The weather was glorious in south-west France during my short sojourn there. It was lovely to feast my eyes on azure blue skies part-filled with flossy white clouds, to feel the warmth of the sun on my back and to experience a succession of rain-free days. I was staying in Lisle-sur-Tarn a pretty medieval bastide (fortified) town between Toulouse and Albi. If the name Lisle-sur-Tarn sounds familiar perhaps you read Tracy Chevalier’s The Virgin Blue which was set in the town.
One of the highlights of my holiday was a trip to the nearby picture perfect town of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val (from now on referred to simply as Saint-Antonin). Saint-Antonin, like Lisle-sur-Tarn, is a medieval bastide town. It gets its name from Saint Antonin an early evangelist who, according to legend, brought christianity to the area and from its location in a ‘noble valley’. The town is on the banks of the Aveyron river and as I crossed the bridge I could see the impressive nearby towering cliffs tumbling down to meet the rows of trees which line the water’s edge. It is a beautiful place to visit especially on a sunny day when the multitude of mellow stone buildings in Saint-Antonin shimmer in the sunlight.
I was there last Sunday and Sunday is market day in Saint-Antonin. Now in France local markets run the gamut from just so-so to very good. Saint-Antonin’s market very definitely tipped the scales at good to excellent. It is predominantly a food market selling a vast array of produce including: cheese, honey, foie gras, fruits, olive oil, and vegetables. But there are also stalls selling: soaps, flowers, plants, clothes, jewellery and pottery. It is the sort of place you could go with your basket in search of Sunday lunch and come away with a veritable feast. The only thing I bought, due to worry about budget airlines’ baggage weight restrictions, was a teeny tiny blue bowl from a stall selling rather lovely hand-painted pottery.
I was in France with a small group of friends so when we had ‘done’ the market we headed back across the bridge for a leisurely lunch at a riverside restaurant called Le Festin de Babette. It was warm enough to sit outside and we enjoyed a decent lunch accompanied by some of the local Gaillaic wines. Lunch over we headed back to Lisle-sur-Tarn; the sun shone until late into the evening and sitting by the pool until sundown was a perfect end to a lovely day.