If there was a rule book for visiting Provence, I'm pretty sure that rule number one would be... get thee to a market (but in french like). And if you don't believe me, ask Fodor's. See, markets are a must-do.
So on the Monday that Mom & Co were here, that's just what we did.
Monday is market day in Forcalquier (I happen to prefer the Apt market but Apt market day is Saturday and on Saturday we were busy in Avignon and Gordes. But Forcalquier is the first market I visited and where I bought my very first basket which made me feel like a proper French lady, that is until Fifty ate it). Because markets in Provence start early and end early, I got the ladies in the car by 8:00, and off we went.
On the way to Forcalquier something extraordinary happened, Mom & Co said that they preferred my driving to Gregory's, it was sooooo much smoother. Well I wasn't surprised what with his constant gear shifting all of the time as he's careening around corners. It's like... hello speedracer... you're driving a VW minivan with the Golden Girls in the back. Stop with all of the shifting, ease off the clutch and take it down a notch. Feeling completely validated, I parked the minivan and off we went to explore all of the Provençal wares.
They oohed and aahed and shopped. I oohed and aahed at all of the American voices I was hearing. Let it be known that Summer 2012 was the summer of the American tourist in Provence. I've never heard so many accents that made me homesick before. Sure in Aix-en-Provence and the Côte d'Azur you'll hear some, but not usually in Provence, Provence (that's what I like to call my area... Provence, Provence), normally the only English I hear is English, English. But for whatever the reason the Americans are finally here... bienvenue and please come again (and give me a shout before you come next time so I can give you my American goody list).
Usually me, I know, but on this Monday in Provence, one lone Frenchman dared to defy the stereotype going above and beyond in the customer service arena and coloring me shocked.
Miss Vicki and JoDelle had discovered some Provençal pottery that they just had to have. While they were buying up the shop, I bid adieu and went on my way exploring all of the pretty soaps, fragrant spices, olives and tampenades. And I bought some saucisson sec to treat Gregory; one olive, an herb, and a bleu d'Auvergne. (Just so you know, the bleu d'Auvergne saucisson with a glass of red wine is practically a revelation, it's that good.)
A few minutes later, I heard someone shouting, "Madame! Madame!" I ignored it because whoever was shouting definitely couldn't mean me because then I'm sure they would have been shouting, "Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!" (Right?!) But when I felt a tug on my arm, I turned around to see the Frenchman from the pottery shop standing there. He was red in the face and huffing and puffing something fierce. He quickly explained that the two American women I had been with earlier were missing some of their pottery. When he had been wrapping up their packages, he had accidentally left out a couple of pieces and as soon as he realized, he ran out into the market to find them.
Let me tell you something about Forcalquier Market, it is not small. It is the largest in the Alpes de Haute-Provence department and covers a large area in the center of town, weaving up and down different paths. This little Frenchman, taking off into the crowd, searching for Miss Vicki and JoDelle to return their missing pottery is astonishing, especially in France (no offence Frenchies but you know it's true). Gold star for him.
Want to know what else is astonishing? Me actually understanding every bit of his rapid fire French as he tried to catch his breath while frantically explaining what had happened. Now that's astonishing.