Monday, 28 March 2011

Valbonne - The best street market in France.

Valbonne has the most fantastic Provencal market which takes place on a Friday morning and is a focal point for the villages and its inhabitants. Then on the first Sunday of each month there is an antiques market which is well worth a visit.

The Friday market takes place right through this picturesque village. 12th century un spoilt facades are the feature of this bustling lively village. There is a large parking area to the west of the village with a short walk across a new square, which also has some parking but it is often difficult to find a place. Even before you get to the end of the new square (going past the best fruit and vegetable shop I have ever seen, but they know how to charge!), the stalls begin before you go down the stairs past Cafe Latin, and before reaching the old village proper.

A fruit market in the new part of Valbonne village.
Once across the road into the ancient centre, you will find stalls littering the main drag and many of the tiny cobbled side streets which crisscross this old village. The main drag opens up into the central square, which is surrounded by half a dozen restaurants and cafe's which are busy at all times of the year but especially the Friday market days.

One can find a wide range of jewellery, much local produce with many seasonal items, ranging in fruit and vegetable terms from peaches, figs, grapes, walnuts, carrots, fennel, pate, bread, mirabelle plums, strawberries raspberries and mushrooms of many types depending on the season I have even seen truffles for sale in season.

Much local produce is available, one often finds a wine producer and a purveyor of cheeses alongside ceramics and local glassware and some other locally crafted items. The normal market offerings of clothing, footwear and sunglasses are inevitably well covered, but there is also a knife maker, lines and tablecloths for sale plus hand carved wooden items.

The village is a perfect way to set up your day. A wander around the market can take over an hour to do properly, and then, with a thirst on board you can get a coffee, or something stronger such as a pastis or a glass of rose and sit and watch the market life go on whilst you people watch or read a paper. There are several news agents in the village, all stocking a good range of English speaking newspapers.

Lunch is of course eminently possible, indeed some would say necessary. A visitor to this region will almost inevitably be aware of the Provencal, indeed French reverence for lunch. Peter Maile, author of "A Year In Provence" when asked to describe Provence on one word said "lunch"

On the first Sunday of each month, a very different market takes place, the Antiques market. It ids a colourful affair with hundreds of stands, with an incredible array of items offered for sale, ranging from coins and old jewelry through ceramics, glassware, furniture, in fact very little of interest an antique hound will not be found here. This market, unlike the Friday weekly markets, continues throughout the day and is slightly less frenetic than its weekly counterpart.

There is a hotel in the centre of the village which is quite quirky but can be very noisy in the evenings, especially in the summer so many people opt to stay in a private villa. These can be rented very easily and Valbonne is a brilliant springboard to visit other villages in the area or take a trip down to the beaches of Cannes or in winter to drive up the mountain for a days skiing.

Easily reached from Junction 42 or 44 of the A8 motorway and 20 minutes drive to Nice airport, this is a wonderful base to enjoy a visit to the area.