What to see in the Drôme provencale.
After several years of planning, our family of four has finally made it to Provence. Renting an apartment in the village of Buis les Baronnies, in the heart of the Drôme provencale was something we wanted to experience for some time.
La Berlue, a home built in the late 1880s is located at the end of the main street in Buis and is owned by Jean-Marc and Lola, transplants from Paris who gave up careers in the city for the quiet life in the south.
With the newly finished pool and large garden, the home is a small oasis of verdant nature, yet located within a 5-minute walk to the village centre.
Inhabited since pre-historic times, Buis les Baronnies is today a village of some 2500 people, who work mainly in agriculture, tourism and in some of the nearby towns such as Carpentras and the small city of Avignon, in southern France. With the Mont Ventoux (nearly 2000m high ) the region is paradise for cyclists, hikers, painters and sun-seekers. Lavender is pressed to make essential oils, olives are harvested for both eating and oil and bee hives and orchards abound. It is one of the picturesque Provence towns we vist during our Country Walks of Provence
With a market everyday of the week in the Baronnies region, this area is perfect for an active holiday. The intent of this blog is mainly to give some insights into what the area has to offer, some of the better hiking trails of the region and where to get information for various activities such as climbing, via ferrate, cycling, and canyoneering but also where the best markets are and some of the more interesting villages can be found.
Markets in Provence are an integral part of the slow way of life here. The slow food movement was not started here, but has taken hold, and many inhabitants of the Drome, and Vaucluse (departments of southern France), use the daily markets to sell food grown in local gardens, honey collected from local hives, and an assortment of handicrafts and kitchen utensils. Before the advent of the supermarket, (which became popular only in the 1970s), quite late in France, markets were where people went for food, to buy clothing, animals and to above all, socialize.
Markets are generally divided into two sections; food on one side and handicrafts, clothing and art on the other. The organic food phenomenon has really taken off in France and more particularly here in Provence where the sun shines more than two thirds of the year. Summers are hot and food is abundant. Many small producers depend on the markets to sell their produce as supermarket chains would not even consider buying from them due to calibre and presentation of food (yes, there’s actually dirt on carrots!). That said, our children’s school meals are almost %100 locally sourced, with no GMO and at the moment %80 organic.
Market food is not cheap, but if you are looking to buy local and organic, markets are really where you can connect with small, grass roots environmentalists who see organic food as a way forward, not a way back. Organic produce is costly and it would be elitist to think that anybody should and can buy organic. I personally do not buy everything organic as it simply is too expensive. But when you are on a holiday, there is nothing better than local goat’s cheese, spread on organic bread followed by a sip of rose from a nearby vineyard.
Here is a list of local markets which run throughout the year, albeit smaller during the winter months.
Market day in Buis-les-Baronnies is Wednesday .
These markets are close enough to Buis to allow for an out-and-back cycle ride with lunch in one of the market towns. Bear in mind that most markets begin to shut down by 1300, so best to get there early enough to have lunch and then carry on cycling. If you choose to drive, plan on purchasing one of the many baskets which are for sale at the market as all your goodies can go inside.
It also makes you look like a local! If you want to buy enough food to get you through until the next market, plan on buying a small cooler and ice pack you can leave in the vehicle for the drive home. If you visit Provence in summer, July and August can see temperatures in the high 30sC, which means your cheese and fruit will melt on your way home.