Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Big Book of the Arles market



While trying to describe my blog yesterday evening, I found myself at a loss for words and juggling the air with empty hands as if digging for an answer. "Is it about...Provence?" my interlocutor inquired helpfully but still I hesitated and finally coughed out, "Well, not really in a touristy kind of way." And then there is today's post. Pretentious goose.

But there is a reason. For while most of you know that I avoid covering our markets here in fear of the cliché plague, when my Mom was asked recently if she there was any particular subject that I should write on, she didn't hesitate in requesting, "Food." Who can blame her? She will take the plane just to see my smiling face and to sit at our table. And she is always, always right.

So, this morning, as the sun was shining brightly and I was feeling sprightly ;) I decided to set aside what I had prepared to publish. Instead, I grabbed my wee Canon G12, hung it around my neck Cartier-Bresson style and blended into the crowds of Arles' Saturday market, purportedly the largest in all of Provence.

For as long as anyone can remember, this particular experience has been about equal parts flanerie and the products one purchases to pile into le panier

Of course, all of the usual suspects can be found, such as mountains of  glistening olives...


...cheeses of every size shape and date...


...the freshest fruits of the season...


...and treats to make one's teeth ache...


...such as tarte tatin...


...or a rainbow variety of  spongy macarons.


The eggs, whose centers glow warmer than the sun, are bijous unto themselves.


It can be a lot to take in.


But I am always drawn to the surprises, such as this organic stand tended by Raitetsu Jinno who came to Provence a year and a half ago from Japan. 


His greens are all edible emeralds but my favorite is the Wasabina, which is indeed the leafy equivalent to its sushi condiment counterpart.


I sail past the pricey fish stands to head directly to the producer from nearby Sete. I love that he has razor-clams, bulots, palourdes, spiky sea-urchins and shrimp fresh off the boat from Madagascar...


...but most that his small oysters from Bouzigues are only 3.80€ the dozen! They are Remi's weekend treat.


I tend to sample the ginger flavored felafel as I walk but today the line was simply too long. Most were waiting to snatch up freshly fried accras, balls of pureed salt cod and pinky-sized crisps of phyllo-wrapped goat cheese.


There are also puffs or oriental pastries...


...delights created by the North African community present in Arles...


...as well as spices from all around the world such as the mélange du Sorcier or "witches mix." No, I didn't buy it. Wait, what do you mean by asking such a question?


I admit that there are days when I am simply not up to face the crowds...


...the jostling and old ladies cutting in front of me in line, their caddies rolling over my toes.


No wonder so many stop to have a coffee with a furry friend...


...or taste a sample of local wines...


...ending up at the Bar du Marché, where if you order a bottle of the house wine for 10€, they will choose to look away if you pull out your market goodies to nibble on.


Once restored, the hunt continues.


I have learned the hard way that whatever amount of money I have on me, that is exactly what I will spend.


Best to get the necessities first...


...or they might not make it home at all.



But there are always plenty of options for when I don't feel like cooking. My favorite stop (and what we will be eating tonight) is the Vietnamese stand for nems to wrap in lettuce and mint. I skip the pizza and the paella sellers but was tempted by this riz forestier, rice topped with peas, mushrooms and smoked porc.


And of course, there is always roast chicken. It is easy to know whose is the best - just look for the longest line! 


But what makes the Arles market so especially interesting is that less than half the vendors are dedicated to food.


The rest sell items that are either traditional to the region...


...steeped in Arles' own unique heritage...


...or not. 


Without fail, I am drawn to two items - the mini-oliviers in their own clay pots...


...and lavender to transform any home into the essence of Provence. 

I know how very lucky I have been to have so much of muchness, another spring signifier (although Remi keeps reminding me that officially spring is a week away) well within reach. I know that I will miss being able to stroll there and back with such ease - even if I do draggle home under the weight of having bought far too much!

And so, while I really enjoyed myself, it was also an unusual feeling today, taking in this market, my market, like a tourist. I could see that some of my go-to vendors were looking at my snapping with raised eyebrows. "I have a blog, " I would explain, with some slight embarrassment. "Oh, really," they would enquire, "what is it about?"


