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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Saturday Market Day

It's Market Day in Le Puy and the main streets of the old city are crowded with people--not only local people but hundreds of tourists who have come to visit the historic city. The early morning fog did not deter anyone. If anything, it made the climb up to the city more mystical, more intriguing, more intentional. The coolness of the air is especially refreshing after so many hot days. 

The sights here are colorful in a setting of cobblestone streets and gray plastered buildings with painted wooden shutters. People mill about the countless stands of vegetables, breads, cheeses, meats, sausages, seafoods, honey, liquors, nuts, clothes, soaps, jewelry, antiques, food trucks and roasted chickens. Everything you'd ever want is here. The smell of the cheese stinks, but the lines are long so it must be good. Some things are strange delicacies. And the familiar hot dogs, hamburgers and ribs are missing, but pinch me, this is France!

artisan bread 

food truck 

quail all set for Babette's feast

pigeons and 
their eggs (I think)

green lentils of Le Puy
(a.k.a. French lentils)

goat cheese 

red garlic

distinguishing a product stand with a funny hat

roasted chicken 

saucisson -- 
the spice of life in France

yellow mushrooms

As with American farm markets, people are happy and curious. Even children are engaged. Those who want to walk their dogs frequently end up carrying them, at least the small ones, to avoid getting them hurt by the crush of the crowd.

Then there are those who advertise something or another. This morning some very strange-looking, almost medieval-like animators were attracting crowds.

I'd love to see whatever entertainment they offer. It's got to be good.

International Folk Festival -- July 17-23

Malaysian Band marches down street to find a place to perform
On this particular weekend the town is celebrating folk cultures so every day from July 17-23 groups from several different countries perform in the streets. The folk festivals have been held since 2013 and they are most inspiring. These groups share their culture through music, dance and song, and it's really extraordinary to see all these young people perform after they have traveled many miles to be here for the festival. What an opportunity for them--and for the locals and tourists who come to see them. This year's groups are from Malaysia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bolivia and Extremadura (southwest Spain). We saw all but the Bolivian group.

Spanish dancers from Extremadura use their castanets to the approval of the woman in the back

Macedonian band plays romp pah pah

Malaysians provide a dramatic drum and "tambourine" performance

shy boy clings to his mother as they pose with Serbian dancers
It is striking that so much of life here takes place outdoors. Windows of houses and buildings have no screens and they open wide to the outside. People walk everywhere all the time. We walk almost every day and that means we scale a steep hill upwards and downwards. (I'm getting used to it after 2 weeks!) Of course, there are the sidewalk cafés where people sit over a glass of wine or the tiniest cup of espresso and nurse it for hours. 

People aren't afraid of the street nor do they shun or condemn it. I'm sure they don't think about it, but they seem to celebrate the street and use it as a gathering place whether they have business to attend to or not. They certainly guard this kind of life. For example, on November 13, 2015 when gunmen and suicide bombers almost simultaneously hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars in Paris and left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded, a French friend of mine said he and his countrymen were not about to give up on their way of life (meaning life on the street) no matter what.

In the USA we've largely gotten away from this sensibility and retreated instead to our cars and secured our houses. People who "live on the street" are seen as poor people, and loitering is not allowed. Even so, I think one reason why Americans enjoy places like Europe so much is that they encounter an open-air celebration of life that the Italians call "la dolce di non fare niente" (the sweetness of just doing nothing).

Dr. Colleen Long was featured in a September 2014 article in  Psychology Today talking about "la dolce di non fare niente." She says:

"The idea that “doing nothing,” is actually an event in and of itself. The idea that we no longer run on a treadmill of activity from getting the kids ready for school, to brushing our teeth, to conference calls, to picking up kids, fixing dinner, and bed- only to start over again. The idea that our actions day to day become influenced by our instincts and no longer by routines, shoulds, and musts."
It's the Puritan ethic of hard work and avoidance of idleness that gets to us, she says, even though we yearn for a little relaxation. 
The kind of relaxation we are looking for, we all yearn for--does not exist on the side of a volcano, in a rare flower, or on a desolate island far away. That kind of relaxation exists within each of us and is ours for the taking if we’re willing to put in the effort.
La dolce di non fare niente is something we can aspire to in our daily lives. And maybe we could get a little push toward it if we made the street a little more attractive and a little more lively.


  1. Oh, I so enjoy your descriptions and photos of life in LePuy. I loved being in the town, wandering about, enjoying 'life in the streets' as you stated, and have strong intentions to return. For those in the US, the wonderful green lentils that are grown in the LePuy area are readily available in our stores. Even better they come all prepared from France. They are available in the produce department of most stores (even Trader Joe's and Walmart). Green lentils from LePuy are different than red/yellow lentils (used in soups). Green lentils take longer to cook and keep their shape. They are delicious in salads and side dishes. Olga, if you haven't had a lentil salad in LePuy--it is a MUST!

  2. Puy Lentils: I brought back several packages for friends and self:
    Use 2½ cups water to 1 cup lentils. Boil and 
simmer for 40 to 45 minutes.
    Also known as lentilles du Puy, these lentils are slate green in color with bluish black undertones and about one-third the size of green lentils. Grown in the volcanic soils of the Le Puy district in the Auvergne in central France for nearly the past two thousand years, Puy lentils offer exceptional quality, flavor, and nutritional content, most notably mineral contents and particularly iron and magnesium. As a source of anthocyanins, their dark color, similar to that as found in blueberries and black grapes, provides valuable antioxidants. Look for the AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) label to ensure authenticity. Known for their distinctive rich, peppery flavor, Puy lentils are traditionally served as a side dish, in salads, as a focal point in a meal, or even as a foundation for meat, fish, or game.

  3. wow, Josetta, this is great. thanks for the recipe!!