provencal markets: prêcheurs + hôtel de ville

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Believe me when I say that Thursday is the time to be in Aix en Provence. I woke early to the waft of fresh baguettes from the local boulangerie and men unstacking crates of legumes, and within moments found myself dressed and in the town center. The grand markets (grands marches) take place on Thursdays, and have a way of adding color and conversation to this small town. First, I passed the busy vintage/antiques section (not my scene) on Place de Prêcheurs, and then made my way to the town square to fawn over the food and flora.

You will never witness produce so fresh and their position in their crates so planned, so articulated. There are no errant fruit or tomatoes rolling on the ground, rather you’ll find cartons of arranged pregnant figs, haricot verts, and the dark leafy greens of mesclun and arugula. Fruits and vegetables are arranged in a tableaux of sorts, and one can appreciate the care and dedication it takes to “style” their wares so people want to pause, peruse and purchase. Rows of soaps, lavender sachets, and sacks of spices will leave you decorating your home and planning your menu, immediately.

I’m spoiled in the sense that I live in New York — home to so many green markets — that one would think I would be non-plussed in France. Not the case. From the fresh herbs and charcuterie to the rotisserie chicken and roast potatoes, I wanted to toss my croissant in the bin and start over!

Then I headed toward Hôtel de ville, where, for a few hours each Thursday, the square is transformed into a veritable Impressionistic painting. Although it is technically autumn, you won’t find the abundance and varieties one would encounter in more temperate months, but the market doesn’t disappoint. Who wouldn’t want to decorate their home with burnt hydrangeas, a spray of roses and towering sunflowers?

For a full market itinerary in Aix en Provence, click here.

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