by Lynn Elmhirst, Ship2Shore.TV
Visiting picturesque markets is a must-do for any visit to the south of France. Browsing through fresh produce and uniquely local flavours is a visual and gastronomic treat.
Nearly every town has its own charming market, but Avignon‘s is one of my favourites, truly unforgettable! Rhone river cruises make a point of docking in Avignon, as did our AmaWaterways cruise, (and in fact, the very best way to view the famous Avignon bridge (‘Sur le pont d’Avignon…’ as the song goes) is from a cruise ship) but don’t get so immersed in history you miss some of the liveliest charm of the city.
Most other town markets in the south of France are open air markets, the original ‘pop ups’, often taking over town squares under colourful awnings for a morning a week. Avignon’s market is more permanent, with its own space, a mid-century modernist building with an ahead-of-its time green wall over the entrance. Cool architecture, green-friendly, AND a symbol of the local produce inside!
This is a place to get your Provence on. One of the biggest disappointments of markets when you travel is that you can’t take all the delicious fresh food home with you to share and remember highlights of your travels. One of the best things about Provence is that many of the best souvenirs and gifts from Provence are edible!
Delicately flavoured local salts from nearby Camargue make perfect gifts delivered up in test tubes; the glass vials show the colours of rose, lavender, and herbs in the one-of-a-kind gastronomic indulgences. Honey, scented by the regional flowers, rainbow tubes of local flavours of macarons, the famous multi-coloured soaps (ok, you can’t eat them but they smell terrific!), they’re all a delight to browse and buy, and tuck into your luggage to take home.
But the most memorable experience of the Avignon market? Unexpected, spontaneous entertainment! There we were, filming heaps of flavoured Camargue salts, cheeses, and pastries, and behind us we hear someone singing the French national anthem, the Marseilleise. It’s the poultry vendor. Singing while he plucks feathers off the neck of a dead chicken! A man who loves his work, that lucky chicken even got a kiss!