provence, which again has lots of artisan stalls, reflecting the town’s strong community of maker-led shops too, which are always a delight to explore.

Whether you want to simply fill your basket with local seasonal produce, explore a town when it is full of bustle, or simply sit and watch the world pass by over coffee, then timing your visit around market day is a great option.

We can always help you organise your time in the area, visiting towns around the weekly markets, as part of our personalised planning service for your holiday here. If you would like to know more about this, please get in touch and we’ll do what we can to help you make the most of your time in Provence.

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