It’s de rigour for us to check out the local farmers’ market whenever we travel and visit a town, city or country.
Squeezing in Happy Time– Local and Abroad
In past blog posts, I’ve enjoyed showcasing a few in Toronto, Vancouver, Freiburg (Germany) and Hilo (Hawai’i) –wonderful local foods, sometimes crafts and ambience which puts them on the map as must-see, places to experience. Yes, some markets were lengthy happy bike stops while others, we deliberately plotted our hotel choice within a 15 min. walk.
In France, we squeezed in 2 hrs. during a train stop switch, before hitting Spain, by dropping by Les Halles in Lyon.
Taste and Culture Stops – Europe, North America
Lyon’s downtown market has several patisserie cafes with lovely cakes and tartes for a leisurely coffee. On our second visit when returning from Spain via high speed train, we munched delicately through some smoked salmon, sea asparagus and some dainty raw fish slices.
In Dijon, France we went to the market every evening to take advantage of quality French restaurant meals at reasonable prices with glass of red wine (4 euros) each time. I didn’t find the market crowds in Dijon overly thronging. Most likely the locals are buying small amounts of groceries each time more than once a week.
Like Les Halles, the Boqueria in Barcelona, Spain operates 6 days per week with a large indoor market as its base. There, crowds jammed at various times with mixed hordes of tourists and locals. The market buzzed with
energy, colour and roar of conversation among shoppers, bar and restaurant patrons usually found in establishments along the market perimeter. If you want to see piles of raw seafood for sale as well as piles of flash-cooked seafood dishes at tapas bars, Boqueria is the place for you.
Quite different from Seattle’s Pike Market where there are show-off vendors with their ice packed seafood from nearby Pacific waters. Cooked seafood places are tucked in corners of the market where people chow down deep fried, grilled seafood or seafood chowder –comfort food of the northern climate countries. The older Pike Market is a bit dark compared to street-plaza side vendors and restaurants.
Dijon, Lyon and Boqueria, were true food markets whereas some other markets that we still enjoy, carefully mix in some local arts and crafts.
Island Market by Ocean
By the Pacific Northwest coast, Saltspring Island’s Saturday summer market is always our enjoyable Gulf Islands’ summer bohemian haunt. After biking 12 km. from the B.C. Ferry dock and parking our bikes to this bike-friendly market, we browsed tables of island arts and crafts before settling down usually to coffee and a large pastry or sandwich either listening to buskers or by the Pacific harbour waters with coastal mountain views. On different bike trips, we also stopped by the Saltspring winery for a bottle of wine after grinding up a road hill.
Canadian Mountain Outdoor Markets
Going inland you can still see mountains, while browsing among fresh fruits, veggies and meat. Interior mountain towns of Revelstoke , British Columbia and Canmore, Alberta, include some local art and crafts. Contrary to any thought that locals are isolated folks, these markets demonstrate there are forward thinking and creative locals. It’s hard to leave when breathing in mountains views and fresh air with music, coffee and local pastry.
Prairie Goodness at Markets
With now multiplicity of local farmers’ markets to support local business and products, we’ve noticed expansion of current market facilities. Edmonton’s downtown Saturday market in the summer has bloomed into an active, busy and happy place to shop, simply hang out for hours with a snack under the bright sun and blue skies. Meanwhile Calgary’s Crossroads Market added a new wing several years ago and slowly adding some bike racks for cyclists.
At times, the local farmers’ market is the best place to snare local food specialities, not grocery stores. If you want to buy Saskatoon berry pie, then you must go to a local farmers’ market. Saskatoon berries are native to the prairies but not grown nor harvested in huge volumes. If you want best
perogies, stuffed with more filling, then we drop by a farmers’ market in Calgary. If you want sea asparagus that is a bit cheaper, it will be at a summer farmers’ market in Vancouver. If you want best, fresh variety of wild forest mushrooms, then hit an outdoor farmers’ market in Seattle or Vancouver, where Pacific rain result in a mushroom foragers’ delight.
Look at again, browse and forage among the local markets for food and products that are unique to the area. We’ve often find it’s a great way to jumpstart understanding the flavour and sometimes even the local history –through food, crafts and wine.
More Blog Posts on Farmers’ Markets
Chong, J. Cycling to Devour Favourite Foods at Farmers’ Markets. In Cycle Write Blog. Nov. 1, 2011.
Chong, J. Growing Up and Cycling Through the Years to Farmers’ Markets. In Third Wave Cycling Blog. Dec. 3, 2010.