The Sunday market at Esperaza is a much larger and altogether more bohemian affair than the weekly ones in Quillan, and attracts a large crowd of locals, travellers and tourists for its wide variety of produce, clothing, homeware, artisan and craft stalls.
There’s a definite spiritual and alternative lifestyle dimension to this market, and with the riverside location, and the gypsy entertainment, you could be fooled for thinking you were on the set of the movie ‘Chocolat’.
The fresh, seasonal produce is plentiful, and much of it is organic, as this is a focus of growers in the region surrounding Esperaza. You will mostly only find produce grown locally. No California oranges or out of season strawberries here. Although admittedly I have seen grapes from Italy and kiwifruit from Spain. Everything looks fresh and appealing. I have to remember I am shopping for two and not to go crazy, or food will just go to waste.
I’m always tempted by the array of dried fruits and nuts – so much more extensive than you can typically find in New Zealand. I’m particularly taken by the candied lemons.
There are whole stalls dedicated to individual products. Who would have thought there could be so many different types of chilli pepper? As we took these photos, an English couple traded chilli strengths with the vendor, settling on something reasonably mild, for the benefit of their self-described ‘elderly’ relation.
We bought wood-fired pain de campagne from the same artisan baker I remember buying from last time we were here. The loaves are huge. We got a half and we will struggle to get through even that quickly between the two of us. At least it will not go stale as quickly as a baguette.
The level of skill and craftsmanship on show is wonderful. It’s great that skills like basket weaving are retained locally and still on show.
This guy is carving and selling ‘sporks’ from local wood. Fascinating. Do many people buy sporks? I suppose this is hiking country. So the answer is probably, yes.
The market clusters around the church, and extends the length of the riverside, on the banks of the river Aude. On a sunny day it sparkles, and there’s no better way to spend a Sunday morning, wandering and browsing.
When a rest is needed, there are several pleasant cafes to choose from – on the square, bordering the river or on the old bridge. All in the thick of it. All doing a roaring trade.
Remarkably, it’s possible to bump into people you know here, even though we know very few people. If we’re ever going to bump into them by chance, you can be sure it will be here at the Esperaza market. As we did this morning, just as we were heading for coffee and croissants, and ended up drinking in company.
These travelling musicians were self-described gypsies, on their way from Spain back to Macedonia. They truly looked like gypsies, and they played like gypsies. The crowd around them swelled in size as they sang and the clapping was generous and joyous.
All we needed was for Johnny Depp to stroll round the corner and Juliette Binoche to be handing out chilli and lavendar-infused chocolates.