This article represents a recaptured memory of a trip to Paris and Provence in 2003 with a group of 4 other friends.
When I visited Paris and Provence in 2003 I fell in love. France is an exceptionally beautiful place, and these 2 spots truly captured my heart. I especially loved the vibrancy of life in the markets of Paris and Uzes. All the colors and aromas and voices and textures everywhere were a feast for the senses. There is a market in some neighborhood of Paris every day of the week and the Uzes market is Wednesday and Saturday. These markets are in beautiful locations, the vendors have laid out their goods like artwork, the flowers and vegetables arranged like patchwork quilts of color. The brightly colored calico baskets filled with beautiful herbs and spices, and the delicious aromas around every turn will take your breath away.
One of the best things about an outdoor market is people-watching and when you are in a foreign country it is so much fun. Paris itself, so beautiful and home to some of the most cosmopolitan people in the world, is a mecca for people-watching. In the Paris markets many of the shoppers move through with a sense of purpose, get the baguette, get the fromage, get the salade, move on. It seems that everyone in Paris heads home in the evening with a baguette tucked into their bags. Most Parisians seem to possess an air of metropolitan style , but of course there is also an abundance of tourists and plenty of “just plain folk” as we say in the south, but you have to look a little closer to notice, they are often overshadowed by such an abundance of beauty in the city herself as well as her people. The older women, though very conservative, possess a sense of timeless elegance in Chanel suits they’ve probably worn forty years and the young people, even dressed in jeans and t-shirts, entwined and kissing, exude an air of french sophistication.
The towns and villages of Provence offer a more casual atmosphere at a slower, calmer pace. There is a good blend of sophisticated urbanites and country farmers. Uzes, a small medieval town, is a lovely mix of urbane and ancient, boasting medieval towers, a castle and the origin of Pont du Gard, alongside michelin rated dining. Being a little off the beaten path, it retains an authenticity and makes it a great home base with all of Provence at your fingertips. This is a stunning rental in the heart of Uzes: http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p1069810a The center of the town is the beautiful Place aux Herbes, an area of arcaded buildings of ancient stones that provide the perfect backdrop to the market.
The bounty of really delicious food to be found in these markets is truly astonishing. You can buy a fresh chicken seen hanging by it’s feet or you can follow the mouth-watering aroma of roasting chicken with potatoes cooking in the pan juices. The seafood is very fresh and beautifully arranged like a study in pink and grey. The fruits and vegetables are so vibrant and healthy-looking, you know they are bursting with flavor. There are olives and cheeses, sausages and breads, wines and olive oils,it doesn’t end. It can become very intoxicating but it’s wonderful to navigate through that sensory overload and come out with the ingredients for an amazing meal.
We had such a good time returning to the villa at the end of the day, opening a bottle of wine and sharing in the preparation of a delicious dinner. We tried blood sausage(no), we discovered a delicious lettuce called mache, we ate a lot of wonderful cheeses including our favorite, comte, we made soup, we ate salmon en papillotte with artichokes, and we drank the best cheap wines of our lives.
I must mention that there are so many things other than food in french markets. They have beautiful pottery, wonderful fabrics and linens, lovely scarves and baskets and on and on. Most vendors speak some english, and if you are courteous and try to speak some french, they may negotiate, and you may walk away with a great memento or gift along with a treasured memory of really communicating and connecting.
There are open-air cafes and benches scattered throughout Uzes, and on this day, with the shopping done, we stopped at an outdoor cafe for a refreshment. I noticed this adorable little girl and quickly snapped her picture. What was she watching so intently? Had she found a toy she wanted and was patiently waiting for her mere to return so she could show it to her? Did she spy a patisserie ahead and make a wish that her mere will buy her a pain au chocolat?
Two older women were seated on a bench opposite me talking, one holding up her hands demonstrating size then moving her hands closer as they both convulsed into private laughter. Wait, did she just describe ….??? Too funny! What a great reminder that we are all alike, we all laugh and cry at the same things.
In towns and villages and countrysides all over the world, regardless of our language or our culture, we all want the same things, to live comfortably and peacefully with our families and friends and to have a life that includes love and laughter. At the end of the day there is nothing else that matters.
Lift your face, Cindy