Tour France; Exploring the Arles Outdoor Markets

Provence is known for its laissez-faire attitude, excellent food, and vivid, beautiful landscape. And all of this is captured perfectly in the enormous outdoor market of Arles, France!

The Arles Colisseum was built shortly after Rome's- you can see the inspiration!

The Arles Colisseum was built shortly after Rome’s- you can see the inspiration!

Saturday morning, Bliss Travels and our guests made our way over to Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage site best known for its Roman ruins (it was Julius Caesar’s favorite French town!) and stunningly preserved colosseum.

It is also the town where van Gogh famously lopped off his ear and painted one of his most well known pieces, the Cafe Terrace at Night. The cafe is still working to this day- we stopped and had drinks to cool off!

"Cafe Terrace at Night" by Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

“Cafe Terrace at Night” by Vincent van Gogh, 1888.

However, on Saturdays these beautiful ruins and even van Gogh‘s tumultuous history are overshadowed by the sprawling market that runs through the two main streets of town. Locals from around the Luberon region flock to this market, the largest around, to buy all manner of things. Mounds of burgundy cherries are sold next to blocks of homemade nougat and wheels of cheese that can weigh up to 60 pounds. Baskets of clucking chickens were stacked next to vats of black olives and woks of fresh Paella that three or four people could fit on!

After strolling through this gorgeous feast, we picked out our favorite foods–fresh forest strawberries (frais du bois), local goat cheeses, brioches, slabs of ham, spit roasted pork, a few bottles of wine, ‘donut’ peaches….amongst many other things!–and headed to a park surrounded by Roman ruins for the picnic of the decade! What a way to tour France.

Every ingredient is so fresh...it's hard to buy just one of anything.

Every ingredient is so fresh…it’s hard to buy just one of anything.

Under the trees, we shared a beautiful day surrounded by good company, piles of delicious treats and centuries of history. What a day- and what a life! Provence is pure Bliss.

A bientot-

Bliss Travels

Everything is fresh, and everyone is happy!

Everything is fresh, and everyone is happy!

Local cheeses were everywhere. Our mouths were watering from a booth away.

Local cheeses were everywhere. Our mouths were watering from a booth away.

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7 Easy Steps to a Bliss-ful Vacation in France!

1. Pack Light! It’s hard to be adventurous when you’re bogged down. Plus, everything’s smaller in France (elevators, car trunks, closets…). And, the walks are longer. You can’t catch a train on the fly if you’re lugging around everything you own!

2.Think local! Sure, you should read some guide books or talk to a travel pro about what to see, but don’t miss out on the “real” sites by keeping your head in the book. Look up! Get off the main arteries and find local haunts and authentic experiences.

3. Talk it up! Find someone who has actually (and recently) been to France. Ask them where they went and what they liked and why!

4. Eat authentically! Before picking a restaurant, walk the area. Don’t go before 8pm (the start of the French dinner hour). Look and listen. Read menus. Avoid menus with long lists of dishes and translations into many languages. Those places are for tourists. Look for small menus, specialty places and market fresh blackboard specials. Then listen to the patrons (if there aren’t any patrons, keep walking). Are many of the diners speaking French or are they tourists? The best food and the best deals are found in places that specialize in market fresh meals designed for locals.

5. Drink local wines! Don’t order a bottle just because you recognize the name. Once upon a time, food was local, as was wine. They matched perfectly because of this. Order what’s local to match your market fresh meal. That might mean ordering a carafe of local wine or a bottle from a nearby vineyard.

6. Travel “off the beaten track”! Find towns and villages that aren’t on the major tour routes. Spend some time wandering through their streets, sipping a drink at the local cafe, or watching the locals play “boules”. Really soak in the experience of being in France.

7.Slow Down! Some Americans arrive wanting to go, go, go! They want to grab a quick sandwich at lunch so they can visit more sites, or they want to start each day at 7am so they can pack it all in. But life in France has a different rhythm. Many businesses don’t open until 9-10am (especially in the countryside), and most businesses close for a couple hours during lunch. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy your time in France. Linger over your meals. Take an aimless stroll after lunch. And try to mimic the rhythm of a real French day. After all, you traveled many thousands of miles to be there!

For a great selection of French travel off the beaten track trips, visit http://www.blisstravels.com or send me an email at wendy@blisstravels.com.