Markets of Provence by Marjorie R Williams
In the “Markets of Provence” Marjorie R. Williams has done a masterful and comprehensive job of explaining Provençal markets. She describes and takes you with her to the many types of markets: traditional Provençal markets; farmers’ markets; flea markets; antique markets; covered markets; craft markets; truffle markets; Christmas and santon markets.
As I private guide in Provence prior to my employment at Provence Emotional Escapes, and also the owner of a French antique shop in the Napa Valley, California, I had the great pleasure of accompanying Marjorie on many of her market visits. So I got to experience her enthusiasm, love of markets and in-depth knowledge first hand. And yes, we had a great time discovering markets together.
Markets are presented logically, day-by-day, listing the 30 “best” markets, and then other smaller markets in lesser-known villages. Marjorie includes tons of information on each market, which she often visited with well-known local chefs. Who knew there were so many markets in Provence? Most days it would be hard to choose where to go; Friday and Saturday have an overwhelming choice of excellent markets. However you may prefer a small market in the hectic months of July and August, and Marjorie gives you a broad choice.
Marjorie’s book is more than a book about markets, it is a complete guide to touring with cultural and historical notes, colorful photos, maps, restaurants & chefs, and primers on goat cheese, olive oil, breads, vendors, plus market hints—when to go, where to park, where to find the all-important WC. She adds in lots of suggestions for buying picnic foods. She recommends her favorite stands, and includes permanent shops in the towns.
She provides historical notes on villages and markets, interesting anecdotes, and a glossary of useful terms for shopping at markets. Marjorie tries to define “Provence”, not an easy task due to history, culture and the cachet attached to the word Provence. Even the lovely Cote d’Azur calls itself part of “Provence,” though it is not. (Provence, the Alps, and the Côte d’Azur form the PACA region in southern France.)
Perhaps the best way to use the book is to pick a favorite village for a visit to the market, and afterwards find a great café for lunch—or better yet buy picnic food at the market. In the afternoon use Marjorie’s guide to visit local historical sites.
This may be the only book you need to accompany you on your trip to Provence. With all the information that Marjorie has provided, you can use the book to plan your daily itineraries. The book is compact so that you can take it with you. You will have no regrets about leaving a too-heavy book at home as I did in the 80’s with Patricia Wells’ “Food Lover’s Guide to France.” You can also buy a Kindle version, though I love leafing through this little book.
In the past I purchased books on “Provence Markets” but I was disappointed, since though the books purported to cover Provence, the markets included were primarily in the Luberon, certainly a beautiful region, but too limited and not one to everyone’s taste. Marjorie really does a superlative job of covering Provence.
If you check out Marjorie’s website and blog you will learn even more about navigating the markets in Provence.
Submitted by: Sharon deRham