Market Scene: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
An endless sprawl of cheeses and olives, asparagus and charcuterie; the Wednesday morning market in Saint-Rémy is the serene Provençal spread of your dreams. No writer has made it through southern France without pausing to wax poetic about the bustling, colorful stands that make up the outdoor shopping experience in this part of the world. Covering most of the town—which, with a population of only 10,000 people, isn't quite as massive as it sounds—the market at Saint-Rémy is well-known as one of the region's best.
The market sets up at around nine in the morning, crawling along Boulevard Marceau towards the heart of the town. At its edges, non-food vendors hawk clothes and crafts. By the time you reach the over-size central roundabout, seafood trucks emerge, giant ice chests extended from their sides like distended bellies, overflowing with urchins and oysters, langoustines, and impeccably fresh fish. The stalls in the grassy plaza sell tablecloths and napkins sporting classic Provençal themes, alongside displays of ceramic cooking vessels and tableware. Bright blue casseroles, thick green mugs, vibrant red bowls—it's a cook's fantasy, and one that only gets better when you turn down the Rue Lafayette. Here are the meats, potted and cured, the cheeses, stinky-soft or alpine-hard, and the kind of small-batch preserves that leave you wondering if there's a place to buy a spare suitcase before you head home.
Since so many streets are closed off for the market, arriving much past 9:30 is tempting the parking gods, even in the off-season. For tourists taking the 45-minute trip from Avignon, that calls for an early departure; luckily, there's plenty of breakfast to be had upon arrival. Prepared foods, like potatoes with olives and grilled sausages, compete with giant pans of paella, but the smart shopper won't fill up too fast, as vendors are quick to offer samples. Wandering from charcuterie stand to cheese table, pausing for duck rilletes and cleansing the palate with a few olives, one could make an entire meal of small bites. A little nibble helps to fortify the appetite while gazing over stunning displays of colossal cabbages, brilliantly-hued radishes, and the occasional miniature goat.
About the author: Naomi Bishop is a Seattle based food and travel writer. Find her wandering through words and worlds on her blog, TheGastroGnome, where she claims that being a GastroGnome is not about sitting idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages. Follow her explorations of cooking and culture around the world at @GastroGnome. Get restaurant suggestions and locate local eats in the Northwest from her app, Unique Eats of the Northwest.