Saturday, November 5, 2022

The magic of French markets

French Village Diaries the magic of French markets Chef-Boutonne
At the Saturday morning market in Chef-Boutonne

It’s early November and the Saturday morning market in Chef-Boutonne may be quieter than it’s been all summer, with the weekly live music sessions all but a faded memory, but it still has an important role to play for the locals. 


It has become a regular thing for our friends to cycle down to market and enjoy a catch-up chat, a coffee, and a croissant, but it was something that for us had to fit in around Saturdays working at the château. Now that the château’s doors are firmly closed until next March, and all I can do is keep my fingers crossed all winter, in the hope there will still be a need for an extra pair of hands and a bilingual tongue, it does mean I’ve now got more time to enjoy the market.


Typically, our friends had other plans for today; a social lunch at the village pizza restaurant, which we’d declined as we’d pigged out on burgers, chips and a café gourmand dessert selection in Poitiers with Ed and Pearl yesterday. This, coupled with hardly any kilometres cycled this week meant a pizza lunch wasn’t calorie-compatible with our regime. Plus, the weather, which had been wet and wild yesterday morning, was calm and sunny today, meaning we didn’t want to miss out on a bike ride into market.

French Village Diaries the magic of French markets Chef-Boutonne
Poitiers catch-up with Ed and Pearl


Within ten minutes of arriving, and before we’d even made it to the boulangerie for croissants to accompany our coffees, we had chatted to ten different people. They were a mix of French and English, some were friends from our village, some were people I’ve got to know from working at the library or the château, and others were just acquaintances. Mostly it was a quick bonjour, followed by a few words to catch up on life before another friendly face pulled them, or us, into a new conversation. One friend who we hadn’t seen for ages, joined us on the terrace of the bar and over a coffee in the sun we found the time for a catch up that has eluded us all summer. It couldn’t have been better planned, even if we’d tried.


It was our final encounter that was the most unexpected. As we sipped coffees and tried to capture every crumb of flaky croissant, a man approached our table, asking if I was Jacqui Brown. With a little trepidation, I confirmed that I was, and he then thanked me for the last blog post I’d written, saying how much he’d enjoyed it. Woah! Thank you, sir. Every friendly face we met this morning made my day, your kind words were the icing on the cake and just emphasised the magic of a morning spent at a French market. 

That feeling of belonging, of community and the deep-rooted tradition that French people have been making the time for each other like this for generations. It is humbling to think this is now part of my life too.

French Village Diaries the magic of French markets Chef-Boutonne
Weekend fun on the Brompton


Even with a strong headwind for the seven-kilometre return, I couldn’t help grinning as my legs turned the pedals and my lungs filled with fresh air.

It was nothing short of a perfect start to the weekend, although we did miss the usual banter from our cycling buddies. 

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