A wooden crate filled with a bunch of tomatoes.

Excursion: Saturday morning market

Saturday is market day here so after a quick breakfast it’s straight off to the nearby town of Epernay. Held in a beautiful glazed hall, the market is 100% dedicated to fresh produce and you’ll find everything from fresh fruit and veg to oysters, homemade jams, whole skinned rabbits and fresh flowers. Oh and did I mention the cheese!

We normally start with a recce circuit of the stalls and then head back to some favourites to buy a selection of bits and pieces for lunch – after all there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing all this amazing produce and not being able to buy any of it! Cheeses, pate and saucisson are always popular but I’ve had guests buy prawns, rotisserie chicken, smoked salmon, scallops – the choice is yours.

A variety of French cheeses are on display at a market.

Actually choosing can be the tricky bit when it all looks so good, but we can take our time. Shopping here is a social activity, so even when there’s a queue the stallholder will be catching up on the weekly family news with a customer and no-one bats an eyelid. Or they’ll be checking exactly how you want the produce, for example do you want a super ripe goat’s cheese for today or one that will keep a few more days – but don’t worry you’ve got one of the crew with you to help you.

It’s also a good opportunity to grab gifts for folks back home. The local jams and honeys are a popular choice and there is also a nice artisan chocolate stall here sometimes (although somehow the chocolates always seem to get eaten before they get back home!)

A sign on a wooden crate of apricots available for purchase during a canal cruise in France.

Last stop is always the boulangerie across the road. This is your chance to choose some beautiful patisseries for lunchtime dessert – also on the list is bread to go with your lunch and some rather special raspberry glazed pain au chocolate to enjoy with a coffee back at the barge.


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