Saturday, November 15, 2014

Market Day in Vaison-La-Romaine and Lunch at Le Bateleur Restaurant

In twelve days we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday replete with tradition and centered on family and a special meal to celebrate our blessings. As readers probably know, the traditional center piece of a Thanksgiving meal is turkey accompanied by a smorgasbord of salads, side dishes and desserts. This year we will be joined by cousins who recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Preparation for the Thanksgiving meal includes ordering the turkey, which I have not done yet, and several trips to the grocery store or if you are lucky, a visit to a local farmer's market for seasonal fruits and vegetables. If we were in Sablet for Thanksgiving, we would get most everything we need for our special meal at the Tuesday morning market in Vaison-la-Romaine.

Unfortunately, we don't have a farmer's market in Sonoma County that offers as wide an array of seafood, meat, cheese, fruits and vegetables, as we find at the Vaison-la-Romaine market. A highlight of our visits to Sablet are the weekly visits to this market and our visit last month was no exception.

Vaison-la-Romaine is a quick 6 mile trip from Sablet along a winding road and across the Ouvèze River. As I told you here, Vaison-la-Romaine is divided by the Ouvèze River into two parts; on the right bank is the ancient Roman colony and modern town and on the left bank is the old medieval town with the Castle of the Counts of Toulouse at the highest point, which can be seen from afar.

Castle of the Counts of Toulouse in Vaison-la-Romaine

The Vaison-la-Romaine market takes place in the center of the modern town. Like most towns, parking in Vaison on market day is not easy so we try to be there by 8:30 AM so we can park in the small lot near Notre-Dame de Nazareth Cathedral.

After we park, we walk along the north side of the Cathedral past a very large field of Roman ruins which border the path to the main market area. I am embarrassed to say we don't give any more thought to these ruins as we walk pass them then we do to walking past houses in our neighborhood.

What makes these Roman ruins unique is that they are streets with shops and houses, rather than individual ruins like the Arena in Nîmes or at the Pont du Gard, so you get a sense of the overall layout of the town.

The Roman ruins in Vaison-la-Romaine are spread over two sites; Puymin adjacent to the Office of Tourism with its Musée Théo Desplans (museum) and Théâtre Antique (Roman theater) built in the first century AD and La Villasse which we see on our walk up to the market.

These are ruins of shops along the central street of La Villasse. The Romans were very practical and built one street for chariots and a parallel footpath for pedestrians covered by a portico (many of the columns remain in place) to shelter the stalls and people from the sun and bad weather.

La Villasse Ruins in Vaison-la-Romaine

Provencal cooking uses a lot of garlic and there are tables piled high.

Strands of Fresh Garlic

Different honeys made from local flowers.

Lavender, Flower, Acacia, and Chestnut Honey

Most of the fish, meat, cheese, fruit and vegetable sellers set up their stands on Cours Taulignan or on one of the nearby cross streets.

Cours Taulignan in Vaison-la-Romaine

You will find several small tables set up with displays of locally made artisan cheese like shown below.

Freshly-made Artisan Cheeses

A variety of saucissons sec (dried sausages) are available from artisan producers.

Variety of Sausages

Even though it was October, we were able to find some very nice fresh, tasty tomatoes, that were the base for several salads during our sejour in Sablet.

Tomatoes from Provence


Patrons line up to place their order for freshly butchered meat and poultry.

Mobile Butcher Shop

We were thrilled to find the first Cèpe (Porcini) mushrooms of the season on display. There were also Girolle (a member of the Chanterelle family) mushrooms.

Cepes Mushrooms

There were multiple displays of fresh figs for sale. I love figs, love to have fig jam to put on top of cheese. Yum! Shirley not so much.

Fresh Figs

There are olive groves every where so it is not surprising that there are kitchen utensils and dishes made from olive wood for sale in the market.

Kitchen Utensils Made of Olive Wood

Fresh Vegetables

Nougat is a family of confectioneries made with sugar and/or honey, roasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and macadamia), whipped egg whites, and sometimes chopped candied fruit. The consistency of nougat can range from soft and chewy to hard and crunchy, and it is used in a variety of candy bars and chocolates.

There are three basic kinds of nougat. The first is brown nougat ( nougatine in French) which is made without egg whites and has a firmer, often crunchy texture. The second is the Viennese or German nougat which is essentially a chocolate and nut (usually hazelnut) praline. The third, and most common, is a white nougat from Montélimar, made with beaten egg whites and honey seen below.

Nougat Made in Montélimar

Jams and jellies of all kind.

Locally Made Jams and Jellies

You have to have spices for cooking. In Provence, spices are not sold in the market in little jars or packages. Buy only what you are going to use for a week or two as there is no reason to use stale spices since you don't have to buy a jar which might last 6 months or more.

Spice Vendor

Several butchers come to the market every week and display their cuts of meats and charcuterie. I have never seen anyone selling Cheval (horse) meat at the Vaison-la-Romaine market, although we do see it elsewhere.

