(Le Marche des Lices, Rennes, France)
From my extremely comfortable bed in the surprisingly well-appointed-for-the-price Hotel Mercure in Rennes, I heard the bells of a nearby church ring. It would have been easy to stay there for another couple of hours in that delightful state of cozy semi-consciousness. But the lure of a market proved too much. Despite jet lag still weighing me down, everything I had read kept nagging at me that I just had to get up and get the tired self over to the Marche des Lices. The market is said to host some 300 products from all over Brittany. Rennes is the capital of Bretagne, or Brittany en anglais, and this, the Marche des Lices, is the second largest market in all of France. How could I lounge in bed when the second largest market in all of France was but a 12-minute walk away....
I have pictures of vegetable and fruit stands and fish markets and oyster stands from all over France dating back to my high school trips.
"Flowers, as everyone knows, are among the freshest, most perishable objects on earth. Which is why fresh flowers are placed right up front--to "prime" us to think of freshness the moment we enter the store. Consider the opposite--what if we entered the store and were greeted with stacks of canned tuna and plastic flowers? Having been primed at the outset, we continue to carry that association, albeit subconsciously, with us as we shop.
The prices for the flowers, as for all the fresh fruits and vegetables, are scrawled in chalk on fragments of black slate--a tradition of outdoor European marketplaces. It's as if the farmer pulled up in front of Whole Foods just this morning, unloaded his produce, then hopped back in his flatbed truck to drive back upstate to his country farm. The dashed-off scrawl also suggests the price changes daily, just as it might at a roadside farm stand or local market. But in fact, most of the produce was flown in days ago, its price set at the Whole Foods corporate headquarters in Texas. Not only do the prices stay fixed, but what might look like chalk on the board is actually indelible; the signs have been mass-produced in a factory."