Market Day2, Arles
We were lured into a small shop by free sample of the local wines. The shop was devoted to crafts and products of Arles and the surrounding area, known as Provence. In addition to wine, they offered fancy dolls dressed in native costumes which were made by the proprietor's wife, some colorful pottery and a local specialty - a mélange of rosemary, lavender, thyme and other herbs known, appropriately, as Herbs of Provence.
The proprietor of this small shop was a charming, robust little man who spoke English, barely, with a heavy French accent. He had made it his business to be the self-appointed, one-man Chamber of Commerce for Provence in general, and Arles in particular; he conducted his business with the uncommon enthusiasm of a True Believer. If you have any doubts about the beauty of the local women, the bravery of the local men, the perfection of the climate, the quality of the wine, or the elevation of the local cuisine, it is his personal mission to enlighten you.
When Rita asked him what were the regional food specialties, we knew we had a winner when his favorite recipe started out with a handful of garlic cloves sautéed in olive oil and ended with him kissing his finger tips and exclaiming "Jesus a Christ, it's a gooda!" (Twenty years later, Rita is still using this recipe, and if I ask what's for dinner, it's "Jesus Christ Pork Chops.")
He also insisted we stay in Arles until Saturday so we could experience market day. What a feast for the senses is market day at Arles! The still, damp air held close and intermingled the scents of fresh coffee, roasting chickens, flowers, hot bread and buttery pastries, goat cheese, tobacco smoke, dried herbs and spices, fresh fish (and not so fresh), shrimp, and mussels, hot pizza, and wet wool - a kaleidoscope for the nose.
One vendor offers only olives: smooth, wrinkled, big ones, little ones, dozens of varieties in every shade from light green to darkest black, and even pink. Another offered buckets of multicolored spices and herbs arranged like a giant pallet of artist's paints. Arabs and Africans in ethnic dress display tables of shinning brass, gleaming copper, or satiny silk scarves with gold threads.
Behind coiled ropes of sausage links, cured hams , hunks of beef and horse meat, a girl is deftly hacking at fresh goat carcass with a big cleaver; crunch, crunch, crunch. Chickens and game fowl are offered plucked, but with the feet and heads still attached. Live baby chicks, cheeping little fluffs of yellow, huddle together for warmth in their wooden cages next to clucking hens, cooing pigeons, quacking ducks, and some rabbits - who didn't have much to say.
We took a sideline seat in a sidewalk cafe and watched matrons on mopeds buzz by with long loaves of bread sticking up from their wicker baskets, while barrel-chested, red faced men in berets sit shoulder to shoulder over coffee, wine or cigarettes.
arlesfrancemarketeuropean bicycle tour