Monday, June 25, 2012

Strolling Through A French Street Market In Dijon

Is it the colors?  Or the rhythm of the place? Or the sense of community?  Whatever it is, I’m addicted to French street markets.

I try to make it to Dijon’s market every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday unless something takes me out of town.  Even if I don’t need fruit, or a cow’s tongue for dinner, or a new 5€ watch, I go just to be part of the scene.  I grab a front row seat at a salon de thé in the heart of the action and just watch for a couple of hours.

For those not acquainted with the French tradition of the open-air market, this is not like anything you might experience back in the States.  The rest of the day’s business waits until you’ve gone to the market to get your cheese or meat or vegetables for the week.  When I look out my window around 8:30 in the morning, I can see a steady stream of people walking toward the center of town, as if being pulled by a magnet.  They carry beautiful baskets (paniers), roll market carts behind them, or have tucked under their arm any of the large decorative, recyclable sacks sold at the checkout line at every food store.

Everyone comes to town on market day.

It won’t take you long to decide who is your favorite fruit seller, or your favorite butcher, or who carries the most interesting clothes.  However, this is not a garage sale.  You don’t try to bargain these vendors down any more than you would try to strike a deal in Walmart.  However, if you buy a lot at one stall, you might be in a position to make a deal.  Or, what’s even better for me, the vendor behind the stand will take a shine to you and throw in something for free.  More than once, I’ve struck up a conversation while buying peppers and bananas and come away with a gift of an apricot or fresh cherries to munch on while I shop.

In response to a request by one of my readers (I’m so sorry I didn’t note who came up with the idea), here’s a montage of market shots pour vous.

I love the explosion of colors in the market – the clothes, the umbrellas, the carousel.


The market is your grocery store, clothing boutique, and gardening shop.

The average produce department back home is never this colorful.

Les Halles, the glass and steel covered part of the market, was designed by Gustav Eiffel.

The market has a stand with Japanese/Chinese foodstuffs.  There seem to be a number of restaurants in town serving this cuisine, but I’m not sure why it seems so popular.

On Saturdays many “causes” set up a stand to hand out pamphlets and get their message out any way possible.  Greenpeace was busy last Saturday.

You may wonder why this mime is dressed like a bride.

That’s because Saturdays is a busy wedding day.  All couples have to first get married at the city hall (that’s the only legally sanctioned ceremony).  Then they head to the churches around the town center for the religious service.  As a results, brides are everywhere in town.

These are my three favorite people at the market.  You can read about Mohamed (in the suit), Noureddine, and Redouane (with the vegetables) in a post from last year.  Just click here.  You all really need to travel to Dijon just to meet my trois beaux garçons.


These are my purchases from the Saturday market.  This beautiful bounty cost me only about $4.

If you are a big market person, tell us about your favorite and what entices you at it.  Or tell us in the comments box what event in your town brings the people together on a regular basis like a weekly street market does in France.

And finally --

Congratulations to Martine and Claire for making correct guesses on my mystery kitchen utensil.  It was a lighter for a gas stove burner, as my landlord quickly demonstrated.  When I squeeze it a little spark happens deep in that tube at the end, which lights the burner.  The reason I didn’t report Martine as a winner when she took the first lighter guess was because it didn’t look like the first pictures I saw when I googled it.  This weekend I went deeper into the search results and finally located something like it.  So she and Claire will be the recipients of a special postcard from Dijon, FR.  Claire – if you want to claim your prize click on my profile where you’ll find my e-mail address.  Send me a message with your address if you want that postcard.


Haven on Hanover said...

I love a good farmer's market. Richmond, VA has several, my favorite being The South of the James Market every Saturday. This year there is a resident chef who walks the market every week to select food to then prepare a meal at the market and inspire all of us. Sprinkled in between are awesome potters, weavers, jewelry vendors and people playing musical instruments. I can't wait to visit the markets in France!!

Nadine Feldman said...

Our farmers' market was voted the best in Washington State! We have food and craft vendors, live music, and plenty of food cooking from wood-fired pizza to oysters picked fresh from the beach that morning (except that this week, darn it, the oyster guy was sick! I didn't get my plate of steamed oysters).

I remember when I visited a market in Provence. That's where a bought a chicken, not realizing that I would have to remove innards, feet, and head. How did I do it? Being a modern girl, I used Google, of course! I don't think I want to do that ever again, though!

Julie Farrar said...

Ha ha, Nadine. At the market in Dijon they sell the chickens with everything still attached, too. I think one reason is so you will know if you're getting a hen or a cock. In France that makes a difference. however, I've seen them cutting it up for customers. But the French never throw away any part of the animal, so they probably thought you might want to do something with those feet.

