So July is finally here and the school holidays are upon us once more. Those of us without children tend to escape earlier or later in the season to avoid the scrum. The only downside to this sensible approach is that it can make summer feel like a bit of a slog. Here’s our solution – a virtual visit to our favourite Provencal market.
Lourmarin – one of the jewels in Provence’s rather well-bedecked crown – is renowned for it’s picture-perfect market, an absolute must for locals and visitors alike. Held every Friday, this sleepy village in the Vaucluse bursts into life on market day as over 200 stallholders descend, selling every sort of local produce, from olives, cheese, breads and meat to baskets, clothing, linens and espadrilles. There’s even the chance to pet a piglet, which went down especially well with the four year old in our group!
With the sun shining and everything looking so tempting, it’s hard not become slightly intoxicated by Lourmarin. Everywhere we looked, we were seized by a new (and rather delicious) assault on our senses designed to loosen the purse strings.
As usual, food was top of our list and the stallholders of Lourmarin didn’t disappoint. Bread, cheese, juicy tomatoes, fresh herbs, hams, butter and olive oil all found their way into our panier. We made a special pilgrimage to the most popular (and friendly) baker’s stall in the market. It’s easy to find – just look for the longest queue in the market. This time there were only 17 people waiting patiently in line. When we reached the front, Monsieur Boulanger asked enquired what we were eating that day before recommending a crusty, chewy pain de champagne to go with our lunch and a darkly-studded walnut and raisin bread for cheese that evening. Both were fresh from his wood-burning oven that morning and indescribably delicious.
The market sprawls along the streets of the village, making it easy to dart in and out of the many shops lining them, breaking the weekly shop with regular pit-stops in the charming cafés in-between.
For lunch, head up the gentle slope of Clos la Treille to Helene Lunch and Cake, a stylish little café where the home-cooking is overseen by Helene herself. It’s the only café we know that boasts its own haut de gamme La Cornue range, rescued from her old home. Alongside delicious salads, tarts and cakes, there’s a well-edited selection of Provencal homeware too.
After a morning in Lourmarin, it’s easy to see why Peter Mayle made it his home when the crowds of sightseers drove him out of Menerbes. We hope to call him ‘neighbour’ one day. Just need to finish that best-selling novel first…