I had a great time at the Thursday morning market in the town of Hesdin in the lovely Seven Valleys region of Pas-de-Calais.
I’d classify it as medium sized and typical of the traditional market of rural France with a terrific variety of stalls – from great charcuterie with homemade sausages to horse meat, fish, fresh veg, house hold produce including a man who weaves chair seats on the spot, clothes, shoes, fresh spices and herbs and more!
Set in and around the main square Places des Armes and with the magnificent town hall and ancient church as a backdrop, the river Canche runs through the centre and there’s been a market here for hundreds of years – indeed there were one or two stall holders who looked like they may have been there themselves for hundreds of years. The streets are full of ancient houses and wonderful old cafés, brasseries and patisseries to nip into for coffee or sustenance. There’s a great atmosphere with stallholders cracking jokes (which I never understand but laugh anyway and hope they are not saying “my beloved pet has died”), old ladies who wear housecoats and carry traditional wicker baskets and everyone does a dancy-walk when they go past the French Eurotrash music CD stall – what more could you ask from a market?
Hesdin is really popular with Brits, Belgians and the Dutch – it’s such a pretty, traditional country town that visitors return over and over and there’s a thriving expat community so most of the stall holders at Hesdin speak English and are really friendly. There was a lingerie stall and I saw these bras that have been advertised all over the TV lately so went to have a look. The mad old lady who ran the stall – she must have been in her late sixties – told me that there were really comfortable and then pulled open her shirt to let me look! Talk about hard sell – anyway what could I do, I bought one!
After we shopped til we dropped buying meat, veg, flowers and falling in love with more chickens, ducks and geese (no we didn’t buy any this time!) we picked up a baguette, some fresh ham and salad and had a picnic in the forest in the town. As it was a warm day the leafy canopy gave some shade and the fresh smell of the forest floor was blissful.
It certainly makes food shopping a pleasant experience when you have somewhere like this on your doorstep.