If you've been to France, or Italy, Spain or Ireland or numerous other places, you know about the markets and market day. If you haven't, then I will tell you that you are missing a visual treat. And it tickles most of the remaining senses as well, the smells, the tastes, the sounds. So, for the uninitiated...... most small towns and even the larger towns have a market day, or sometimes two a week. Travelling vendors in all types of vehicles arrive before the crack of dawn and set up their items for sale. Let's see, there are wine vendors, beer makers (you perhaps notice I start with my two favorites) vegetable sellers, butchers, spices, cheeses, clothing, knife sharpeners, gadgets, fabrics and on and on. You see chickens and pigeons, ducks. Soaps, hats, tools. I suppose anything you could transport in a van and someone could haul home in a market basket has been offered for sale at a French market. (I must mention, however, that some of the stuff offered for sale could charitably be described as junk.) The only thing like it in the United States is the Pike Place Market in Seattle, which is absolutely marvellous, and the French Market in New Orleans. There are some great Farmer's Markets in various places like Bozeman and a tiny one in Moab which has some good veggies on summer Saturday mornings.
I have memories of the markets in Ireland having coverings of all sorts for the vendors and their products because of the constant rain. And I remember being astounded by the incredible number of tweed products; hats, vests, jackets, pants, scarves, and tweed earmuffs. I'm sure there was a tweed underwear vendor too.
There are some good markets in sheltered but unheated spaces in France, "halles" as they are called. Mirepoix has an outdoor market and we went there on a cold day this January. I've seen cold days in Montana and in Yellowstone and this day didn't really compare. But I wasn't quite dressed for the cold at the Mirepoix market either and we had to repair to the cafe for a cup of coffee. It didn't seem to bother the little old ladies scurrying around gathering up the week's groceries. It didn't seem to bother the vendors either, who were out there wrapped up in insulated coveralls, wool hats and mittens. The sun helped a little, but I know these vendors are generally in the same spot, summer and winter. What might be a fine spot in the shade in August could be pretty miserable in January, and verse visa.
My favorite vendors from the south of France are the Paellea vendors. They make these vast pans of rice, mussels, chicken, shrimp, prawns, sausage, pork cubes, garlic, saffron, bell peppers, lemon and some secret ingredients. They begin the paella early and it cooks all morning, and if you're lucky, when you're hungry at lunchtime they will still have some left.
I hope you enjoy these photos by North of Andorra staff photographer, Nancy. As usual, click tho enlarge.