Former Carcassonne residents Tracy and Alan, whose “An Italian Point of View” blog we follow (link in the right column), told us that although the streets here might seem deserted if the weather is bad, as soon as the sun comes out, so do the people. That was definitely the case last weekend when the city seemed to come alive after being cooped up for several days running.
The open air market is held three days a week on the main square where vendors display what they have grown on the farms that surround the city or they’ve purchased from sunny Spain, just a bit south of us. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there are several merchants and on Saturdays their numbers grow to the point that the square isn’t large enough so a couple of the neighboring streets are closed to cars and turned into an extended market place. For most of the week the weather had been cool, overcast, gray, and rainy so when the sun returned by Saturday morning, people were ready to get outside.
It’s only a 15-minute walk from our house to the square, but it took us nearly 45 minutes on our most recent trip because of all the unexpected (and delightful, I might add) stops we made along the way. The first was as soon as we opened our front door when we were greeted by the neighbors across the street who had invited us over the week before for drinks. From there it was handshakes and bonjour by the owner of the épicerie (greengrocer), good morning waves to the hairdressers (no, we don’t need their services but everyone smiles at us), des bisous (kisses on the cheek) from the wine shop owner and her mom, and a quick “we’ll be back” at the boulangerie where golden baguettes were just coming out of the oven before we finally arrived at our destination.
We still delayed our shopping because, at one of the many sidewalk cafés that circle the square, we spotted new arrivals Sally and Larry with a vacationing friend enjoying a cup of coffee in the festive atmosphere. It seemed that both lifelong and recent residents had exactly the same idea. As always, the selection of fruits, vegetables, flowers, olives, spices, honey, meats, cheese, and seafood was overwhelming and made choosing “just a little” a real challenge. With our backpacks full, we stopped to pick up bread(s) for the weekend and noticed that the crowd from the café/bar across from the bakery had spilled out into the street. We continued our walk home, past the remnants of the city’s 13th century stone walls, reminding us of the history that abounds here.