Amboise Sunday Market By Wendy VanHatten

Traveling to the Loire Valley of France for the first time, street markets were on our list. I mean who doesn’t enjoy the dozens of stalls of colorful, delicious-looking fruits and vegetables?

Our landlord of the apartment we rented told us the Sunday market in Amboise was not to be missed. “You’ll find everything here. It’s one of the best in the Loire Valley. Get there early.”

So, we were prepared. Or, so we thought. Abundant doesn’t begin to describe the number of vendors or stuff for sale. It was teeming with people, trucks, and their products. Hodgepodge…no. Diversity…yes.

Since we took our landlord’s advice and arrived early, we found a place to park…not an easy feat for those who came a half hour later. Trucks, vans, ovens, tables, wines, food, livestock, and people as far as we could see. Deciding to pass by the first man handing out samples of horse sausage, we moved along through the rows of tables.

Aromas from grilling meats and just baked baguettes mixed with pungent goat cheeses and spicy olives. It was heaven to stand and sniff. But, first…coffee and a pastry. Fresh, of course. What better way to people-watch?

Then, time to wander through row after row as the market wound around and along the raised banks of the river Loire. If there was anything we were looking for that we couldn’t find, it was our own fault. This market had everything.

Cashmere sweaters as soft as kitten fur from Italy? Sure, I’ll take one. Mounded high, red and white radishes complete with their green tops posed for photo ops. White asparagus, in season, ranged in size from pencil-thin to cigar-fat. All wanted to come home with me. Sausages, jambon, and meats of many kinds lined up next to fresh, ice-encrusted fish from Brittany, and winemakers offered us Vouvray wine from the area. Spices and fresh herbs vied for our attention and pleased our noses.

We sampled as we wandered. Plump, bright orange apricots the size of small apples and baskets of ruby red strawberries made their way into my bags. Believe me…they tasted as good as they looked.

Need some clothespins? Yes, clothespins. Take your pick from one of several booths. T-shirts, leather purses, jewelry, garden supplies, the latest invention for hoeing in your garden, furniture, kitchen gadgets of every possible kind…some you didn’t know you needed until you saw it…, and just about any piece of clothing all had their space.

A lady walked past carrying a large, brown box with holes in it. It was clucking. She had come from the vendors who were selling live chickens and ducks. Not for eating, mind you. These were special, fancy-looking critters in a variety of colors and feathery top-knots. People bought these hens for eggs. And, every box that walked away was making a noise. The buyers looked happy.

Tantalizing smells of roasting meat drew us down another path, past the artichokes as big as cantaloupes and fresh, purple-colored heads of garlic the size of baseballs. Whoa. Four semi-rucks lined the edges. Each truck was a portable rotisserie with five racks of rotating chickens in each. Perfectly seasoned and browned chickens cycled slowly around as the vendor periodically inspected them for doneness. Did we drool? You bet.

Then, there was the Paella Guy. I’ve seen large paella pans. This one wasn’t even in the same playing field. At least four feet across, I’m not sure which was more impressive…the pan, the bubbling mixture, or the smells coming from the pan. We watched as he added rice and some more spices. Stirring it sent the delicious aromas into the air. He grinned when he heard us sigh. More drool.

Need dessert? We sampled some black ash-crusted cheesecakes, which were not like any cheesecake I have ever tasted. Even though we were supposed to crack the ash off before eating, they still were not my favorite. We opted for cheese and fruit.

Sadly, it was time to leave. We were loaded down with fresh bread, a variety of cheeses which we may or may not remember the names, enough radishes and leafy greens for a salad, spicy salami, and enough apricots and berries for both dessert and breakfast.

Were we glad we learned about this market? Oh yeah. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning on vacation.

If You Go: The Amboise Sunday Market is held each Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm in Amboise, France. You can find more information at http://www.experienceloire.com/amboise-market.htm.

 


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