Aix-en-Provence markets

Cabbage plants Aix-en-Provence market (2)
I know this is weird, but these cabbages are one of my favorite travel pictures ever

Give your kids a Mother Earth lesson and take them to local produce markets, if you’re lucky enough to have one in your area. Firstly, they’ll learn food isn’t born shrinkwrapped in a supermarket. The main Aix-en-Provence market is such an inspiring place I want to stay there all day.

Aix-en-Provence Market

I walk through sleepy cobbled streets at 7am on a Saturday under a Provence sky as grey as a pigeon’s breast. Vendors at the  main Aix-en-Provence market are still setting up their canopies and wares, and are surprised to see such an early customer. It’s “Bonjour!” all round. The soft early light is perfect for taking pictures. It’s in these places that people come to connect in a way unchanged for centuries. To taste, gossip and shop, as I’ve written recently. The Provençal vendors have much to say about their artisan breads, luscious berries, almond cookies, sunflowers, vegetables, herbs and lavender goods. Making that connection between producer and customer is often lost in our intensely urban environments.

Top picture: Bunches of lavender. Bottom pix: cabbage plants and almond cookies called calisson. Almonds are a big crop in this area.
Top picture: Bunches of lavender. So Provencal. Bottom pix: cabbage plants and almond cookies called calisson. Almonds are a big crop in this area

Aix-en-Provence Market 2

As you can see from my pictures, it’s a riot of colour and a feast for the senses. I can’t think of a better outdoors expedition for kids that combines learning about Mother Earth’s bounty, the environment, about connecting with community, with everything that tastes so good. They might even learn to love lots of veges, if you let them choose the cabbages.

Taste's for Travel's pictures Aix-en-Provence market

artisan bread Aix en provence

Supermarket food shopping is a disconnected task. There’s nothing communal about it except you’re in a store with other people also pushing trolleys. You have no interaction with the producers of the food you choose to buy. That’s why I seek out produce markets when I travel – whether it’s in my own backyard or yours – because I love to talk with the people who love their produce. We all know that something made with love always tastes better. And produce markets often offer specialist gourmet and organic goods not available mainstream.

Climont and his range of artisan bread. Images copyright: Taste for Travel
Climont and his range of artisan bread. Images copyright: Taste for Travel

Provençal markets are the open hearts of southern French communities. They’re held in squares shaded by plane trees, marked on all sides by quintessential provincial architecture with doors and window shutters of  leaf green, dark emerald, dusky blue, garnet, slate and ash. The Aix-en-Provence markets take place in the city centre squares: Place des Prêcheurs and Place de la Madeleine and in the surrounding areas (Encagnane, Jas de Bouffan). Saturday is the the busiest day. The antique and second-hand book fair is held on the first Sunday of each month. (I wander around that one too, the following day, sadly knowing there’s no room in my suitcase)

Flowers at Aix-en-Provence market

The lovely Laetitia and her organic goodies
The lovely Laetitia and her organic goodies. Images copyright: Taste for Travel

But I go to the produce market with one shopping bag and come back to my hotel with four. My French is basic and there isn’t a lot of English spoken, but the enthusiasm and smiles of the vendors speak volumes. Climont  recommends his organic bread made from black oats, and he also has a range of wheat-free breads. Laetitia insists I sample her organic cheesecakes. She also makes sugar-free organic cookies. I buy a cheesecake topped with lemon, and sit at a cafe on the square, order a cafe au lait and eat the cheesecake for breakfast. Bonne journée!

Sunflowers, raspberries and blueberries Aix-en-Provence market
Sunflowers and berry delicious… berries

If you liked this post, you might like to read about my visit to the Arles market and the markets of Gordes at the gateway to the Luberon Valley. I visited Aix-en-Provence with Back-Roads Touring, which specialises in small group tours and really does explore the best of rural France.

2 thoughts on “Aix-en-Provence markets

  1. Markets are at the heart of communities in many countries. In the West children don’t know any better but in developing countries and the Third World kids know food isn’t a shrinkwrapped product of the supermarkets. Nice post though 🙂

    Like

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