The Case For France - The French Markets

The Case For France -- An occasional series by Nicole, the title of which is probably self explanatory! :) Enter Nicole...

If I had a billboard it would say "Travel is a driver of peace.  Get going and meet someone new."  For now that is a bit too large of a topic to tackle, so instead I'm going to focus on building the case for France. :}

Everyone loves France right?  Nope, not nearly enough people! Among friends, it's no secret that I do, but where to begin? After a recent WhatsApp conversation with a friend, and fellow France-lover, we agreed that a good theme for me would be building a case for visiting France. Now when I get perplexed looks regarding my French obsession, I can point to my posts that clearly lay out the winning case for France!

Reason #1 - The French Markets

Sure, there are great markets everywhere, but there is something magical about markets in France.  I find the smells intoxicating, the booths beautiful and I am immediately driven to want to buy everything in sight... Not always to the pleasure of Travis. :}  Case in point:

Scenes from the Beanue Saturday Market we attended today.

Even if you don't buy anything, the whole experience still feels authentic.  But, the earlier you arrive, the better.  Having gotten used to getting to markets early when we were traveling in Asia, we set the alarm for 7 a.m. to ensure we missed the crowds at the Beaune Saturday Market (which opens at 6 a.m.).  Turns out we didn't need to arrive that early, but what we were rewarded with was a quiet calm before the storm, which we mainly shared with the older local residents.  


Is this heaven??  I bought my first one today and it was less than 10 euros!

In order to have the best experience, and I really hope anyone visiting France does, here are a few of my rules of the road to get the most out of a French market experience:

(1) Greet the vendor: I always try and greet those behind the table, even if I don't plan to buy anything.  A simple "Bonjour" goes a long way.  When I move on, I throw out a "Merci, Au Revoir", maybe even a "Bonne Journée" for extra good measure.  Most importantly, I smile.  Despite my trainwreck French, I almost always smile and hope they pretend for a moment that I fit right in.

(2) Learn a few French words: Similar to what Travis wrote about in his experience in Vietnam, I always try my best to throw out a few French phrases. Better yet, if I know what I plan to buy in advance, I try and practice those words.  Also, knowing numbers certainly helps, yes - "oui," ok - "d'accord," etc.

(3) Arrive early: As I mentioned above, beating the crows is totally worth it.  I'm not always enthused about getting up early, but by doing so am rewarded with a more peaceful, authentic and much more relaxed experience.  Plus, you get the first selection!

(4) Buy some flowers: I love fresh flowers.  If we plan to be in an area for more than a few days, I like to buy flowers (trust me, they are reasonably priced), pretend like I'm a local as I carry them back to our place, and let the fragrance liven up our rented space. Today, I bough six beautiful calla lillies!

(5) Try the local produce: You may think you have had decent apricots, but "non"!  I was just reminded of that as I bit into one of the apricots we purchased today, holy smokes was it good.

(6) Cook something traditional: Whenever possible, I like to select a local classic recipe from the area to cook.  I find that seeking out the ingredients is half the fun.  We often stay in an Airbnb just so I can have a kitchen to cook, but even if there isn't kitchen available, that shouldn't stop anyone.  You could build an insane sandwich, as an example, from what you find. It might not be "classic French," but then that is what all the awesome cafes are for! Today, I spent my time at the market picking out my ingredients for coq-au-vin, which included buying a whole Bresse chicken (note: the head was still intact until the meat vendor spoke something rapidly in French, made a slashing motion with her thumb across her throat and I replied, probably a little too releaving, "Oui, oui!"). 

(7) Google the local specialties: Before I go to the market, I spend a few minutes researching the best regional cheeses, meats, and other local products.  Take cheese for instance -- rather than rocking up to the cheese counter and panicking because I'm overwhelmed (and since I can't speak French very well -- double panic), I can stroll up confidently and announce my preferred fromage with conviction.  Brillat-Savarin s'il vous plaît!

(8) Bring a bag: It may seem obvious, but having a bag really helps.  In the past year, France has made strides to reduce the impact on the environment by banning plastic bags, so there will rarely be bags available for all your precious goods.  Best to assume nothing is available and bring a bag rather than have loads of wonderful things and no way of carrying them.  

(9) Create a picnic: Nearly everything you could possibly need is floating around at your fingertips.  During a recent meet up with friends in Paris, we did exactly that.  We created a pretty amazing spread, enjoyed some great food and wine, and had a wonderful time hanging outdoors with friends.

(10) Buy a puppy dog: To far?  I see them everywhere, I want one... :}

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To do:

Casually stroll through the markets with my little French puppy.

This my friends, just scratches the surface... Regardless, when visiting France, I hope you seek out a market and start to fall in love with France just as I have.

The case for France, vive le France!

Like this post? Want to read more about Travis and Nicole's travel adventures? Check out The Case For France - Cheese Your Own Adventure!.

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