Belle Provence Travels

A South of France Blog

Market Day in Aix-en-Provence

March 22, 2017

Greeting dear readers and friends! Well, spring is finally here, hurray! Of course winters in Provence are not as terrible as elsewhere in the world, but we do get our share of bad weather, whipping Mistral winds, and the occasional thunderstorm. So these first few rays of sunshine and blooming flowers are greatly appreciated.

And I felt especially lucky to sneak in a trip to the Aix-en-Provence market during one chilly Saturday morning in the beginning of February. Much to my surprise, the Saturday market on Cours Mirabeau has grown by leaps and bounds and was almost nothing like I had remembered.

First of all, the actual market on Cours Mirabeau is confined mainly to stalls selling clothing, textiles (tablecloths, dish towels, placemats, etc.), housewares, and “brocante” items. I had my eye on some very interesting pillowcases stamped with a portrait of Marie Antoinette (you don’t find that every day), and I would have loved to take home each of the lovely scarves I spotted for €5 each.

Dubbed the “Le Grand Marché” on the Aix-en-Provence tourist office website the market takes place every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Normally, the market is “textiles, artisans, & brocante”, and it seems a few of the stands have been moved temporally (actually quite near the tourist office) while work is being done on places (squares) Madeleine, Prêcheurs and Verdun – where part of the market usually takes place.

There is also a daily market that is held solely along Cours Mirabeau.

At the end of Cours Mirabeau, right in front of Aix’s most famous fountain, the market literally spills into the streets and is comprised of every gourmet treat you can imagine. Like most Provençal markets, you’ll find beautiful displays of fruit and vegetables, and local products like olives, olive oil, and honey. The day I visited, there was also a line of “mobile” stands offering everything from goat cheese to fresh cuts of meat. And as is customary for weekend meals, several (very busy) roasted-chicken “trucks” were on hand.

Not to mention that the market continues past the fontaine de la Rotonde, and winds itself up Cours Sextius which runs parallel to Cours Mirabeau and is also shut-off to cars on market day. Truth be told, it was one of the last weekends of “les soldes” (the semi-annual sales) so I never made it that far…

I did catch just a bit of English being spoken around the market, but other than that, I saw very few tourists.  And I have to say that I was surprised at the “liveliness” of Aix-en-Provence, even in these cooler winter months. A trip to the city in this really “off season” period could be quite an interesting idea. Especially considering that the sun decided to favor us with a few rays right around noon.

After all, what’s a Provençal market without a healthy dose of South-of-France sunshine?

 

 

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Where:

Cours Mirabeau to the Allées Provençales (in front of the tourist office), Aix-en-Provence

(also places Madeleine, Prêcheurs & Verdun).

When:

Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday

8am – 13pm (ish)

Special Interest:

Don’t forget to check out the Saturday-morning flower market (on Place de l’Hôtel de Ville) and also the adjacent food market on Place Richelme. There are more cafés and resturants in Aix-en-Provence than I can even count, and they are conveniently along, or next to, all of these markets. What better way to finish your market morning than with a long lunch or a cool glass of rosé… while watching the world go by?

The modern, and very well-organized, Aix-en-Provence tourist office provides a wealth of information on local tours, wine-tastings, and all of the places worth visiting around town. They even organize walking tours around the historic center. You can find all of their offerings on the tourist office website (in English, French, and half-a-dozen other languages!).

 

The Aix-en-Provence Christmas Market

December 17, 2016

Greetings from a sunny, but quite cool, Provence. And as I think I say in almost every post, it’s a great time of year to be in the South of France.  All of the towns and villages are decorated for the holiday season –  twinkling lights are hung around the main squares and neighborhoods, the Christmas markets are buzzing day and night, and Provençal crèches (Nativity scenes) are on display (some complete with lavender fields!) to be marveled at by children of all ages.

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And I was lucky enough to visit the Aix-en-Provence Christmas market last week. Although markets in the south don’t have the same “wintery” ambiance as the Christmas markets in the north of France, a Provençal market has a charm all its own.

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Of course you will find the traditional stands of vin chaud (hot wine), oversized pretzels, and bonbons and candies of all shapes and sizes, but also local products like cheeses, wine, and of course, lavender.

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Another attractive feature of the market is, well, it’s in Aix.  You can visit the stands directly on Cours Mirabeau and then finish your afternoon at one of the avenue’s many cafés and restaurants. Plus, you’re more than likely to have a bit of sunshine to accompany your tour as I did during my mid-day visit.

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I also made a pleasant discovery while wandering through the city. Beside the Foire au Santons, the traditional sale of Nativity characters & scenes, another Christmas market exists just near the tourist office. A sort of “sister cities” market, the stands featured here are from all around the world – offering a chance to taste traditional foods from Italy, Portugal, and Greece, to name a few.

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And if you don’t fine the perfect gift at any of the Aix markets, Cours Mirabeau and the boutiques that zig-zag through the historic center are full of great holiday deals and plenty of French specialty items to suit your fancy.

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Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, from our family to yours!