Have a lovely rest of your weekend everyone.

65 comments:

  1. Oh I hope you bought some strawberries. I can almost taste them! And we are having a faux spring day here with more snow on the way next week. Just in time for my birthday on Friday....isn't that the first day of spring?

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    1. I didn't buy any strawberries as we have discovered that we have a Strawberry Thief in the house! Can you believe it?? And he doesn't leave a trace behind either...
      And yay!!!! Birthday week for Judith!!!! Whhooohooo!!!!!

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    2. Who is that Strawberry Thief? A furry creature or a gifted Photogapher?

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    3. A furry creature and you know which one! :o

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    4. Oh, I guess that brave nature boy (:

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    5. Ding ding ding...we have a winner!

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  2. Madame! I have to something to eat now, right this second... That is one powerful eye you've got, and one spectacular market.

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    1. Why thank you, yee of witty writing extraordinaire. I hearby invite you to come see it in person. ;)

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  3. Oh, those strawberries look so gorgeous and perfect! I am a huge fan of strawberries and have a breakfast salad for you, H.

    Sliced strawberries
    feta
    sliced almonds
    freshly-ground sea salt with edible flowers (here, they're sold as 'darling buds')
    olive oil
    freshly-ground pepper

    You can also substitute blueberries. :)

    Have a beautiful weekend, foodie! This was another fantastic post full of a beautiful zest for life.

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    1. Thank you Bella and to you too!! And ohhhh, I had stopped buying strawberries (see my comment to Judith above) but I will change that tomorrow as I have a feeling that this will be my favorite new breakfast. Salty and sweet? With olive oil and crunciness?

      Who is the foodie now, eh?? ;)

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  4. Love today's blog...the markets of Provence... such a treat!

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    1. Merci and thank you for the kind comment!

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  5. Beautiful market....lovely post.

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    1. I have to say that our market is pretty fantabulous.

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  6. Loved this meander through the Arles market with you.

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    1. I wish that I could teleport you here and out of your rain, Lorrie!

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  7. A most enjoyable tour Heather. Glad you decided to take your camera. I know what you mean about feeling a bit self conscious as a local snapping photos. I also tend to feel that way after 15 yrs. in Santa Fe, but capturing the beauty of the moment is important. If they think I'm a tourist.....eh, so be it!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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    1. Good attitude, Laura! And they treat me like a tourist anyway, so what should I care? ;) And hey, if I lived in Santa Fe, I would be a snap-happy fool...

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  8. Unending trains of lovely thoughts to describe your walk to the market. I will not know what to choose or buy. Cooking will be a delight. Do you have the open market everyday? We have the Farmer’s Market here in Napa twice a week and during summer only.

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    1. Edgar, we have two markets in Arles, all year 'round. The gargantuan Saturday market is what I wrote about here but I often prefer the smaller (although still big) Wednesday market as it is less about the show and the crowds and has just as good products...

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  9. What is any blog about, Heather... When you figure it out... do tell... ;)

    A perfect tour of my favourite and most authentic market... and the best value... Wonderful... Happy Sunday... xv

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    1. One of these days we should meet up for white wine and oysters after your market trip!

      And if you can write about anything on your blog then I guess that I shouldn't be so self-conscious on mine... ;)
      Happy Sunday to you too - the Mistral is a blowin'!!

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  10. I Loved seeing your market, I have a favourite one I visit, near where I live but in a few weeks there will be so many people, I don't go. I know our markets wouldn't be so popular if it wasn't for the tourists, do you find the prices go up when the tourists season starts ? I know ours do....

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    1. That is true for some of the sellers at the Saturday market but definitely not for the Wednesday market - which is always cheaper anyway! And it is great to have both because the tourists don't go to the mid-week market really, not even in high season.

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  11. Oh, I do think your mother was right. I love these markets. I don't mind the crowds. And for some reason everything seems so much more beautiful when presented outside like this. Even here in Texas. Sending love, Heather.

