Scarves are not worn as fashion accessories in central France this time of the year. And summer’s leaves –despite their layered abundance- do little to insulate cold feet from the damp pavement.
Yet, even when the mercury struggles sluggishly beyond freezing and pastel coloured apartments obstruct daylight, the market square in Roanne’s town centre remains warm amongst its lively crowd and stall holders. A warmth seemingly generated by the people it attracts; their smiles, laughter, embraces, their unity. It’s a warmth born from kind words and sincerity. A warmth from within.
As my morning there develops, so too, does a growing awareness that places like this exist not simply as opportunities to procure but more as a way of life; a meeting place, an information epicentre, une raison d’etre.
At no point prior to our first trip to France did we ever dream of selling at a market place. Initially it was hard enough just trying to pronounce the names of everyday vegetables (leeks became poireaux, pumpkins, potimarron), but as time went on, as weeks turned into months, more and more we found ourselves absorbed by the culture; the open-air stalls, the organic movement, and the popularity with which Continentals seem to embrace them.
Being here as a family is one of the highlights of our travel experiences, and working on a friend’s produce stall rates as a principal reasons for why we came back to France.
Over the past three years, the market, along with his farm –located on a small and beautiful hillside settlement- has provided our family with countless authentic French experiences, and no matter where we settle down, we’ll always have an attachment to l’Allier.
But this trip to France was but a blanch of fresh vegies in a hot pot compared to previous trips.
Before we knew it our ten day sojourn was over. The car was packed up again, the second half of Harry Potter’s audio C.D. was at the ready, and our tandems, precariously thrust onto the bike rack, were set for one final piggyback to Spain.
Besides, a thin dusting of snow was threatening to stymie our journey south. Warmer climes were calling..
It was time to ditch the scarves.