Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vaison's Tuesday Market

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe have been back a week. Since we arrived on a Tuesday, that means that today, I get to shop at the Vaison market day.

“Vaison la Romaine has one of the best weekly markets in the Provence and perhaps in France. Its origin goes back to 1483, when Pope Sixtus IV granted a license. In 1532 Pope Clement VII stipulated that the market be held every Tuesday and this is observed to this day… It is one gigantic open air department store, offering everything here, from clothes and shoes to furniture, meat, fish, ham, and sausages, vegetables, fruits, cheese and wine and while you are doing your shopping you won’t need to stay hungry either. This is actually one of the best places to shop for Provençal items, like table linens, earthenware and toiletries. The market is held every Tuesday from 8 AM to around 1 PM in the town proper. Many streets are closed off. Parking is definitely a problem. The trick is to arrive either early (around 8:30 AM) or after 11 AM. If you see a group of Americans expertly shopping for vegetables, fruits, fish and meat, it is probably Patricia Wells and her cooking class.” (Provence Hideaway www.provence-hideaway.com)

I haven’t made a count, but my guess is that there are about a hundred vendors who load up their trucks and leave their homes at 0 dark 30 to get to our village to set up the displays of their wares. The description of an open-air department store (Provence Hideaway) is accurate but doesn’t include music (street musicians as well as music CD vendors), furniture repair, live plants, vendors of fabrics and the notions to sew items. You can get roasted chickens, paella, pizza, oriental dishes, soup and/or crêpes take-away, cookies and nougat, dried sausages (pork, wild boar, with herbs or plain…)

The Tuesday marché is not just a shopping destination, it is a social event. The vendors know their customers and exchange pleasantries/jokes while filling orders. One vendor surprised me when he said “Vous êtes de retour!” (You’ve come back.) I was impressed by his memory. I find it hard to remember my own name when I am not wearing a name tag. The village denizens spend time exchanging local news (and often blocking the traffic) but they (as I) are hoping to see friends and neighbors. French women always dress well but they seem to dress better for the occasion of shopping at the marché.

As my friend Margaret used to say about the Solstice: it only gets better from here. Every week from now until the summer solstice and beyond, the market will grow larger: more vendors, more customers, more gridlock to the point where the locals complain about the success of the Vaison marché day. They ‘doth protest too much methinks’ (Hamlet, III, ii, Shakespeare) Tuesday at the market in Vaison la Romaine is an event everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

At the movies

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe have been in France for three days now. It was bittersweet leaving the states as we had had a wonderful (hot!) summer, a great garden harvest, we traveled and saw a lot of friends and missed seeing many other friends. Whoever coined the phrase: “So much to do; so little time” had a real insight into life.

We arrived in Vaison la Romaine for the beginning of the Telerama film festival – where one can go to a selection of wonderful films for only 3€ during a 10 day period. Last evening, we saw Amour. Tonight, we saw De Rouille et d’Os (Rust and Bone). Amour is on the short list of best films of 2012. It was amazing but was it better than Lincoln or The Sessions or Flight? (This was a year of some great films in the states as well.)

We have been members of a Westside Neighborhood Movie Group for about 20 years in Lansing. We so like the Westside Neighborhood Movie Group concept of viewing a specific film and then meeting to discuss it that we started a Ciné-Club in Vaison la Romaine. Our Ciné-Club meets less formally and less often and the business of discussing films is conducted in French. Some people in the club struggle to discuss films using the present tense and few adjectives. Others with more proficiency in French can discuss films and provide provocative insights similar to our Westside Neighborhood counterparts.

The Ciné-Club includes people from England, America and France. We did this so that the French presence keeps us “ex-pats” honest and speaking in French. I think that Ellen and I were surprised at how often one can spend a whole day ‘in English’. The English-speaking ex-pat community here is large and welcoming and that makes it easy to slip into an English-speaking ghetto.

We can’t take all of the credit for creating this affiliate of the Westside Neighborhood Movie Group. One day when we were having lunch with our former French teacher, we talked about searching for more opportunities to speak French and she encouraged us to create the Ciné-Club à la Westside Neighborhood Movie Group. Since then, it’s been off to the movies Allons au cinema! I have spoken about Michelle before because I so admire her capacity to figure out teaching a foreign language. She always met the needs of a diverse array of students. – and this was not her major career!

My mother used to say that we met to eat and maybe discuss a movie. I think her observation was correct both in Lansing and in Vaison la Romaine. Et pourquoi pas?