I have a penchant for street photography and a love affair with French Farmer’s markets. So the delightful regional city of Sarlat le Caneda in the Perigord Nord region of South West France completely captivated me from the get-go. In fact I fell for the entire Dordogne departement!
The town’s origins can be traced back as far as the 9th Century AD however it wasn’t until the Medieval age that Sarlat really began to grow to greater prominence. Then – as now – it was a market town of great importance. Many of the finest residences, belonging to successful traders and merchants from the 15th and 16th Centuries, still exist today in the old town.
Sarlat like most villages, towns and cities in France has seen both prosperity and tumult over the centuries. In fact the old town used to be encircled by defensive walls which have long since been removed. Pleasingly however the incredible architectural heritage that Sarlat possesses was recognised as early as the 1960s. Money was invested and protection ensured for many of its wonderful historic edifices.
It is a simply stunning town and it’s beauty is even enshrined in title. It is called a Plus Beaux Detour. A town worth visiting for its beauty. No arguments here!
Discover on foot.
Sarlat demands exploration by foot. It’s labyrinthine alleyways and tight zig-zagging streets whisper to you to come and explore.
Generally speaking the pedestrianised Rue de la Republique runs as a spine along the length of the old town. Narrow alleys and smaller streets run off each side as if they were the ribs. It is a wondrous place to explore at a pace set to saunter.
Photographers beware however. Sarlat in the warmer months can be brutally hot. The afternoon sun is not your friend. It is harsh and bounces blindingly off the sandstone walls and ochre-coloured stones. The contrast between light and shade is brutal. If you can explore in the early morning or later afternoon you will be rewarded.
Of all the riches on display for the traveller in Sarlat le Caneda the Saturday market is the greatest gem of them all. Well at least in my opinion.
Snaking through the old town is a veritable sea of striped awnings and brightly coloured canopies. This market operates every Saturday and these coverings serve a valuable purpose. To protect from the baking sun of summer and afford protection from more inclement weather in the cooler climes of winter and early spring.
Wandering amongst the stalls is divine. There is a maelstrom of noise, sights and aromas all around you. Stop at the stalls and try some of the produce. So fresh, just delicious.
There is a real divergence of experience between visitors and locals here.
For residents visiting their food markets it’s an ordinary activity. Akin to you doing your weekly grocery shop back at home. But for we travellers, we lovers of France and slow food a visit to Sarlat Market is an extraordinary experience.
If you visit in season (normally the winter months) you can even purchase the area’s black diamonds – truffles. The Perigord region is synonymous with this rather ugly yet incredibly valuable fungus. Many chef’s from Paris even descend themselves to hand-pick their selections. It is high stakes stuff and if you do visit in winter you will notice a much more serious ambience in the truffle hall. Let’s just call it wheeling-and-dealing. It’s great to watch!
In summary Sarlat is a delight and a destination for any season. Bring your camera and your appetite! Oh and if you visit in winter why not have a go negotiating with the truffle merchants if you dare. The current rate seems to be around 1000 Euro per kilo. Good luck!
Sarlat Market Gallery.
(Click an image to enlarge) All photography © Saxon Templeton.
Market times from the Sarlat Tourism website.