So, with cupboard bare, we headed to the smaller daily market at Place Richelme on a Wednesday, when the biggest outdoor markets don’t open.
This led to my first epiphany of the day: If you’re visiting Aix and looking for fresh food to cook, don’t shop on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, when everyone else does. Go on a quiet day, like Wednesday, when the vendors have time to talk and shoppers can look carefully at the food. It’s more relaxed and more fun.
What’s more, after 10 weeks of vacillating between the markets in Place Richelme and Place des Precheurs, we’ve decided we for the most part prefer the vendors in Place Richelme, where food is sold daily. The produce seems fresher.
Mind you, we have our exceptions. We remain absolutely loyal to our Place des Prescheurs’ honey guy, who gives out samples and loves to explain the different varieties. And we love the couple who sell their incredibly fresh eggs and fresh cooked chickens at Precheurs at well below the price of the competition. But from now on, most of our shopping will be in Place Richelme.
Oh yes. Did I mention the other epiphany? Walking home today, we decided that after retiring in a couple of years, we’re going to try spend at least four months of the year in Aix each winter and spring. Returning from a great week in Paris, Aix feels like coming home. It’s a self-contained city, easy-going, easy to walk around, interesting but not overwhelming. The tulips have opened in Pavillon Vendome three blocks away. Right now, 30 different films are showing in Aix theatres, some that start their first showing at 10:45 a.m. There’s no shortage of concerts. Bookstores in English as well as French abound.
And the market food? Well you have to see, smell and eat it to understand just how fantastic it is.
No, the French will never throw open the front door and invite their new neighbor over for a Sunday barbecue. It’s not part of their culture. But we get weary of the tired American assumption that the French are arrogant and unfriendly. Today we bought train tickets to visit the mother of a friend in Montpelier. The ticket seller not only waited patiently as we debated whether to take the express or local train, but he looked around the office for props to give a dramatic demonstration of the difference between une chaise (a chair) and un fauteuil (an armchair). A seat on the train, by the way, is the latter.
A little later, as I leaned across the checkout line at Boucherie du Palais in an effort to read the phone number on a release about a jazz event, a woman in line began reading it to me. Rude? The opposite. Day to day we have far more of these kinds of experiences than those such as one with an impatient ticket seller at the Aix TGV (fast train) Station 10 days ago.
Bottom line: Cultures vary and all have their crabby people. But give the French a chance and most will surprise you with their small acts of kindness.