I took my guests to Piégut market on Wednesday. I was hoping to take them to Rouillac, but it’s on Saturday this month and that’s a long day of work for me. Plus, I’d never been to Piégut market before as I usually work on Wednesdays, so it’s not somewhere I normally get to go.
I wanted them to experience the full-on French market. I don’t know why. Bury market is pretty similar. It seems to me that markets all over the world are kind of the same. French markets, though, give you a real view of French life. None of this Amélie and Chocolat business. You can get seduced by all the Chanel adverts and classy people and think that that is what French life is like, when really, it’s about aprons and bleus de travail.
Anyway, I was hoping it would not disappoint. I do drop-offs for the magazines at the Intermarché and Sausageland and I have to say it’s not exactly the highlight of my route (well, Sausageland is great – an English butcher’s) and I get the impression it’s for people who want to say they live in the Dordogne but don’t have the money to.
But… it did me proud.
Indeed, it even showed itself in fabulous colours.
I could kind of see why people might want to live there.
Sometimes, it must be said that ‘market’ in France can comprise five wagons. One will sell meat. One will sell vegetables and fruit. One will sell fish. One will sell flowers. The other will probably sell cheese. Some ‘markets’ are smaller than that.
However, I knew the lady from Chat Noir aprons does this market, so I expected it would be bigger and brighter than I anticipated.
And it was. By a long shot.
The remnants of last year’s festival still hang over some of the square. They look less weird now that winter has gone.
Luckily, right underneath, there was a guy selling French-style tabard aprons. Just like Mrs Overall.
You can see them on the right.
There were also lots of very French-style stalls that I was glad not to have missed. There were the good things – the fruit stalls, the bakers’ stalls with their huge meringues, the butchers’ vans, the rotisserie, the plant stalls – the bad things – the huge knickers, the underpants stalls, the weird tartan slipper stalls, the old lady shoe stalls, the oilcloth stalls – and the ugly things.
I love French markets.
I’d spend all day, every day marvelling at their treasures.
As you can see, it was quite quiet. I like this. It was busy, but not too much so. Plenty of people were buying, and plenty were waiting, but there wasn’t that feeling of being cramped and unable to enjoy what there is to see.
We sat at a café and had a coffee with the rest of the English and Dutch tourists and I tried to explain how to spot English people. It was quite easy. Mostly, we talk loud, wear bad shoes and have terrible haircuts and bad teeth. Dutch people are often the tallest in the crowd. I was surprised that two elegant ladies next to us asked me to take a picture and told me they were Dutch – they had the French look down well. The non-granny look.
The rotisserie man does well – he usually had a queue of at least six people. The man with the tools got to demonstrate his arsenal at one point, complete with an oh-so-French cigarette dangling from his lips.
If I could ask for anything for American tourists to understand, it would be the French market. The towns can seem so quiet and deserted until market day. I’m not sure it was the best example, because there must have been at least two dozen Dutch and English stalls and I’m pretty sure you could get away with zero French.
Still, if anything makes France all French, it’s the fresh vegetables – all in season of course. One lady had a huge display of mandarin oranges. It’s these kind of displays that make France so very French, especially with the uber-French attachée handwriting.
Pollarded trees are a source of intrigue to my guests. I confess, it was only in 2006 that I came across pollarded trees, in Japan. I thought they were suffering from some kind of disease. However, I did see, which I had never seen before, a pollarded magnolia.
A lovely friend of mine shares my love of magnolias. In fact, she loves them more than I do, maybe. She has one in her garden that has flowered for the first time. I need a magnolia. I covet them. Mostly, I covet the old ones, but you plant magnolia for other people to enjoy. It’s kind of an altruistic plant. By the time it is magnificent, you are long dead.
It’s funny, too, because the houses seem very different than the houses around me. They are much narrower and higher, and many have the brick and stone combination. It’s very reminiscent of the houses in Royan, so I guess it’s a fashion thing.
Anyway, we stopped for a baguette and frites at a roadside truck – I was sad the market didn’t have one, and someone is obviously missing a trick – and then continued to Oradour. Honestly, it was unexpectedly hot and we were a little unprepared. Still, we lived. Though I drank a litre and a half of water in the car.
Photos of Oradour tomorrow, then.