French country markets
One of the most popular activities for visitors to France is visiting the local French markets in the nearby town or village. All areas and places will have a local market town, usually held in the same location every week for many centuries.
French markets really do still have great produce to tempt you, and you will be lucky to get away without a large bag of delicious fresh produce...and an empty purse! There are reputedly more than 10,000 traditional markets in France, so you should have no difficulty finding one - although small markets out of high season can be very small!
What is so special about French markets?
In France, shopping for dinner in the open air by vendor and not by supermarket aisle, is simply the norm.
Seemingly sleepy villages become buzzing throngs for a few short hours as first traders and then customers arrive in throngs. After an early start, by mid-afternoon, the market has closed for another day.
In rural areas the choices may be more limited but the traditions are the same. Everyone in any given region is aware of the direction in which to head to find the closest market on any given day. You will see many of the same vendors at markets in different towns and villages, but never exactly the same selection in any one place, so it is always worth visiting more than one. Particularly good markets near Halcyon Leisure properties are Montaigu de Quercy on Saturday and Prayssac on a Friday.
The typical shopper at a French market is not an urban hipster jumping on the organic food bandwagon or the slow food movement, but instead has most likely been shopping this way as long as he or she can remember. To the French, it is the supermarche at the nearby roundabout with its frozen foods and canned goods that is the oddity, to be tolerated because it can be handy in a pinch.
French markets are, first and foremost, about the fresh produce, meats, cheeses and fish. There may be some other stalls there, but the brightest of fabrics fade into obscurity when compared with the displays of cheese, bread, meats and fresh vegetables.
It is the products from the 'local producers' that are usually most interesting, and most delicious. Goats cheese from a local farmer, wines from local vineyards, or a locally prepared dry sausage, perhaps. Tomatoes are plump, earthy mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, olives are marinated, herbed, and oil-cured, and shoppers have the power to be selective. It is a power that derives ironically, from the superb quality of the merchandise
Note that France markets are not usually places to haggle and bargain, and the market stall holders don't expect to haggle over the price of a piece of cheese!
The markets are not, however, only about food. Artisans and ordinary hawkers are drawn to market as well. At most French markets, one will find makers of lotions, soaps, sauces, honeys, perfumes and pickles. Craftsmen bring their leather goods and you might find great pashmina scarves, handbags or shell earrings on any given day. Ponder your purchases as you snack on a spicy wood-grilled chicken wing from the previous stall.
MARKETS in the Halcyon Leisure area
Agen: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday morning
Bourg-de-Visa: Sunday morning
Cahors: Wednesday and Saturday mornings
Caussade: Monday morning
Fumel: Sunday morning
Lauzerte: Saturday morning
Moissac: Saturday and Sunday mornings
Monsempron Libos: Thursday morning
Montaigu-de-Quercy: Saturday morning
Montcuq: Sunday morning
Penne d’Agenais: Sunday morning
Prayssac: Friday morning
Puy l’Eveque: Tuesday and Saturday mornings
Roquecor: Sunday morning
Septfond: Wednesday morning
St.Antonin-Noble-Val: Sunday morning (one of the larger and busier general markets)
Tournond’Agenais: Friday evening
Valence d'Agen: Tuesday morning
Villeneuve-sur-Lot: Tuesday and Saturday mornings
Nocturnal Markets (Night Markets) are held in the evenings in summer months only, and focus on eating outside in convivial surroundings - you choose your food from the market stalls that surround a central square, which is set up with tables. The produce sold comes from local farmers and producers, and is typical of the region.
Don’t forget to visit the local wine stalls too to buy from local wine providers, and you can stock up on extra bottles to take back home. If you want to take wine home, do bear in mind the stall holders will automatically open the bottle for you at the stall unless you say you are taking it away for later.
For dessert, try some of the delicious crêpes, fruit, ice cream, gateaux or pastries that will be on offer. There is live music and entertainment laid on throughout the evening and you can dance with the locals well into the night. You can enjoy all types of music including bands, singing, guitar music and accordions.
Marchés Gourmands Nocturns start from about 7 pm and are held in the following places:
Tuesday - Dausse and Laparade
Wednesday - St Mauran&Pujols
Thursday - Penne d’Agenais and Lauzerte
Friday – Beauville, Bourg de Visa and Villeneuve Sur Lot
Saturday - Villeneuve Sur Lot
Top Tips For Visitors to Marchés Nocturnes
- Go early if you can - before some of the dishes run out
- Bring a basket so you can take some local produce home with you such as wine, cheeses etc
- Make sure you have cash on you to pay for everything you need
- Before choosing what to eat, make sure that you take a good look round as you might see something you prefer at another stall
Some of the Local Dishes You Can Expect to See Here
You find all sorts of delicious local dishes served up, and foreign ones too. At most of the evening markets you will find local dishes as well as paella (a Spanish dish) and moules-frites (a dish popular in France and Belgium consisting of mussels and French fries). Here are some of the other dishes and specialities you can expect to see during your holidays in South France.
Cassoulet - A hearty French dish which is probably one of the best country dishes in France and is a slow cooked bean stew or casserole containing meat such as pork sausages, goose, duck etc.
Pot au Feu - A French stew popular throughout France
Garbure- A thick meat, bean and vegetable soup.
Crêpes - A traditional French recipe popular all over France. Crepes can either be sweet or savoury and come with a variety of fillings.
Confit - This refers to a technique in preservation. Preserving meat was vital in the past before refrigeration facilities were developed.
Foie Gras - One of the most popular French delicacies and this can be served with toast or meat.
Aligot - A very traditional rural dish, reputedly prepared for pilgrims on the St Jacques de Compostela walking route. It is simply cheese (traditionally one of the Tomme cheeses) blended into mashed potato with garlic until it reaches an elastic consistency - delicious with pork such as Toulouse sausages or plain roast pork.