Mobile Butcher Shop

Seller of Artisan Hams

Our favorite poissonier, fish seller. He also comes to Sablet and sets up his truck next to the little grocery store every Thursday morning.

Our Favorite Fish Seller

Artisan Sausages

Lots of vendors offer a variety of vegetables and salad greens like shown here.


There is a huge variety of different shellfish on sale from the various fish sellers.

All Kinds of Shellfish

Several cheese vendors set up shop at the market every week. Full disclosure, I don't buy from any of them since I am partial to the cheese that Josiane Deal sells at her wonderful shop called Lou Canesteou just a few steps away on Rue Raspail off Place Montfort, the town's main square.

Mobile Cheese Shop

The best place in our opinion to get chocolate, macaroons, or beautiful tarts and cakes in the area is at the Peyrerol shop on Cours Henri Fabre in Vaison-la-Romaine. I bet you can't walk in and come out without buying something.

The Peyrerol Shop in Vaison-la-Romaine

A great gift to bring to friends and family from Provence is bars of he wonderful olive-oil based soap locally made in Nyons. They have a shop, seen below, on Grande Rue in Vaison-la-Romaine. Our favorite soap aromas are lavender and lemon. We leave bars of lavender soap for our guests who stay at our home in Sablet.

Savon (Soap) Shop

Tourist Shop Selling Brightly Colored Bags

Le Bateleur Restaurant is located at Place Théodore Aubanel near the Roman bridge in Vaison la Romaine's lower city and modern town. The restaurant is owned by Adriana, she takes care of the front of the house and her husband Nicolas Boffelli, the chef. Prior to taking over Le Bateleur Restaurant, Nicolas was the sous chef at the Michelin starred Le Grand Pré in Roaix.

Le Bateleur Restaurant

As soon as we were seated, a plate of foods to nibble was placed on the table along with an amuse bouche of Porcini mushroom soup. Shirley opted to get a glass of 2011 Domaine Charvin Rouge Vin de Pays and I chose a glass of 2013 Chateau de Coulerette Côtes de Provence Rosé. You know what they say, when in Provence.

Amuse Bouche of Cepes (Porcini) Soup


Our lunch was served as follows. For me, I chose a starter of shrimps in orange vinaigrette with vegetables.

Shrimps in Orange Vinaigrette with Vegetables including Carrots, Green Onions, Tomatoes and Squash

Shirley selected the pan roasted Ligne with Butternut squash and curry sauce.

Pan Roasted Ligne with Butternut Squash and Curry Sauce

I chose the pan roasted Merlu fish with Parmesan risotto and tomato sauce.

Pan Roasted Merlu with Parmesan Risotto and Tomato Sauce

Our desserts were:

Caramel Apples, Lemon Curd and Sorbet


Pistachio Cream, Poached Pears and Financier Cookies

This was a truly excellent meal. Up to when Nicolas and Adriana took over the restaurant, it had been owned by the chef who owns Le Mesclun in Seguret. We ate there several times while he owned the restaurant, but this was much more to our liking. If you have been to Le Bateleur before Nicolas and Adriana took over, you should return. It is a great place to go after a visit to the market.

Upper Medieval Town of Vaison-la-Romaine

Le Bateleur Restaurant
1 Place Théodore Aubanel
84110 Vaison La Romaine
Tel: 04 90 36 28 04

Have a great week.


  1. Fabulous post with so much of interest from the ruins to the market, the local shops and the restaurant. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Happy thanksgiving, Diane

  2. Thanks Diane. Nice to hear from you. Vaison-la-Romaine has much to offer to locals and visitors alike. If you ever make it to the area, make sure to include a tour there during your visit.

  3. Nice place market for buy local production,greeting from Belgium

    1. Louisette, thanks for stopping in to check out by blog. I appreciate this very much. I hope you will come by often.

  4. Very nice post. You always enhance your words with gorgeous pictures. Nous rentrerons le 10 décembre.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind feedback. If you have not been to Le Bateleur, make sure you go dine there when you are back in Vaison. Hopefully, our paths will cross when we return in the spring.

  5. I'm adding Le Bateleur to the list of places where I want to eat when I get back to France :)

    1. Definitely worthwhile going there. If you ever make it up our direction, I hope you will let me know. It would be my honor to show you around.

  6. Replies
    1. Regine, thank you so much for stopping in to visit my blog. I appreciate this very much. I hope you will stop in often.

  7. Found your blog through the comment on "French for a While." I started my "expat" blog in 2005 and then faded into some other vague blog in 2010, but it never really took. I see a few familiar names on your blog list, including my friend Jennifer (Chez Loulou.)

    I have been to plenty of French markets, but I think none have enchanted me as much as the markets in Provence. This is a fabulously complete post and a lovely tribute to your market and your day.

    1. Thank you Betty C for your kind feedback. I appreciate this very much. It does take some doing to keep these blogs going but so far, I have done OK except for a few periods when I get to busy to write anything new. Please stay in touch.