Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, home to vignerons and a wonderful Saturday morning market

One of the best things about Provence is shopping at weekly outdoor "marchés" in towns and villages throughout the region...or at least it is for a "foodie" like me. Why would you buy fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats or fish at one of those super markets on the outskirt of town when you can leisurely stroll through a market and pick up what you need for the next couple of days?

I say don't go to the "marché" with a list of things to buy like you are going to a super market. No, do like I do and walk through the market and buy what is fresh, in season and local, but don't buy anything the first time through. After you have surveyed what's for sale, take a second walk through the market and buy what you liked during your first walk-through.

Invariably, whenever I buy produce on my first walk through a market, I wish I had waited to buy those tomatoes, eggplants or zucchini a little ways further up the street. The only exception to buying at the "marchés" is if there is a fantastic boucherie, poissonnier or fromager in the area whose products are better than what you can find at the "marchés" or for staples like flour, sugar, and milk.

Make up your menus as you walk through the market. Don't worry if you don't have a recipe. If you are staying at our house, there are quite a few cookbooks to browse through and you can Google the fruit or vegetable and you will get lots of links to recipes. Just choose one that sounds tasty to you. That way you are trying new dishes which is part of the fun of visiting Provence.

We generally arrive and leave Sablet on Saturday. So we pick up staples from Alain and Mimi in Sablet and wait for the Tuesday market in Vaison-la-Romaine to buy fresh, perishable foods. Several guests have told us they like the Saturday morning market in nearby Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes. Since we got to Sablet on Friday on our last sojourn, we decided to go check out this market.

Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes is a small village located 15 kms northwest of Sablet on the border of the Vaucluse and the Department of the Drôme. As the name suggests (les "vignes" means the vines), Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes is an agricultural village devoted to making wine. So you will not be surprised to see vineyards all around the village.

The only door through the ramparts that remains in tact, just happens to lead to the center of the village where the market takes place. As you can see below, the Clock Tower door is topped by a wrought iron campanile with bell.

Clock Tower into the center of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes

The market in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes takes place every Saturday morning between 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM at Le Cours du Portalet, La Place de la Mairie and La Place de la Fontaine.

The main market street in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes

As you can see below, you can choose from a wide variety of fresh fruit. But as I said above, it's best to choose what's locally grown in Provence if you can. Here, strawberries and cherries were locally grown but the melon and cantaloupe came from Spain. But in a few weeks, there will be loads of sweet Cavaillon melons at every market. These are locally grown. You must try one.

A wide variety of fresh fruit is available

Locally grown green and white asparagus. Did you know there is really no difference between green and white asparagus? White asparagus comes from depriving the asparagus of light. Dirt is kept mounded around the emerging stalk, depriving it of light. The plant cannot produce chlorophyll without light, thus there is no green color to the stalks.

Green and white asparagus

Lots of cut flowers. We take several bunches home to put on the table.

Cut flowers

More cut flowers

Infused with the flavors of the surrounding landscape, Provence honey is sweet and delicious. Bees generally have a range of no more than about a mile-and-a-half, so if the beekeeper places his hives near an abundant field of one plant—say lavender, rosemary, or chestnut trees—the honey will retain the distinctive flavor of its source material.


The weather was nice so the market was full of shoppers.

Another view of the main market street

An amazing variety of seafood and whole and filleted fish from the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.


Whole fish

Whole fish

The parish church of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes seen below replaced a church that the villagers had decided was obsolete. Built between 1854 and 1860, the new church was consecrated in 1860 by the archbishop of Avignon.

The market spreads out on the square in front of the church of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes

In front of the Sainte Cécile Church is a statue that honors the men who died for France in WWI. This stone statue by sculptor Félix Charpentier depicts a "poilu", an informal term for French World War I infantrymen, meaning, literally, hairy one. The word carries the sense of the infantryman's typically rustic, agricultural background. Beards and bushy moustaches were often worn.

The sculpted figure below the statue represents a mother crying for her son under a willow tree.

Memorial to men who died during WWI

The Sainte Cécile parish church was built from stones brought from Saint-Restitut, a village in the Department of Drôme known for its old stones. Inside the church, you can see alters, pictures and statues saved from the old church.

The interior of the church of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes

The fountain below was inaugurated by Mayor Goudareau in 1881. Market vendors set up their stalls all around the fountain.

Fountain near the Town Hall

Mayor Goudareau was a busy man. He also inaugurated the Town Hall seen below in 1886.

Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes Town Hall

There is an old winery (dates from the 18th century) in Châteauneuf-du-Pape called Château Fortia. In the early 20th century, management of the winery was taken over by Pierre Le Roy de Boiseaumarie, a decorated WWI pilot.

Baron Le Roy later co-founded the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) and helped create the AOC system which is the basis for French wine laws. To show their appreciation, the local vignerons commissioned the bronze bust by sculptor Marcel Courbier seen below near the church.

Bronze bust dedicated to Baron Le Roy

We came across a few nice old fountains as we walked around the town.


The streets are lined with houses, most of them picturesque, with their Provencal colors and contrasting shutters.

House with bright shutters and flowers

Unusual stone fountain

The Sainte Cécile Sainte Croix Chapel seen below sits in the heart of the village. It is the oldest religious building in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes with the first mention found in 1177. It is thought to be located on the site of a Roman temple. The chapel was reconstructed in 1624 and again in 1843.

Sainte Cécile Sainte Croix Chapel

The village cemetery was located next to the Sainte Cécile Sainte Croix Chapel until 1870 when it was relocated to its present location.

Sainte Cécile Sainte Croix Chapel

Notre Dame de Consolation Chapel is at the entrance to the village on the road to Cairanne. This Chapel was built on the site of an ancient chapel built in 1507. Unfortunately, that chapel was destroyed between 1560-1562 during the Wars of Religion.

The Romanesque Notre Dame de Consolation Chapel seen below was built in 1858 to replace the destroyed chapel.

Notre Dame de Consolation Chapel

If you are hungry after wandering around the market and through the village, we can recommend Campagne Vignes et Gourmandises Restaurant which we told you about here. It has been designated as a Bib Gourmand restaurant in the 2013 edition of the Michelin Guide.

Have fun at the market. Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.


  1. As always beautiful photos, Michel. I like St. Cecile's market very much but still haven't made it to the restaurant.

  2. Barbara - Thanks! We really liked the market. I definitely think you should go eat at the restaurant. Have a great weekend.

  3. St Cecile looks a beautiful spot, the market looks quite similar to ours except there seems to be a lot of stalls here that also sell clothes and odds and bobs. I agree, never buy on the first walk through you will always find something else further down the stalls which is better than the first viewing! Keep well Diane

  4. I find that the markets have a better fruit and veg selection than the grocery stores too.

  5. Another great post filled with information and great pictures.

  6. Diane - Some of the markets in Provence also sell more clothes and stuff like that than fruits and vegetables. The market in Sainte-Cecile-les-Vignes has a great selections of fruits, vegetables and fish.

    Sara - At least around Sablet, the grocery stores selections are not very good. The little epicerie in Sablet has very good quality.

    The Sullivans - Thanks! I appreciate your kind feedback. I hope you guys are well.

  7. I have a little story to tell related to St. Cecile les Vignes and you, Michel. I took your advice and twice had a simple congenial lunch at Le Tourne au Verre in Cairanne. The owners are so nice and welcoming and soon they are introducing you to the other guests. I met a lovely English couple living in St. Cecile les Vignes both times I was there. They bragged that they had the village with the best market in all of Provence and they lived on the market square. They invited me up for coffee and the rest is history. I do love that market but my favorite clothes stall owner often shows up in Sablet, complaining all the time how he can't make any money. Then he allows me to bargain him down on a price.

    I had dinner with Josianne from Lou Canestéou in Vaison-la-Romaine with Patricia and Walter about a mind spinning experience. Whew! I always buy cheese from her and if she says "try this one" I do! You mentioned her more than once on this blog,, most recently in the reference to Campagne Vignes et Gourmandises Restaurant above.

    I will be cooking in your Sablet kitchen this Saturday! Hooray...

  8. Kathryn - I am happy you found the St. Cecile les Vignes market. It is a good one but I don't think it is quite up to Vaison-la-Romaine. Please spill the beans, how did you happen to lunch with the Wells and Josianne Deal? Enjoy Sablet.

  9. I waited 3 years to be able to attend Patricia's week long cooking classes in Provence. It was one of the best travel experiences of my life. She introduces you to Josianne during the class with a visit to her shop. Walter and Patricia are the warmest, nicest couple and now we are friends. If any of your readers would like this experience, this is Patricia;s web site. The waiting list isn't as long any more but the food is probably even more magnificent.