The medieval village of Issigeac has narrow streets, authentically preserved architecture and quaint houses with shutters in pale shades of yellow, blue, pink, cream and mint green. When you wander through its streets, you feel as though you’re back in the Middle Ages.
Although very busy, especially during the summer season, Issigeac’s Sunday market is really something that should not be missed. It is definitely one of the most colorful and folkloric ones in the region, but you do need to be very patient, as the masses of people will literally force you to walk at the most leisurely of paces. It isn’t a market you’ll want to (or will be able to) rush through. And if you have a small dog, like we do, it might be smart to pick it up and carry it safely away from all those scary feet!
Sometimes, when we are lucky enough to find a free table, we like to have a drink at a great little café with its terrace situated under a roof of grape leaves. Life is good when you’re lazily sipping something wonderful while engaging in a little people-watching.
I usually keep my purchases to a minimum at the market. Mainly because we always drive to Soumensac for lunch afterward, and it isn’t a smart idea to leave food in the car when the temperatures outside are above 30°C. I do like to take home some nice Marmande tomatoes, a few boxes of fragrant strawberries or a sweet Quercy melon or two.
The Issigeac market is a great place to start the Sunday, while Soumensac’s Marchés des Producteurs is the only way to roll into an unforgettable afternoon. I always refer to this market as the ‘Renoir-live-painting-lunch’. On a beautiful hilltop, vendors sell and prepare regional specialties. You’ll find just about every kind of duck product, all kinds of barbecued meats, some of the fattest escargots, fresh salads made with seasonal vegetables, refreshing fruit desserts, crêpes, fresh bread and of course, plenty of regional wine.
Long tables are set out under the tall trees, and if you want, you can even dress your table with your own pretty tablecloth and tableware. I make the comparison to Renoir because for some reason, the colors and atmosphere are just as magnificent there as they are in Renoir’s paintings. The soft, dappled light, the colorful scenery, the foliage of the trees and the beautiful hats worn by most of the people make you really feel as though you are literally inside Renoir’s Le Déjeuner des Canotiers! Don’t you agree?
There are many different stands selling freshly prepared regional foods, and everything is bountifully displayed. At one stand a friendly couple offers simple plates of salads composed of rounds of cucumbers, ripe Marmande tomatoes, finely sliced sweet onions and thin slivers of peppers. They are dressed with nothing more than a little olive oil and some salt, letting the summery tastes and aromas of the vegetables shine through. Another stand sells warm crêpes with granulated sugar. Of course, there are grilling stands where everything is being barbecued right on the spot: fat duck sausages, tournedos with tender hearts of foie gras, chicken pieces and skewers of various meats and seasonal vegetables. The robust aroma of anything grilled is hard to resist, meaning that the lines there are usually the longest. Right across from the grilling area is a lady who offers fresh fried chips. Dessert offerings include slices of squidgy-bellied clafoutis dotted with halved prunes or refreshing parfait glasses composed of layers of vanilla pudding, tart berries and coulis.
If you are in the Lot-et-Garonne, you might want to check out this market. Who knows? You might bump into me there. If you do, please stop by and say hello!