Thursday, 21 July 2011

Night Markets

Every year in Saint-Gengoux-le-National there are two night markets one is on a Friday in mid-July and the other on a Friday in mid-August. The whole of the mediaeval town is full of stalls run by local artists and artisans selling their wares. Other stalls have local produce or food you can eat as you wander round. You can also join in the communal meal that is organised, shoving up on to the benches to be squashed in with the rest of the population. The markets start at eight in the evening and go on officially until midnight, but in reality they go on until everyone leaves. They are well visited and the quality of the stalls is high, so I was excited to see that this year Cluny has taken up the idea and is running three night markets on Wednesdays mid-June, mid-July and mid-August.

The second Cluny market was yesterday, so we decided to go. They start at five o’clock, but we felt that seven o’clock would be early enough to attend. I don’t know whether it was the cool weather or whether this new type of market will take time to catch on with traders, but there were really not many stalls and the quality of the artisanal work (jewellery, pottery etc) was not of an exceptional quality. Amongst the stalls doing a good trade were some nuns from Rhône-Alpes where they were selling jams and hand cream although I missed the connection between the two. There was a lack of food stalls, in fact all that was on offer were small, thick “bio” pizzas which were certainly
lacking in the topping department so we declined the offer of buying one and sadly being away from the main town, the local restaurants and snack bars couldn’t join in the fun. The beer stall though had two or three interesting beers, so we sat down with a beer and listened to the entertainment, which at that moment consisted of two women doing a rather poor Brecht-style performance accompanied by a barrel organ.

The backdrop of the Flamboyant Gothic town hall on the one side and the view over the Abbey on the other gave a certain ambiance to the event, but the fact that it was not in the hub of the town took away a lot of atmosphere and for me the whole lacked the cosiness and interest of the narrow cobbled streets that you find in Saint-Gengoux which could have been easily created by a more central position in the town.

We’ll keep our eye on this one though, as it does have potential to be an interesting and bustling market with the right setting and the right organisation.

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