Kathy said...

Hi Julie,

I love the markets too - anywhere in the world but especially in France. All the colors, the people, the items - I love the way people slow down a bit, enjoy the outside - talking with each other and the vendors and supporting the "little guy" while receiving great quality as the customer.



Nancy MacMillan said...

Oh Julie, how I loved wandering thru Dijon with you thru your pictures. I can almost here the motorcycles buzzing in the background. I rented an apt and lived in Paris for 2 wks a number of years ago. I loved it so and envy your experiences. I too would set at sidewalk tables and watch the parade of people. And so many dogs EVERYWHERE. In restaurants and stores. And I had forgotten about the mimes. Please continue your wonderful photo shots.

Cindy Brown said...

Beautiful, Julie! I went to France once when I was a teen. I would love to return someday...

Julie Farrar said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. My sister tells me I need to put more video up. I'll be more aware of video subjects. I just think in still pictures.

Anonymous said...

Martine said: Hello, I do not often have the time to go on the market. However, I love the markets where you can buy fresh local produce. There are a lot during the summer in France.
It is also an opportunity to communicate with people.

Anonymous said...

Your pictures are great, Julie. Like a photo essay, they took me to that market. My favorite market - well not exactly favorite but I go there each time I visit the city - is Shuk Carmel in Tel Aviv. My hometown, Vancouver, BC, doesn't really have one, but my mom lives near Tel Aviv, and I visit every couple years. That one is an Eastern market. Every seller screams his prices as if he wants to out-scream the competition. It’s a dirty and noisy place, very crowded, but it has its charms. The part that I like most is an artisan market, where artists sell their stuff. I always buy some trinket there to bring home.

Alina Sayre said...

How fun! I love vicariously browsing the little streets of France through your words and pictures :) I remember a lively street market in Cambridge, England, that was as much about the people-watching as about the bargains. Sounds like a lovely experience!

Tami Clayton said...

I love going to markets in other cities, both in the U.S. and abroad. So much to see, taste, and enjoy! Thanks for sharing "your" market with us.

Laura@Catharsis said...

The market looks incredible. I've been told I need to experience the market in Seattle as well (your comment that nothing in the States compares reminded me of it), but this...this seems like so much more. The bride thing is what I found most interesting. Brides just running around the city, getting their affairs in order. Fascinating!

Ellen Gregory said...

I spent some time in Europe 18 months ago and visited markets in both France and Spain. They all have their different characters and vibe. At the time, I was buying nuts and dried fruit (especially raspberries!) as travel snacks, but I do recall being sucked into a marvellous cheese in Cahors. And the street food is always fabulus too. Yummy yummy yum.

Julie Farrar said...

Laura, if you're anywhere near Seattle you definitely need to hit Pike Place Market. I remember going there many many years before you could even find local farmer's markets. I thought it would be wonderful if every city had something like this. As for the cheese at the market, there are so many kinds I don't know where to start. I leave that purchase to my husband.

brenda said...

Jealous of your photos - all too inviting for me especially since I am stuck in the office as I read. Looks marvelous, truly.

Nancy said...

Thanks for mentioning our own Pike's Place Market in Seattle, Julie! It's the best locally, hands down. But smaller markets have also sprung up in neighborhoods like Ballard, Roosevelt and West Seattle.

I love the bright colors and sense of community (not to mention the beautiful, fresh, flavorful produce) found in both indoor and outdoor markets.

A few of my favorites from my international travels include: Khan el-Khalili in Cairo, Otavalo in Ecuador, the Jade Market in Hong Kong, and any trip to a Chinese wet market!

Julie Farrar said...

Is the wet market a fish market, Nancy? I hurried by the fish sellers at ours. Besides looking at those eyes staring at me, can't stand the smell.

Bill Reynolds said...

I just got back from the market in Dijon!!! My wife and I loved it so much. Can you help me. We sat down for some wine from the vendor in the middle of the market and he served the best pate' I have ever had in my life. He said, he purchased it from one of the meat vendors in the market and it was a recipe made with wine aged 7 years in french oak. Do you know the name of the pate, or vendor? I must try and get some. I lost the name I had written down. Thanks

Julie Farrar said...

Sorry I couldn't respond earlier, Bill. I've been without an internet connection beyond my phone. Just got it turned on this weekend. I'm not a fan of paté so I can't help you there. If you're still in Dijon, shoot me an e-mail (in the contact info) and maybe we can track it down together. I hope you have enjoyed your stay in my town.

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