The markets of Provence January 05 2018, 0 Comments
Markets are part of Provence. They are a heritage of the Provencal “dolce vita” and are deeply rooted with inhabitants of the region.
The village’s markets are an integral part of your whole life. From being a baby in a stroller immersed in a bunch of people to being an old person buying your fresh weekly products there, the markets of Provence are always a part of your life.
If you have grown in Provence, you remember that important day: the day your parents gave you some coins and asked you to go down to the market alone to buy bread and some pastries. Youth enjoys these moments of freedom to meet their friends there.
The markets of Provence are picturesque, full of life and movement. They are a place where you can meet interesting people. Villages markets are excellent for a variety of items you would not find in normal shops, as well as for good prices, if you are a careful shopper. Village Markets are traditionally located in the old town, at the heart of the village where you can have all public amenities like banks, cafés & bar. They are an excellent occasion to have a break and share a “café gourmand” with family or friends during the market shopping session.
Many villages have a daily produce market where local suppliers, from individuals with tiny plots to larger professional farmers, sell fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, bread, olives and other local specialities. For example the market of Aix en Provence hosts its main market on Saturday. The village of Gardanne, 10 kilometers away from Aix, hosts its main market on Sunday and is one of the most beautiful market of the region. Calisson by Gilles will bring you there later this year.
Other markets usually appear in a particular village or town on one specific day of the week. The market sellers are completely mobile and are traveling in trucks & vans. They travel from village to village and numerous markets of the region. They are working full time from Monday to Sunday.
Besides professional farmers, you will find clothes for the whole family, tools, books, records, antiques, junk, treasure, art and things you would never imagine. For instance you can buy an olive tree or mattress for your bed. It’s like going to the Mall!
Local Markets to visit
Here is an overview of the main markets that are worth a visite. However the little villages markets with there picturesque atmosphere are sometimes more charming than bigger ones.
For a trip or short stay in Provence try to discover the following ones:
Aix en Provence
The Old Town of Aix en Provence serves as the central hub in Aix. The market is present in Aix on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The latter is the most popular. You can get a sense of what a Provencal market is like here.
Place des Prêcheurs is the place for fruit, vegetable, meat and fish sellers. Place de l’Hôtel de Ville is the place where you can pick up a fresh bouquet for your beloved, a provencal tablecloth and do bargains hunt for old books. Cours Mirabeau will be the place for textiles and Place de Verdun will be the spot for antiques.
Marseille has a lot of marketplaces that we could write a topic dedicated to it. We have highlighted a few:
“Le Marché aux Poissons”: the main fish market of the city is beloved by both natives and tourists. The marketplace is open by 08.00 am and you will be able to buy the catches of the day (actually catches of the night by local fishermen). The earlier you come, the more choice you will get. The chefs of the top restaurants of Marseille and surrounding area are there at the earliest so they can buy the best fishes !
In summer, you can stop at “Les Artisanales” at the Vieux-Port place. You will find typical products such as handcrafted soaps, honey, Provencal fabrics and other artisanal souvenirs.
Northwest of Aix en Provence is Avignon, a city known for its medieval architecture which have survived to this day.
The medieval tradition is always part of its market place: the most famous market of Avignon is Les Halles, open each Monday where you will discover a huge panel of products such as herbs, spices, broke olives and olive oil. You are in the department of Vaucluse which is famous for its olive production and you can feel it at each corner of the market (and the streets of Avignon by the way). During the month of July, Avignon holds an international festival which deserves to be discovered for its contents and atmosphere.
Here is an vintage picture showing how old are Les Halles in Avignon.
Types of Markets
The regular and traditional market is mainly for food. The standard is a high quality food. The markets are attended by the people who make the food, grow it, harvest it, bake it, or bottle it. Cheeses and milk products are fresh. Poultry and meats are locals with a huge variety of sausage. Honey, Olives is locally produced and vegetables come from local gardens around the market area. You can find tasty and succulent apple from the Alps or buy some local herbs from the Garrigue (the vegetation of Provence) like Thym, Romarin, ail, Origan (Thyme, Rosemary, garlic, Oregano).
The Foire is the clothing market, with mainly new clothes, and usually at bargain prices. For
all people, all ages, all brands (or no brands). You can even find some perfumes where their scent undoubtedly remind the giants brands like Chanel, YSL, Lancôme etc… but with prices that can’t be beaten. It is not the original perfume so know what you are buying!
Brocante (Flea Market)
Also called Foire à la Brocante, the brocante is a place where you look for old things, interesting things, and things you don't need. Items here might be junks, or some treasures discovered in the attic of a hundred-year-old house. There can be some collections objects offered by experts, or individuals selling personal items for some change. A flea market can sometimes be associated to a Foire. The main difference of a flea market is that any individual can have a spot in there and don’t have to be professional to set up for the event.
The Valentine’s Day market is unique, everything within the market is about romance, from Adam’s apple to more adult stuff ; you will find everything. Kids, teenagers and adults enjoy this special day in Provence. There are also merry-go-rounds dedicated to entertainment in Provence at this time! Because the month of February is warmer is Provence than in other regions of France. The carnies are moving from village to villages all year.
Marché de Noël
The Christmas market breathes the Christmas season. Market sellers are in wonderful little
wooden houses to sell their Christmas products. You will undoubtedly find articles for Christmas tree, confection or the nativity scene. You also can buy seasonal products such as hot wine, roasted chestnuts (see our article of our last month), etc.
As you visit the markets of Provence, do not forget to savor our traditional French confections of Calisson by Gilles, the amazing treat that will follow you everywhere in Provence and beyond. For everybody and for all ages!
Calisson by Gilles wishes you a Happy New Year to you and your family.
About The Author:
Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.