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    1. Sending it right back, Marsha! Some days I can deal with all of the people but other days it is just too, too much. I need to be more zen about it I suppose... ;)

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  12. We adore these European markets and make a mad dash to them on our travels. I like to pretend that I live in the city where the market occurs and am out doing my weekly shopping. I am envious of locals who meet and then chat and laugh together over coffee. Our summertime 'farmer's markets' just don't hold a candle to these wonderful mazes of merchandise.

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    1. We know how lucky we are Jackie. And I love how you "pretend"!!

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  13. I could read market blog posts (with gorgeous pics like yours) 1,000 times. I never tire of them. I too struggle with the unruly crowds here in Roma and must force myself to go sometimes. It is always worth it.

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    1. Really Gillian? I always fear they are cheesy...and yet I gobble up your ig market photos so happily so I am being silly...

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  14. What a beautiful and yummy post. But your shots make me wish that the snow piled high outside my window would just disappear...NOW!

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    1. Oooh, I wish that I could make that happen too!

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  15. Oh... spectacular! Treats to make your teethe ache indeed, and the proverbial feast for our eyes and pleasure in your lyrical descriptions.

    What is your blog about? Everything worthy of observation and appreciation in your surroundings, infused with your impeccable eye and style.

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    1. Now that is very, very kind of you, wonderful DA. Made my day. Thank you.

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  16. What a market! It looks like you can buy about anything your tummy could wish for. I too am in agreement with the others about the strawberries. There is something so tempting about them. I always find them the hardest to resist.

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    1. When they first arrive, everyone goes crazy and buys too many because they forget that we will have them for months! :)

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  17. Oh yum! I'm drooling over those cheeses!

    Clare x

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  18. A delightful excursion and market adventure. I would have no need to cook if I had access to your market. How lovely that would be ...for a while ;) . I paid the equivalent of 15 Euros for a dozen New Zealand oysters last week. They were divine but ......

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    1. I know! In NYC I would pay the same price for ONE as I do for a dozen here...I have also heard that NZ oysters are mighty tasty though...

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  19. Oh I remember all that as if it was just yesterday. In fact it is now two weeks ago that I was there myself but it seems already very far away.
    And yes I remember the crowds strolling over that market. Merchands in bustling activity. You better be quick, determined and express yourself precisely if you want to buy your products sans être piègé comme une "touriste".

    And one really has to concentrate on what you really want to buy in the first place because one really is much too distracted by all those delicious offers.

    After buying our food for the week, I had to lay down for one hour! J'étais é-p-u-i-s-é-e. (comme disent les Française)
    And I am always a bit sad, not to have the possibility to buy food like on those french markets. Though I must admit this market is different from the ones I saw In France. I had the impression the saturday was a "major national festivity". (; It may be due to that market that some of the food and wine stores were closed on monday!

    Thank you for that beautiful souvenir!

    By the way, talking about a book, I need to tell you sonething (: Last year in December, I ordered a book, just because the description sounded very promising: Photographs of Interiors of Artists and Art Dealers houses, taken by a "celebrated Vogue Photorgrapher". (I am ignorant enough not to have known the latter)
    The book never came. When I was in Arles, I got the message that the book finally arrived. Back at home I was very enthusiastic about that fine book. The finest paper, perfect reproductions, the generous size...
    I found out the book was released in 2013 by Rizzoli, the Photographer is Francois Halard, who was born in Arles and still has a house there, which`s interiors were also part of the book. It is really very much worth looking at!
    Hope you are well and have a lot of sunshine!

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    1. Yes! I remember seeing the photographs from his book in some magazines when it first came out. Thank you for the reminder because it was all amazing. Hmmm...maybe I need to buy it? :) He is an incredible photographer. For Vogue, he covers a lot of amazing homes but always really celebrates the people that live there too - within their context. But we have also seen some of his more "artistic" work shown here at the Rencontres. I have never met him but have seen him here sometimes - you know me, too shy to say hello!

      His house looks amazing from what I have seen of it and I love that it is on a really unassuming place - you would never know what mysteries lie behind the facade!

