Sunday, 14 April 2013

French Markets, in Abingdon and in Callac

Yesterday I met up with a co-worker for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake in a delightful little cafe in Abingdon. I'd driven past lots of times on my way to work and read the board in the window offering pudding nights and knitting/chat sessions, but yesterday was the first time I'd walked through the door, which is a shame.

'Rosie's Tea Room'   is a lovely little place, independent of those large and somewhat faceless corporations who've sprung up on our high streets, quirky and unique. We sat on a squashy little sofa by a bookcase and smiled in approval of the old building, with its beams and flooring, at the pictures on the walls and the little, amusing touches, such as this crocheted teapot and cups...

Over our drinks and cakes we chatted, about some issues we have in common, plans for projects that we're both working on, families, the usual therapeutic and helpful stuff that we women are so good at.

And then we wandered, in the rain, round the French Market.


It wasn't a proper French market, not the kind that you'd find in a French town where there are all manner of people selling all kinds of goods, the kinds of good that are essential purchases for daily life...

 It was more 'A taste of France', but even so it was lovely to wander round and indulge in some nostalgic reminiscences


 And I was tempted by the stall selling sweet goodies and bought a bag of cream-filled pastries from the smiling man who was also making crèpes, although I'd have preferred a paper bag to the plastic one I was offered....

 I was not tempted by the sausage stall. It reminded me of the one in Caen that sells donkey-meat sausages, which discover put me off for life...



I would have liked to have bought some paté but it was too expensive for my budget, and so common sense prevailed....





 The lady selling cheeses was charming. We chatted in French, she told us that she lives in Quimper, I told her that my home is near Guingamp, she complained about the music that is constantly played at the next stall, how it's repetitive and boring. I laughed and danced a little waltz as we walked away.

And then my friend and I parted company and I came home to re-read a post that I wrote a couple of weeks before I returned to England to start work, about a real French market, the one at which I used to do some of my weekly shopping. 

If the spacing is inconsistent and annoying, my apologies. I'm rushing to write this before getting ready to drive to Oxford where this afternoon I will be helping to teach an English class, more on that exciting new project later. 

Callac Market

One pleasure of life in rural France that almost makes up for the lack of fish and chips, curries and decent ready-meals (and never underestimate the importance of the small but reassuringly familiar things in life), is the weekly market.

Fridays are special, that's when the larger Guingamp market is held and it's always followed, for me, by coffee and a raspberry macaroon at my favourite cafe in the main square

On Wednesdays though, I do my main shopping at Callac market

The formula rarely changes, twelve large organic eggs from the 'chicken lady' who throws in a French lesson for free, a basket full of whichever organic vegetables the gentle lady in the headscarf is selling from her modest table, a loaf of bread and a moist, sugary brioche from the sexy organic baker (are you spotting a trend here?) and then either live langoustines and fresh fish or slabs of marbled meat, depending on my preference on the day. Some days I cope well with the killing process, most days I still find it hard to watch live creatures die in boiling water, even as I know that I should be prepared to do so....

It's a very social event, the weekly market, with much meeting, greeting and kissing as old friends catch up with each other

After two years some of the older Breton ladies now recognize me which gives me such pleasure, and I really appreciate the sense of belonging and the feeling that I have become a part of the community

So, wander with me around a typical market in a small Breton farming town...

Like this small girl I wanted to buy baby rabbits to keep as pets. Sadly these bunnies are destined to be reared in small hutches, fed on stale bread and garden greens and then dispatched for the pot.

Likewise these ducklings.
The first time I saw them I was overcome by a strong maternal instinct to buy the whole lot and let them fly free.

This is the statue of a Breton horse that stands in the car park near the post office where I arrive, breathless and panicking to post a late essay to my O.U tutor more often than I care to admit...

I will miss the horse fair in Bulat Pestivien this year which is probably just as well, the temptation to buy a pony is becoming increasingly difficult to resist...

A pile of wooden clogs


The word sabotage derives from the name of this footwear, clogs having been used to sabotage factory machinery at one rebellious time....

Practical people the Bretons, though I prefer flipflops or furry Finnish boots to this kind of footwear

I often stop and smile at this stall. Who amongst the solid, sensible Breton ladies would waste her hard-earned money on a belly-dancing outfit?

In these parts people please themselves and individuality is expected rather than frowned-upon

Onions and garlic, bien sûr

It wouldn't be France without such staples, would it?


I see this old man every week. He always wears leather trousers, the same jerkin and hat and he always has the gentlest, most well-behaved Alsation dog on a leash and a pipe in his mouth.

He is typical of the free-thinking, individual folk that live here and everyone recognizes him and greets him

Next week The Ragazza and I will enjoy one last trip to Callac market. My life at this time has become a series of One Last's as the date for my departure draws near and I become increasingly aware of all that I will have to sacrifice when I return to England  



  1. Mmm, bivalve shellfish I can throw into boiling water without turning a hair, but of course langoustines do have faces on, and the way they wave their little arms about does bring them rather too close to the vertebrate, even though they aren't. I'm rarely tempted by langoustine anyway, as I never seem to be able to get them out of their carapaces without getting one of their spines painfully lodged under my thumb nail. Leclerc the other day had sea urchins, but I'd only try those if someone else prepared them.

    A family whose daughter I teach had a cute and much loved lop-eared long-haired bunny which lived in luxury hutch in the porch, and over which many tears were shed when it died, and a large extended family of brown ones just across in the vegetable patch which were destined for stew. It seemed odd but then it occurred to me that we had hens for pets and regularly roasted and ate one of their kindred (always Label Rouge, elevé en plein air etc of course) at the weekend. Though not one we'd known personally I suppose.

    The donkey sausage is usually clearly labelled as such; it seems to be a positive selling point rather than something they're trying to sneakily pass off...

    Nice post. Hope the English teaching is fruitful!

    1. Indeed, I was working my way from langoustines to a live lobster but left before reaching that point. And yes, they do move around disconcertingly when popped in the pot, although I was assured that that was due to 'air in the shells'. I chose to believe it.

      Yes, I couldn't eat an animal that I'd raised and nurtured, I'd never make a good farmer.

      Thank you and the teaching was great fun, it took me back to the hours I spent studying French and Italian at evening classes. Happily, my learner was pronouncing her th's really well by the end of the lesson, so hard for non-English speakers isn't it@ Like me trying to ask for milles feuilles in France!

  2. Thank you for an enjoyable shopping trip. I will track down that place in Abingdon, too. Good luck with the new venture.

    1. Are you close to Abingdon?
      What a small world it is!

  3. Loved reading your blog, I found it totally by accident.


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