Slow Sundays in the South of France… or the careful art of doing nothing

Things have really slowed down in the South. It’s hot, humid, the cicadas are chirping away, and the most strenuous activity involves stuffing a towel in a tote & lugging yourself down to the beach. If there’s a better word than languid to describe this time of year, I’m still searching for it.

Then we have Sundays. It took me a great deal of time to get used to Sundays. It seems the art of doing nothing actually involves just the tiniest bit of planning. We did the lazy, sleep-in until 11am and drag yourself to a cafè thing, only to find that almost all organized-life shuts down somewhere between 12 & 1:30pm – wait too long to hit the markets, and you could find yourself dining on whatever is left in your pantry. I’m still praying my husband’s mother doesn’t find out about one of our first Sunday dinners starring a hunk of Camembert and a stale baguette. Quelle horreur!

Toulon market
Sunday-morning shopping at the Toulon market.

That was a quick lesson learned, so the first order of any successful Sunday à la Provençal is Get Thee to Market. Now that the summer has arrived, it’s easy to pick up some fresh vegetables and a bit of meat for the grill, but our usual Sunday favorite is roast chicken. There are chicken vans and ad hoc chicken stands set up around the local outdoor market, and grabbing a bird or two for lunch is quite popular. We learned this the hard way; arriving late one Sunday (12pm) and having a (greasy) business card thrust our way by one of the stand owners. Chickens were sold out, and if we wanted to hedge our bets for the next week, we would need to call ahead to reserve our roast. The early bird gets the worm…or in this case, another bird.

Olives for sale in Ollioules village.
Picking up a few of Provence’s finest.

After procuring our chicken, we like to make the rounds at a few other stands to pick up other Sunday staples: fresh olives and tapenade with a choice baguette (I’m particularly keen on the pain aux noix variety at the moment; warm bread with nuts…heavenly). Our favorite stand carries a wide variety of olives, tapenades, & also capers, marinated artichokes, and various salted goods; including sardines & cod. If you can’t squeeze it all in at Sunday, this is excellent Provençal picnic fare.

Apero time
Apéro time!

After a trip to market, it’s difficult to have any more ambitious plans than going home & spreading out our feast. We do stroll the streets a bit; taking in a bit of the neighborhood rhythms of the morning- the idle chatter in the cafès, the flip-flop of women passing in their casual summer finest, and the pretty flower-laden balconies & terraces we pass en route.

Some Sundays we have more ambitious plans; local festivals, barbecues followed by rowdy games of Pétanque, or trimming our lone olive tree. Quite frequently though, as with this past Sunday, after chicken, a pleasing bottle of Rosè, and a tad too much tapenade, spending some quality time on the canapé (sofa) is all we can hope to accomplish.

Dessert
With these beautiful creations, don’t forget to save room for dessert…