      And really? It was only two weeks ago that you were here? It seems like much has happened since then for me too. How I loved meeting you both, I'll say it again...
      Bisous,
      H
      PS. Yes, tons of sunshine here...

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    2. The book is fascinating for various reasons: Still some people/artists/"celebreties"/bohème (wellknown ones, and rich) are celebrated but quite elegantly and sometimes in a strange way.
      The books layout is minimalistic which is in great contrast to the sometimes pretty eclectic interiors. Though some pages are full of colour the images send out a great silence.

      No, I stop describing it now because my description would not do it justice. To me it is a real treasure box. And I could not stop looking at it...
      Bises, Silke

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    3. Silke, just to verify - are you talking about "Visite Privee" or the new "Francois Halard"?

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    4. ' Francois Halard ' And owners are shown only in some rare cases. (:

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    5. Ah, ok. That one is available in my local bookstore. Will go take a looksee.

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  20. Thank you, Heather, for this wonderful treat. I am so glad you took us along to your market! So much muchness, indeed. You know that one of the things that charmed me about Provence was the abundance and freshness of food at the markets, something I wish we had more of here at home (even though all things considered, Seattle has a strong market community). I am imagining what your next market will be like... who you will meet. Maybe it will be a bit more relaxed, a little less crowded. I'm sure it will be wonderful!
    XOXO

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    1. One thing is certain: it will be a lot smaller...if there even is a local market at all! And another: that they will have to learn that I am a local so as to stop charging me double! :o

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  21. Wonderful! It is always exciting to read about food in any capacity - the markets are one thing I know I will miss if/when we leave France. How will I cope? Glad you posted this! :)

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    1. How will you cope?!? It is called "Trader Joes" dear girl!

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  22. Merci, Merci et Merci! Your post took me right back to the first time we "discovered" the Arles market. It was an overcast October day and we were driving from Aix to Montpelier. When I saw the road sign for the Arles exit, I told my husband we Must stop and visit Arles. I had Van Gogh on my mind, but little did I know there was something more beautiful awaiting us. We parked on the street and wandered into the Saturday market. I have been to any number of markets in the South of France (Aix-en-Provence comes to mind), but none is as wonderful as the one in Arles! It had EVERYTHING(the flowers, the animals--LIVE chickens & rabbits, the FOOD--oh my!) and it was all beautiful. Then we wandered to the Merry-Go-Round. It was like a dream. Your photos take me right back there! Thanks for the Memories!

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    1. You are so very welcome, yee of the odd robot sounding name! ;) It sounds like a perfect day - I love such happy accidents. And can you imagine how crazy my dog Ben goes when he sees those chickens? Bananas! Thanks for sharing the happy memory.

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    2. Hahaha! Don't know what happened to my name?! The one above is only slightly more difficult than spelling my actual surname ..lol
      Regards, Nancy (LoBalbo)

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  23. Unfortunately, we didn't get down to Arles or the Camargue on this trip, although I had the best intentions to do so. The weather was fantastic and we took full advantage of the sunny weather. The markets are one of our favorite things about Provence and we have heard great things about the Arles market. We got to the Vaison market twice, Saint Remy and Richerenches markets once each. Lots of fun. Hope you are doing well. How's the house hunting coming along?

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    1. Michel! You were sooo close. I would have happily taken the bus up to St Remy to meet you for lunch after the market. Next time. :)
      And trust me when I say that Arles is a million times better than all of those markets...combined.

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  24. 54 comments ………..WOW!
    I was away with not good service so therefore NO COMMENT!
    Your ARLES…………is in every photo you share.You doNOT need to explain yourself!You do what makes you happy and all of us too!!!

    Today I was in exercise class and was thinking of YOU!!

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  25. Fifty-five comments for your "boring" market!? Not!! Heheh. I loved it! Clearly you should write more often about food and listen to Tabby.

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  26. Miso glad you are a pretentious goose and posted this "cliched" market story!! Omg - can I just say, "YUM"?? (Homer Simpson slobbering sounds)

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  27. One of the things I'm going to miss the most! There is something so very special about the markets of Provence. Thanks for posting this xx

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