L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Provence
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is exceptional at any time, but on a Sunday morning when it hosts one of the most impressive and atmospheric markets in France, it’s not to be missed.
The market is set up along the Sorgue River, in front of cafés, stores, and restaurants, and meanders into a web of narrow cobbled lanes and tiny squares.
Get there early. By the time we arrived at 8:15 a.m., all the street parking was taken, but the parking lots several blocks away were still relatively empty.
It was a late autumn day in October. The sky was swimming in blue; the air was icy cold and as crisp as a freshly baked biscuit; and the canals shimmered in the gentle sunshine.
Vendors setting up their stalls called out to each other in greeting while others cursed and yelled as they attempted to maneuver their trucks into narrow spaces. The area was a vibrant hive of activity.
We went in search of a place bordering the river where we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast while observing the organized chaos that surrounded us. When we stumbled across a café with an outdoor patio that perched above the river, we knew we’d found our ideal spot.
Ensconced in comfy, padded, rattan armchairs, we soaked up the morning sunshine, and the ambiance of this seductive town on the river while lingering over our simple breakfast. Never has a hot baguette with fresh sweet butter, strawberry jam, and endless cups of café latte tasted so sublime.
Beside us, water cascaded over a stone ledge, flowers lifted their smiling faces to the sun, and an ancient waterwheel spun slowly round and round.
A walk along the enchanting warren of narrow streets crisscrossed by canals and quaint bridges led us past an endless smorgasbord of market stalls. We stopped to buy fruit and vegetables- plump, ripened to perfection and bursting with color; assorted cookies; breads and cheeses; olives of every flavor and variety beautifully displayed in huge baskets; and a table blanketed in bowls of patés and dips.
We ogled the mouthwatering desserts and oversized skillets of paella.
A young Vietnamese chef moved seamlessly from one massive frying pan to another, preparing three dishes at the same time.
The clothing market is a shopper’s paradise. I bought several items of clothing at ridiculously low prices, which have been consistently admired whenever I wear them. Then there are the gorgeous fabrics, tablecloths, handbags, jackets, and of course, the antique market. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has close to 300 antique dealers, and an abundance of art galleries. Many of them are housed in reimagined grand old mansions. The most renowned being the 18th-century Hôtel Donadei de Campredon/Maison René Char, named in honor of the French poet and surrealist who was born in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
Plan on spending the day in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and, if time allows, spend the night and enjoy it when a veil of serenity descends over this jewel of a town.