Published on July 25th, 2017 | by Ann Rickard0
Uzes Market – South of France
From our bedroom window in our delightful top floor apartment in the Place aux Herbes in the Duchy town of Uzes in the South of France, we have become attuned to the different noises that float up to us at various times of day. The Wednesday and Saturday noises are favorites.
Place aux Herbes is a pretty town square and the heart of Uzes. A handsome fountain spurts in the square’s centre and is surrounded by graceful limestone buildings above arcaded walkways. Green plane trees in summer provide shade for the tables and chairs spilling from cafes and bistros.
Every Wednesday and Saturday the square is transformed from a beguiling town centre to a vibrant marketplace.
The buzz begins around six in the morning as small vans inch their way into the pedestrianised square and the stall holders begin to unpack and set up.
We enjoy the lively banging and gentle crashing as protective umbrellas are quickly erected over trestle tables before colourful wares and tempting produce are efficiently stacked in pretty arrangements.
Within a short time, flaps opened on refrigerated vans turn them into tempting butcher shops, irresistible fromageries, pop-up seafood markets.
By 7am every centimetre of the the square is packed with stalls, the fountain is hidden, café tables have retreated under the arcaded arches.
Savvy shoppers arrive around 7.30 am, first having a fortifying café au lait in one of the cafes, watching the pace pick up as the square fills and the traders begin work.
Impossibly gorgeous foods and produce are displayed with flair, just as they would be in the finest food halls in some of the world’s most renowned food stores.
Giant bowls filled with tapenades and enormous baskets of glistening olives are so tempting it becomes confusing. Wheels of cheese, as big as truck tyres, are placed centre trestle, boxes of creamy goat cheese made just hours before on nearby farms, tempt along with displays of, white asparagus, ripe strawberries and sweet apricots.
Tasting before buying is encouraged: a morsel of goat cheese; a chunk of spicy saussicon, a slice of sweet nougat, a piece of ripe melon, a sliver of duck terrine, a spread of anchovy tapenade on baguette.
The feast is not just for the palate. All senses are engaged: the sight of shoppers with big baskets and small dogs, the mellifluous sound of French babble, the aromas from the chicken van over-riding the omnipresent waft of lavender.
About 10am Place aux Herbes is a scene of happy chaos. Queues form at stalls, the noise level raises as traders explain their cheeses, declare the benefits of their hand-made sausages and share important information on how best to the cook the fresh rabbit loin.
Effusive greetings must be given priority. Greeting your neighbours, friends and acquaintances at the market, even if you saw them just the night before is essential, with three cheeks being expertly swiped with the lips. Dogs, who surely hate the market bedlam are dragged along by their owners who love the market madness. Prams add to the confusion.
Then, with baskets bulging with produce and the quintessential baguette poking cheerful out of one side, it is time to fight for a seat in one of the cafes, to enjoy a revitalising pastis or glass of pink wine and a chat.
By 1 pm everyone is thinking about a long lunch made from their market bounty. The stall holders pack up as efficiently as they erected their stalls, ready to head to another market in another town the next day and repeat the process all over again.
The markets in France are not just places to shop for fresh produce, they are a social event, a way of life, a tradition that is adhered to each week with much pleasure.