It’s not Alice’s Restaurant. But on Saturdays, you can pretty much “get anything you want” in the three open-air markets that spill onto the squares and streets of the old city of Aix. Want a ham hock with the pig’s foot still attached? No problem. Want a sumptuous heaping plate of paella ($11). Again. Pas de problème. Spices? Fresh fish from Marseille? Earrings? Wine glasses? Honey and eggs from the farm? Flowers? CD’s? Sicilian oranges? Paintings? A new coat perhaps? The list goes on and on.
January markets hold something special beyond the spread of products sold. Time to talk. This is a slow season here, and the vendors will take the time to interact, to explain, to correct. Kathy bought a pair of earrings today, and the artisan, a compact man with smile lines beneath his eyes and a crooked, self-rolled cigarette in hand, explained to us that France is a country known for its philosophers, poets and artists. He also corrected our French, a common and delightful practice among those who value newcomers trying to speak their language.
Come March, neither he nor anyone else will have time for that. The markets overflow with camera-toting tourists. So now is the time to dawdle, stumble and sort out linguistic mistakes (of which we make many).