Sunday, November 15, 2009

Market Day in Arles

Market day in Arles. All manner of stalls line the street from the crack of dawn. Tomatoes, so red, juicy and sun-kissed that you imagine picking up one and biting into its firm flesh as its tart and sweet juice spurts out. A small stall sells nothing but cheeses - fresh, mild, ripe, mature - the pungent aroma wafts over in the cold crisp air. I buy a small round of fresh provencal cheese for lunch and tuck it into my bag as we continue our saunter.

Further along, a few stalls have set up mobile rotisseries complete with gas fires licking the roasting racks, as rows of roasting chicken crackle and drip their juices onto the tray. The heat and the delicious smells are irresistable on a chilly late-autumn's day. I buy one too, intending it for our planned picnic lunch later on the banks of the Rhone river, and the friendly stallkeeper obligingly spoons in heaps of caramelised carrots and onions that have been basting in the roasting juices.

The butcheries and seafood stalls do a roaring business, with hordes of housewives lining up patiently for their turn to speak to the butcher / poissonnier and get advice on the best and freshest cuts and catches of the day. At a stall that specialises in shellfish, a non-stop string of customers point, 1 kg of mussels, 1 kg of sea urchins, 1 dozen of oysters, and walk away with bulging bags and the promise of a special dinner. As if under a spell, we can't help but buy half a dozen Normandy oysters as a pre-lunch snack, although none of us has ever shucked an oyster up till now.

Yet further down, the food stalls give way to a flea market, as early morning stretches into mid-morning. There is something particularly poignantly romantic about the old-world charm of the wares displayed on the pavement, dappled with the bright provencal sunlight. Old stamps and first day covers. Lovingly polished heavy silver serving forks and spoons. Sets of horn-handled cutlery. Lace and reams of cloth. Old leather bags and cases, shiny with the patina of age. Crystal glassware.
As you lose yourself in the sights, smells, sounds and rhythm of the market, it's one of the most amazing memories you will take back with you.
Arles, Provence
Street market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am to 12 noon.

No comments:

Post a Comment