Monday, June 4, 2012

The Pearls of Perigueux, France

Arriving at the Perigueux farmers market is like finding a beautiful pearl within a jagged oyster shell.

As one arrives at the outer shell of Perigueux, the architecture of the neighborhoods is mostly composed of angular, bland buildings from the 50’s and 60’s. Towards the center of town the styles meld into a mix of even starker buildings from the 70’s that are unfortunately interspersed with beautiful turn of the century apartments.  

A little effort and prying is needed to penetrate this grey tough shell.

And still so far there is no sign of a farmer’s market, but the bustling parking lot hints that there is something worthwhile going on here.

And like an oyster with the right twist of the knife and a sense of anticipation the two halves of the shell fall apart to expose the meat of the oyster and the opalescent sides of the shells.

Crossing from the parking lot one immediately slips into narrow sidewalks of another time. Passages clamped in by the walls leaning just a bit off kilter. Here in the heart of the city the architecture is a mix of 19th, 18th, 17th, and 16th century – and even older in the odd corners of this ancient shell. But, still no sign of the market, the pearl of this adventure. The first time I came here I was alone and shaken by the drive into the city center. Lost in this labyrinth of narrow ‘streets’ I stopped in a café to ask where the markets were – I had heard that there are three locations. They laughed and told me that it is here, all around you, just turn the corner when you finish your coffee.

And turning the corner there it was, a gem of a market. Stalls were tucked under linden trees pruned into a great canopy of shade. The square was bustling with vendors and serious people shopping for the perfect watercress, the first spring radishes and cooked beets. There were cheese stalls and bread stalls and stalls that sold all things duck and all things rabbit. There were even stalls selling food things I either never would have recognized or certainly wouldn’t have considered eating. Then I turned another corner and there, under a handsome, glowing, opalescent domed cathedral were even more vendors and more serious shoppers.  Here there were cut flowers, bedding plants and vegetable plant seedlings. One more turn and there was the third market, the most charming yet, set under the town hall. A flower-filled space held in by ancient buildings, arching windows, multicolored shutters and lovely ground floor shops. The vendors here seemed a bit more gentle and they were all definitely selling crops directly from the farm.  There is one vendor that I buy a lot from, knowing I am supporting her family farm.  I can tell by her fingernails that she works in very rich soil.  I can tell by her lovely smile and the quality of her vegetables that she is very proud of what she is doing.

Once one has filled their market basket with the best of the season’s offerings and a fresh baguette, it is time to purchase the oysters for today’s treat. There’s no reason to look inside for a pearl as one’s senses have already been rewarded by the discovery of Periguex and her glittering secret center.

Join me for a morning market outing with


Lynn at Southern Fried French said...

So beautiful! I'm having a fit to get back to Perigueux, we've only been there once and briefly. I really loved it. Your photos are pearls too.

Carrie @ Season It Already! said...

Why is it that I can never get enough of farmers markets or even just PICTURES of French markets?!!

CherylD said...

Sweet peas! Sweet story, well told right down to the oyster photo. ~CD

beachcrick said...

This was a fabulous post Susan, I would love to come visit-I fear I may not leave.