My first proper introduction to the French outdoor food markets was in 2011. My husband and I decided to spend a week in Alsace. We drove along the famous Route de Vin.
Alsace is located in the heart of Europe, between the Vosges Mountains to the west and the River Rhine to the east. It shares borders with Germany and Switzerland. Even though the region is only 190 km long and 50 km wide, its landscape is diverse with forests, rounded hills, beautiful lakes and of course famous vineyards.
Many of the picturesque towns and villages in the region have a weekly food market, which are called “marches”. We were introduced to the glorious French specialties such as foie gras, fresh green olives, goat cheese, homemade fig confiture, local fresh fish, herbs and spices and many others.
I think for the first time, when I was exploring a local marche in the town of Moulhouse, I forgot about time's existence. I assume I wasn't the only one. There was almost no one who seemed to be in a hurry. People meander through the small streets, inhale the wonderful smell of fresh fruits and vegetables and discuss with the local farmers the origin and the quality of their products.
If there isn't a sample of each and every product available at the market stalls, you will be offered a piece of delicious Comte cheese in many different variations- sale, fruite or vieux, a piece of cantaloupe melon, or a drop of truffle oil served with a chunk of bread. You have to try them all and let the vendors know what you like the most. They like to know your opinion on their products as much as you like the taste of them.
Since those first summer holidays I spent in Alsace, now when I’m back in France, I love to feel like a true French person and soak in the atmosphere of those amazing "marches" which are often hidden in the small villages forgotten by tourists. I always buy some freshly picked tomatoes, a good soft smelly cheese or my favorite banette baguette (a bit wider, darker and with a more sensible crumb). And for dessert… a huge bag of ripe red cherries.
So the next time when you are going to be in France, book one morning or two for those local outdoor marches - take nothing but a pair of good comfy shoes and an empty stomach to be able to try everything you wish for.
The list of those village markets with opening days, operating hours and specific information on the products sold can be found on each French region's website. For is information on local markets in Alsace go to the Official website of Tourism in Southern Alsace.