Who can possibly resist the appeal of a good French market? Actually, is there any other kind than “good”?! We love market shopping and it is truly a way of life in France. Most of the people in our village do practically all their shopping in one of the local markets: the food is fresh and almost all of it locally grown, the prices are good, you can socialise at the same time, and you are out in the open, soaking up the atmosphere.
The open air markets often take over the whole town, with traffic being diverted to the outskirts so that pedestrians can wander at leisure.
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You do not have to be especially gifted to find a market in France: there will be one in almost every town or village, on each day of the week. The open air markets often take over the whole town, with traffic being diverted to the outskirts so that pedestrians can wander at leisure, picking out the very best. Covered markets are also a complete joy. We love our local covered market in Narbonne, for example. Some of the displays are a true work of art.
People mingle, sit at little bars for a glass of wine, and you can even buy yourself a nice piece of steak or fish and have one of the local little stalls cook it for you right in front of your eyes!
How can you make the most of your trips to the market? A good tip is to either set off early before the crowds to have the best choice of produce at the start of market day, or to wait until the very end to find a real bargain, as the stalls start to close up.
Take a basket or two with you for all your intended purchases. Some stall holders will wrap your produce up in small plastic bags, but you can do your bit for the environment as well as have all your goodies in one place by investing in a nice big shopping basket, which you will be able to make use of again and again.
French market stall holders often give out samples of their wares, so don’t be shy to take advantage of this.
Not all of us like or are good at haggling, but give it a go in France. Your French may not be perfect, but this could work to your advantage, as the local stall holders may be intrigued as to where you come from, why you are in their neck of the woods, and for how long. The fact that you may end up striking a bargain becomes almost secondary!
French market stall holders often give out samples of their wares, so don’t be shy to take advantage of this; the French are far more used to sampling goods that they are considering buying than we are in the UK. How often have you seen a French lady carefully inspecting the fruit she is about to buy, for example, to make sure it is in the ripest condition? Our local cheese seller in our village market loves to show off any “new” cheeses he has for sale and it would be churlish not to take advantage of sampling…
Market shopping in France is not only something that will save you money, but you will also be sourcing the best and freshest foods. Markets in France are a real way of life and have been since time immemorial.