|At the Mortagne-au-Perche Saturday morning market|
One of the delights of our trip to France was staying in a small rural inn in the quiet district of Perche. It would be easy to overlook this small region; after all, it lacks the majestic chateaux of the Loire Valley, the fabulous vineyards of Burgundy and the aspirational lifestyle of Provence. And most people drive straight through Perche from Paris to one of the other well-known French destinations.
But, having decided to spend three nights in the region, we were amazed at the undiscovered beauties of Perche. And one of those delights was the village market. Every village, no matter how tiny, had a weekly market, and we were fortunate that our travels matched up with a few of them.
|Every French market has a glorious array of flowers|
|Shallots and squash melons for sale|
Illiers-Combray is the hometown of author Marcel Proust. We walked through the market several times while we were searching for the home of Proust's Aunt Leonie, and for a bakery that made madeleines. We found Aunt Leonie's home and beautiful garden, and we ate our madeleines, but the tiny market in the village square was a true pleasure too.
The following day we traveled into Mortagne-au-Perche specifically to see their much larger market. Every Saturday morning they host a large regional market, selling everything from cider to produce to cheese, eggs and fish. If we’d been there in March, we could have celebrated their annual Boudin Noir festival! (That’s black pudding to you and me, folks.)
French markets are a way of life. In North America, we're starting to revisit markets as we recognize the wonderful array of goods that can be bought, and the importance of supporting local providers. But the concept has never gone out of vogue in France, and locals and tourists stand side-by-side at the stalls making their choices.