Markets. I love markets. Not supermarkets, but open air markets. There’s a market every day in a town around here--you just have to know that it’s in Spa on Tuesday, Dolhain on Wednesday, Ensival on Thursday, etc. In medieval times, one of the privileges of a town was the permission to hold a market.
Whenever we travel, I search out markets. There’s a wonderful word in French for what I love to do at markets: flâner. It means to stroll around, browsing a little, chatting a little, buying a little. I love to flâner in the markets.
The market in our town is Saturday morning, and it’s one of my favorites. I get to practice my German with the lady who makes roasted chickens, and my French with everyone else. The market is one of those with everything: fruit and vegetables, flowers, cheese (to die for!), clothes, olives, tagine dishes, hair stuff, cleaning stuff, towels, batteries, dog toys, etc, etc, etc. I love the sounds of all the vendors crying their wares and all the flâneurs walking around bargaining. I love the smells of fruit and vegetables and flowers and chickens roasting. I love the colors and the atmosphere.
Our market takes place in the Marketplace (DUH!) surrounding the town hall, and every Saturday there are weddings going on in the Town hall. The wedding party comes up in the middle of the market, and everyone waits to see them come out. It's wonderful to see the bride and the groom and the bridesmaids and the families. And especially the little kids.
Sometimes there’s an Italian fruit and vegetable vendor who sets up next to the town hall; he’s wonderful. "Fraises, un kiloOOOO pour deux euroooOOOOO" (strawberries, 2 Euros a kilo), "Tout est a vendre, sauf le proprieteur" (everything is for sale but the owner), "Mesdames, je suis celibataire!" (ladies, I'm single...) When a wedding party comes by, he switches to Italian: "Bella, bella!" It's wonderfully full of life, and I wouldn't miss it for anything.
When I want fruit, though, I try to wait till Sunday, when the market is in nearby Aubel. This is a small market, with mostly producers rather than resellers. Because we live in a fruit producing area, we get some wonderful stuff. Right now there is a bumper crop of blackberries and raspberries, and people are buying them by the case to make jam. The music of the shouts and the smell of the berries, combined with the warmth of the sunshine make me very happy. I love dealing with the people who produce the fruit, and taking advantage of their knowledge. Here's an example of a transaction:
Bonjour, Madame, can I help you? (actually, they say, “je vous ecoute”, which roughly translates to “I’m listening”)
I'd like some apples, please.
But of course. What kind? For when?
Ummm. I want some to eat during the next week, and some for a pie.
Aha. Good. These are for the pie, and THESE are to eat during the week. This one first, then this one, then.... Anything else?
Yes, a melon.
For when? Tomorrow? Ahhh...this one, then. Anything else?
Yes, some cherries.
To eat or for jam?
They actually choose the fruit for when you will use/eat it. It's always perfect on that day, and I'm rarely disappointed. I can’t think of a better way to spend a morning than to flâner among the sellers listening to the music of a market. Its a nice outing. You should come along.