Saturday, 20 October 2012

Holiday Day Two.

On Mondays there’s a great little market in Mirepoix. Now, strictly speaking, or more accurately, being absolutely truthful - Mirepoix isn’t in Aude at all, it’s in Ariege, a neighbouring area, but from the Villa Cabardes in Lavallette near Carcassonne where we’re staying it’s an easy half hour drive away. To miss it is an absolute no-brainer.

Soon we’re parking up on the edge of town and walking the few minutes into the dramatic arcaded medieval square. By the side of the 13th century church, under the window boxes of overhanging painted medieval houses, people are busy buying ingredients for the kitchen; cheeses, bread, sausages, charcuterie, vegetables, fruit and an incredible variety of jams, pickles, honey, mustards - the variety seems endless in such a small place. Mixed in are stalls full of bric-a-brac, clothes, jewellery and antiques, Throw in the odd knife grinder - no I’m not joking! - and street entertainment - and you begin to get the feel of the place. It’s buzzing, yet in a very understated French way. The feel is very much that normality is taking place, as of course it is. This has literally been taking place in the same spot for centuries. Under the arcades, café’s and restaurants are doing brisk trade, offering breakfast, coffee, lunch and any assortment of drinks or snacks to the weary shopper and the overwhelmed tourist. From the shade of the arcade you can enjoy a coffee or a glass of local wine or beer, eat lunch and watch the market at work, see the coming and goings, the meetings and greetings of everyday life take place.


 Fascinating, fabulous and a fan-blooming-tastic way to start the holiday!
A place like this demands that at the very least you experience its vibrancy with perhaps one, preferably two, perabambulations round the square and through the stalls, a walk through even those possibly less fortunate stalls which overspill the main square into the streets beyond and an {ahem} obligatory stop at one of the numerous cafes at the side of the market. We do the full tour…….

The great thing about carrying a camera, is that my hands and much of my mind is occupied; looking for shots; calculating depth of field, ISO, aperture for the light conditions and almost any combination of the above. Distracting and fun as it is none of that guarantees a decent photograph but it leaves precious little time for shopping which suits me fine. I’m not a shopper unless there’s ingredients to be bought for a meal at the end of it. Unfortunately the same is not the case for The Lovely G. who also has both hands and mind free to get up to all kinds of mischief. Thankfully she is as distracted by the sights sounds and smells as I am and we complete at least one circuit without any financial impact whatsoever. The second circuit costs us a few Euros spent on some bracelets she tells me are ‘shamballa’ style, with a curious but clever slide-y knotted fastening to open and close them. This is demonstrated to me but my mind, as I’ve said, is on things photographic and I’m afraid I don’t pay as much attention as I should, or take the obvious opportunity literally at hand. Thankfully my error is unnoticed/expected/forgiven and we move on. My attention is taken by the sound of bagpipes being played to the beat of a drum and I head over to investigate the din and find two highly photogenic men dressed in a blend of Moorish/pirate gear knocking out some very catchy stuff. I take a number of shots trying to cope with the fact they are standing in bright sun beside some of the glariest backgrounds around. Some work, some don’t and by the time I’ve worked it out they - and the rest of the market - have begun to pack up and leave. Was it something I said or is everyone just camera shy???

As the market winds down we too decide to head back to Carcassonne and find a spot just below La Cite where we can park {free} well away from the tourist {expensive} car parks. A leisurely walk up the hill into the citadel via a back gate and a wander through a couple of streets inside the ramparts takes us to one of ’our’ places: La Bar a Vin. It’s a small bar and tapas restaurant under looming ramparts in the walled garden of what has been the house that is itself now part of the bar. The space is shaded by enormous chestnut trees which gives a magical light and cooling shade to the place. We’ve spent a lot of time here over the years, drinking coffee or wine, enjoying the simple food on offer and the comings and goings of visitors. It’s one of my favourite bars in the world and a must visit place during any holiday here. Just one of those great little finds that helps make a holiday special. Today we have a cool drink and share a plate - a crusty bread ‘boule‘, goats cheese and honey. Simple and magnificent in the afternoon sun. The bar is almost empty at this time of the year, very different from the frantic pace of the last few months but the staff are as usual relaxed and funny. It’s a real performance and one that we enjoy.

Soon though the heat is getting to us and we head back to the car for the short drive home. For me, the pool is calling……

See you later.

Listening to:


Rebecca S. said...

Is it just me, or do the French make a sort of 'art' of living? I could get used to living that way, too. Maybe I do in my own Canadian way...

Thanks for the mini tour of the market - my senses were all engaged contemplating the sights and sounds and tastes of this great market!

Great photos, too.

Alistair Robertson said...

Thanks Rebecca. Glad you enjoyed it.

Paula Wooters said...

How marvelous that market day still exists in essentially its same form centuries later. What a delightful day you had.

Alistair Robertson said...

The wooden houses around the squaree where the market is date from the 1300's so it truly is centuries Paula. An amazing place!

The Sunday Posts 2017/Mince and Tatties.

Mince and Tatties I dinna like hail tatties Pit on my plate o mince For when I tak my denner I eat them baith at yince. Sae mash ...