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April 12, 2004
Arles has perhaps the most comprehensive farmers’ market I visited, running from 7am to 1pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It completely takes over boulevard des Lices, which is a part of the ring road that circles the historic quarter of Arles. (Wednesday’s market is on boulevard Emile Combes, a different part of the ring road.) While traffic continues to creep down the street during the market, stall after stall after stall lines the road, offering the entire range of French comestibles. It’s interesting how many foodstuffs are available loose that come in jars at home. Pickles and olives are displayed in bowls; you scoop up what you want and they package it for you on the spot. Even herbs and spices are sold loose.
There’s also the usual array of Provençal goods. These include colorful table linens (mustard yellow, hunter green, chalky sky blue, and maroon predominate), aromatic bars of soap, and anything and everything that can be made from lavender.
In addition to the usual grocery and Provençal craft items, however, Arles’ market is a crazed hodgepodge of everything and anything someone might need. The range of items is astounding. Women’s lingerie sets (lacy bra and matching thong panties) on hangers wave in the breeze, while a few stalls over a man hawks shiny new mattresses wrapped in plastic, followed by stall after stall of items that would fit right in at any dollar store back home – batteries and sunglasses and barrettes and nail polish. On the first Wednesday of the month, I’m told a flea market is included, but it’s hard to figure out what might be added to this surfeit of merchandise!
Incidentally, I noticed a lot more, for lack of a better term, riffraff lurking at this market than at most others. Pay attention to your possessions, particularly if you are making purchases or taking photos, and keep your passport, credit cards and big bills in your moneybelt.
From journal The Beating Heart of Historic Arles
June 30, 2001
From journal Two Days in Arles