French Country Markets

Village markets in France roll around once or twice a week, and if you happen to miss your local marché, there’s always another one the following day in a village nearby. I can sense pre- market excitement when I’m staying in a village but maybe it’s just my own eagerness to get there. I must confess, I’m a French market junkie, having been to around a dozen or so over the last four weeks, and I put this down to my greed and lust for good food. I’m in the right country. French markets are integral to life here. Supplies come to your village from the local district: some from the farmers, cheese makers, apiarists, some from local artisans, and of course, manufacturers of cheap clothing. Heading out the front door, with strong bags in hand, and strolling through narrow lanes and medieval arcades, with no car traffic to deal with enroute, is far more pleasurable than heading off to a supermarket by car. If only my local market back at home near Melbourne was as easy to visit, without fear of being run down by speeding tourists keen to park as close to the market as possible. In French country markets, cars are banned: they are parked on the outskirts of the village, allowing easy access for vendors’ vehicles. All shoppers must walk to the market.

Market day, Pezenas.

What treasures will turn up this week? What new seasonal vegetables will be on offer and will I show some restraint for a change? The church bells are chiming 8 am and I can hardly wait. Today’s market in Pezenas, Occitanie, will be interesting. It takes place in a nearby square, a stone’s throw from our 16th century apartment. As I write, I can hear the trolleys being wheeled in through the port below the window.

Local oysters, Pezenas. There are also two daily oyster stalls in the town. These sell at around 6 euro a kilo. ( around 15 to a kilo)
Walnut season necessitating the purchase of a walnut cracker.

The markets in the Dordogne region varied in size and style. The large and colourful Sunday market at Issigeac was a favourite. It snaked its way around the narrow and winding village streets in an unpredictable way, given that Issigeac doesn’t have a large market square. All sorts of vendors turned up: the mushroom man, selling girelles, trompe du mort and Cèpes (porcini): a rugged looking duo selling oysters of every size, boxed up for buyers on beds of seaweed, a curly red headed lady with honey and bees wax for sale, who played the squeeze box and sang French folk songs when not engaged in selling, and the usual array of vegetable, cheese and saucisson stalls.

The most delicious mushrooms, Cèpes. Ne Pas Toucher, Mischa Belle.
Miel. Local honey in the Dordogne. Our honey pot, tasting of woods and flowers, was a gift from our landlord,  Jean Pierre, from his own bees.

The Thursday market at Monpazier ( it has always been held on Thursdays since the 13th century ) was much smaller, though on one occasion, a mattress seller took pride of place in the square and I did rather fancy the knife sharpening man, a skill that is slowly dying. The big town market at Bergerac encircled the town’s cathedral, then radiated uphill along adjacent streets. A huge christening ceremony took place one Saturday while the market was in full swing, the shoppers and vendors forming a row of honour as the family and baby arrived.

There were little stalls selling sweet canelè in every flavour, lots of walnut stalls, chestnuts, and a substantial flower market. The Saturday market at Le Bugue, right on the Dordogne, sold the best Paella, cakess and quiches and the huge poissomiere truck did a roaring trade. I purchased a small tub of brandade to spread on croutons: this is one dish I never bother to make at home given the tedious soaking of salted cod required.

Not for sale, otherwise they would now be in my suitcase!

In each market you’ll usually find a separate area where cheap clothing, linen, shoes and handbags are sold. These stalls are appealing at first, then after a while, you recognise the same garments at every market- this season it’s oversized knitted sloppy joes, women’s tops with large stars on the back, and retro looking cotton tops with a lot of glitter and sequins.

Radish and parsnip. Bergerac market

One of the other features of the village market, and one I’m too shy and too foreign to join, is the footpath café scene. Coffee and wine are sipped slowly,  double or triple kiss greetings take place as locals gather to catch up, though you can always spot a French poseur or two, and a few expats trying very hard to appear local. I’ll head to the Café des Arts in the late afternoon for a Pastis. I’ve acquired a taste for this old Provençal drink. I’ll wave about an imaginary Gauloises and if chilly, I may even don my new fingerless gloves or perhaps a beret. Bonne journée.

Take away seafood paella. One metre wide paella dish.
Market day cafe scene, Pezenas

This is my list for Languedoc/ now Occitanie.

21 thoughts on “French Country Markets”

  1. The French Tourist Bureau should pay for your trip ! Like a good witch you are enticing each and every one of us to rethink our next journey overseas ! Love markets as much as you . . . . the porcini are expensive enough but to pay just 6 euros a kilo for those wonderful oysters . . . . can’t wait to be there myself . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now that would be rather nice-to be paid to visit markets and villages in France. I’ve become a Francophile. There are some ugly bits and I have had 3 bad meals, but I don’t write about negative stuff- there’s too much of it in the world already. The porcini were worth it Eha, believe me. I bought a little 10 euro box full and stretched it over two meals. The stalks were brushed down carefully so that every bit was used. Oh heavenly taste. Best straight up in an omelette: wasted in a risotto. Oysters- time for some more today, in the interests of one’s health of course.

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  2. Reading your post took me right into the markets with you. Oh, those mushrooms. I can almost smell their earthy sent. France has such a wonderful market culture and correcting one’s afternoon coffee with Pastis (or Sambuca) is a must in my book. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Winter fare in France, especially in the squillions of market places, is superb! A few Euro and one can be sated. What gorgeous fun. Parsnips are $15 a kilo here. Love them but at what cost. Keep marketing, we love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a dream experience! My local Farmer’s Market has bright spots but nothing as wonderful as the markets in France, you’ve captured and described the essence. Loving your holidays posts, wish I could join you for an afternoon pasties and gossip

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love French Markets too! In Northern France last weekend all the markets were drowing in apples and apple products, for apple season. Yummy! Hubby also spied huge quantities of walnuts, resisted buying any (I don’t know why!) and the ones I now see in the UK don’t look nearly as good!

    Liked by 1 person

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