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.


  1. And the soap...the luscious, luxurious, intoxicating, scentual soap... I'm not even sure if that's a word. But the soap...is amazing.

  2. So glad you are back in Vaison. I so love that market - and ditto Dusty's soap comment:-)

  3. We love the Vaison market and its a must-do every Tuesday when we are at home in Sablet. Can't wait to get back. Come May, there will be many more than 100 vendors there on Tuesdays and as you say, it grows to a peak in July/August.