One of the real pleasures of being in the South of France, be it on holiday, or living here, is undoubtedly the Provencal French markets that swoop into the middle of the village on a Sunday morning. Beautiful French historic town or village centres are transformed by the Provencal market. What was, the day before, a peaceful village square with a few cafes serving the odd
pastis, and some old men playing boules, watching the world go by, transforms into a hectic, full of life, hustling and bustling French street market. And be careful, it really creeps up on you. The French market people come very early, sometimes at 4 in the morning, and set up their stalls in a market labyrinth, so when you head in to the village to get your bread from the boulangerie, you are suddenly hit by French market fever.
People come from miles (or kilometers) around to the Provencal markets in the Var. In Saint Tropez in the Var you can have French market queues all the way from Sainte Maxime, on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Market visitors are not just tourists either, local people love a good Provencal market as well. We went to discover why the Provencal markets in the Var are so popular, and why the village markets in the South of France are a must for every holiday maker, as well as local inhabitants
What do these Provencal markets in the Var offer? Well, more often than not, the Provencal market in the South of France will have fruit and vegetable stalls. Generally these sellers will have organic vegetables from ‘potagers’ around the French Riviera. The weather on the Cote D’Azur is prime for growing vegetables, and fruit, and you will find all sorts of organic fruit and vegetables at the French Provencal Market. Prices will of course be more than your
Carrefour, or Shoppi, (supermarkets in France) however, what you are buying will have been dug up from somebodys garden the day before, and when you taste an southern organic grappe tomato you will never go back. Spices are always a feature of the Provencal market, a bit like in the souk in Marrakesh, with many baskets full of colorful spices. The olive man will also feature and you will find he has a selection of olives marinated in all sorts of olive oils, herbs, garlic. He will also sell sun dried tomatoes, alongside all sorts of dried berries like the cranberry.
As you slowly turn around these market stands you get a real understanding of Provence, and why you are in the South of France. Obviously the setting of historical Roman or medieval villages surrounded by vineyards with parasol pines, and a hot lazy Mediterranean climate does get you in the Cote D’Azur mood, but walking through the Provencal market with huge discs of cheese and racks of sausages really hits it home that you are on the French Riviera.
The great thing about the Provencal markets of the Var and the Alps Maritimes is the variety of organic foods from France and Italy. Often you will get Italian stalls set up as Italy is only a few hours away. It is not just food! You will often find light clothing, gardening equipment, brightly coloured china from Morocco, sweets, clothes, slippers, argan oil, jewelery and lots more. Provencal markets in Antibes, Cannes, Grasse, Mougins are all very popular so it would be worth getting up early. Don’t worry about a basket you will find someone selling them there.
The Provencale markets of the Var bring a real touch of French culture to any holiday on the French Riviera. You rub up next to the real people of the area who might have a cheese farm, or could have an olive tree in their garden. Many of these people only speak French, and are happy sometimes to barter, so it is a time to polish that French you learned during your O’levels.
If you have bought real estate in the South of France, and have expatriated to the French Riviera, the Provencal French Market is a time to feel you are part of your region, area, or even village, as you mingle amongst the tourists and the local people alike; well you are a local now.
The Provencal French market is a real coming together of all sorts of people who love France and French culture. It is also an organic way to buy and sell things face to face which is reminiscent of how our grandparents used to shop before the French super markets and shopping malls bulldozed our shopping habits in the last decades. If you are visiting the South of France, one of your must visits is the local Provencal market to really soak up the Southern culture. You don’t really need to find one, it will usually will find you.
Var Market Days:
Saint Tropez Provencal Market: Tuesday and Sunday
Sainte Maxime Provencal Market: Monday
Bargemon Provencal Market: Thursday
Draguignan Provencal Market: Daily
Antibes Provencal Market: Sunday
Mougins Provencal Market: Sunday