The marketplace is the heart of the community. Almost every French town has one. And everywhere you can find wonderful displays of local produce like this. Is it cheaper than the supermarket? No. Better quality? Possibly. But you don’t just go to the market to shop: you go for the experience. And the market is where you meet people you know, because everyone goes to the market on market day.
I have my favourite stalls: the onion seller who takes time to explain what’s newly arrived in the world of shallots and garlic; the goat farmer who sells only goat cheeses – frais (good for breakfast) – demi-sec (a good keeper) – sec (for removing the roof of your mouth – cendré (rolled in wood ash); the artisan boulanger; and best of all the madame with one small table on which she arranges posies of flowers and bouquets of herbs. She is renowned as having the best eggs in the market. Oddly, she keeps these under the table – you have to ask for them, otherwise you wouldn’t know they were there. I like to think she keeps them for her best customers.
Outside, this being a fishing port, there are stalls with live lobsters and crabs and every fish imaginable. Away from the food market are the other stalls: clothes, jewellery, second hand books, wooden toys, watches and so on. It is a weekly event that is always packed, always bustling and always offers something new.
It is no coincidence that a lot of the action in my writing takes place in and around the town square. It’s full of characters, noise and colour and if you want two people to meet, this is where it is sure to happen. The chapters I am currently working on are mainly set in one town. This felt a bit restrictive at first, but now I find I have more opportunity to explore the setting in depth. Treating the town as a character, with its own back story, its foibles, its appearance, defects and personality is one way of getting to know your setting in more detail. After all towns and cities grow, they are not made in one go. Just like people. And the market place is where to watch people and setting come together.