Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Day 9: Market Day in Vaison-la-Romaine

Today was a rest day, both for the tour and for me/us. I've felt a bit fatigued the last couple of days, so I knew a day off the bike would do me good. 

Mark and I (along with many others from our group) went down this morning to the weekly market in Vaison. Once again, it was a feast for the eyes as stalls spread out in several directions from the main square, down narrow streets and around corners. I think we eventually covered all of it, but I'm not sure; we may have missed a side street.

As we walked the streets, I was impressed by something that I have taken note of on several occasions these past days. If I had to put a word or two on it, it would be the aliveness and coziness of French village/small town life. I was struck a few days ago when we had lunch in a village up in the Vercors of the conviviality of the village center. Boys skateboarding in front of the town hall. Mothers sitting talking with other young mothers, their strollers close by. People engaged in conversation as they sat on a stone wall or a park bench. Others sitting outdoors at a café.

Then there was the day that we rolled into a town last Saturday morning, where we stopped at a bakery. There were parents with children, teenagers, seniors; talking, shopping, etc. This morning, as we strolled, we noticed older couples greeting each other, chatting. Market day.

We ran into our friend Michelle and others from our group

I suppose this same phenomena exists throughout Europe. A culture of community and communality that often contrasts so sharply with American life. Perhaps there is this sense in areas of large American cities. I don't know, as I've never lived in someplace like New York City or Philadelphia or Boston or Chicago, etc. Small town American life, I think, captures some of this; but the American emphasis on individuality runs counter to it. And small towns today certainly aren't like small towns of 40-50 years ago.

Anyway, I've enjoyed taking it in, including the hawkers at the market this morning. One guy with a strong clear voice was sitting at his booth, extolling the virtues of "magic shoelaces," popping his, demonstrating their elasticity.

Then there was the man who was selling something or other. As we walked by, I heard him call out to passersby in French, "I speak all languages [so I can help you]." Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, "Even Dutch." [That's for you, Koen, Theo and Greetje. ;)]

These strawberries looked amazing. I wish I had bought some.

One may wonder if we purchased anything. Not much. I bought two items that I intend to use as ornaments for our Christmas tree as well as a couple of items to use as stocking stuffers at Christmas.

The first item is actually a Santon, which are handmade provençal Christmas crèche figurines. I was first introduced to them when I was on my Mormon mission in France 30 years ago. My sister started sending us large-sized figurines when she lived in Geneva 20-25 years ago. More recently she gave Mark and me her collection of small-sized figurines which we put out at Christmas. The above classic figurine represents a man fighting a mistral on his way to the crèche, and I will use it as an ornament rather than a member of the crèche community.

The second item consists of lavender and wheat bound together. I'll see if I can get it home in reasonable shape. 

After eating wonderful salads for lunch, we headed up to the old city to look around. 

View from the top

Mont Ventoux in the distance.

Tomorrow, we head out again. First, Mont Ventoux in the morning, then on to our destination at the end of the day, Sisteron.

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