A visit to the weekly French market is the best way to buy food. But don’t be fooled into thinking it is just about fish and meat, fruit and vegetables. Because it’s also most certainly about the people and their passion for the produce they are selling. It is an experience not to be missed and it is also one that simply cannot be hurried.
Take a beautiful warm sunny day, an extremely pretty French village, and a pottery market; mix it all together and you get a great recipe for a perfect Sunday morning in late September; this is just how we spent last Sunday in the village of Mornac-sur-Seudre.
We have passed the signs to the village numerous times on our way to Royan; I had even at some stage over the summer looked it up and discovered that it is listed as one of France’s most beautiful villages in the guide Les plus beaux villages de France. Yet, as is so often the way, we had never taken the detour and never visited. However throughout September I had seen big signs locally advertising a Marché de Potiers (pottery market) in Mornac over the weekend of September 26th and 27th. Now, all markets, whether they be food-orientated, crafts, wine or antiques, are like a red rag to a bull for me, and I made a mental note that we had to visit! Fortunately Roddy and the children all share my enthusiasm for adventure and so last Sunday after our usual struggle to get everyone plus two dogs out of the door in a timely fashion we drove our well-travelled route in the direction of Royan and for the first time ever we took a strange right-hand turn half way there and headed to the little village of Mornac-sur-Seudre.
The village is an old fishing and commercial port which today focuses more on oyster farming and the salt produced by its marshes and it made the most perfect setting for the Marché de Potiers. Many stalls had all been set up along the river with potters from throughout the south-west of France.
The atmosphere was almost like a giant party; a long table had been set up in the middle of the market for people to sit and eat their picnics of local produce, all washed down with many bottles of local wine. To be truthful, this is something the French excel at, and there is little quite as convivial as a French gathering en-masse at lunchtime in the open air. Elsewhere restaurants were starting to fill up as the lunchtime hours got under way, and it was hard to choose exactly where to eat and what to eat; local savory crêpes seemed like a good light lunch but then it’s hard to turn down the local tradition of Moules Frites !
Away from the market we wandered through the narrow streets which were a classic example of a Charente Maritime coastal village; hidden away here and there amongst the white painted houses with their green or blue shutters were several little artisan shops. There was a jeweler or two, a leather-smith, painters, a glass-blower, a fine porcelain artist and a wonderful house of curiosities that we lost Roddy to for half an hour. We had no idea where he had gone but when he re-emerged into the sunshine he was gabbling about shrunken heads, golden cowries and stuffed hippos. I think we will have to go back to check on that one !
I love the atmosphere in all the villages here; there is nothing threatening, everywhere feels very safe, and time passes at an unhurried and leisurely pace.
It was very low tide but we promised ourselves we would return when the water was higher; it’s possible to rent kayaks and explore the local marais so we have tentatively put aside one weekend and will return before winter sets in. We left with a brace of new china pieces, and a bevy of very contented smiles. It was a very self-satisfied drive home….