Market day proved to be as Juliette and Maurice promised: big, boisterous, and beguiling. The parking lot was already full when they arrived, and people were disappearing into the depths of the market.
Arianna watched locals stopping to chat in the midst of the activity. Woven market baskets, panniers, were set down for a few moments as bises and greetings were exchanged. Laughter and banter floated above the busy scene, the language spoken so quickly it was impossible for her to pick out more than a few words.
She stood by the edge of an olive vendor’s long counter for a few minutes, out of the way of the bodies milling around her.
Staring off at nothing in particular, she was lost in contemplation and memories, reminded of words Faith had said when Arianna was packing for the trip. She couldn’t recall now who her daughter was quoting . . . she chuckled thinking about all the books on positivity Faith slipped to her. But she did remember the sentiment.
“Step out of your comfort zone.” “Become at ease with the unfamiliar and the unknown.” I guess that’s what I’m doing.
A voice interrupted her thoughts. “Bonjour, madame. Vous désirez quelque-chose? You like something? Here! Goûtez! Taste this, if you please!”
The grizzled face of the olive vendor smiled invitingly at her as he stretched an olivewood ladle toward her. A delectable-looking large green olive was stuck on a toothpick.
“Oh, merci, monsieur! Mmmm, c’est delicieux!”
She promptly purchased more of those olives, along with some smaller black ones sprinkled with rosemary and some green ones mixed with oil and walnuts.
The entire display was irresistible. The vendor proudly posed as she captured several photos, once again confounding herself. I’m not a picture taker . . . or maybe I have to put that in the past tense now. It appears I am becoming one . . . .
The colorful, sizable ceramic bowls, each filled with a different selection of olives or tapenade, were too inviting to resist. Multiple shades of brown, green, golden, purple, red, and black olives sat in seasoned variations. Rustic clay jugs and glass flasks with olive oil, cider, or vinegar lined the top of the counter.
Images of still-life paintings filtered through her mind’s eye. Inspiration was everywhere. Arianna could feel the artistic flame deep inside her growing stronger. She was coming alive.
Arianna was surprised as the vendor weighed each olive bag carefully, told her the price, and then added a few more olives to each bag. “Un petit cadeau, ma beauté—a little gift.”
As her visit to the market progressed, she saw that this was quite a common practice among the sellers, adding even more friendliness and camaraderie to the business at hand.
She chuckled to herself, observing as she strolled that some of the bonhomie might have been enhanced by the bottles of rosé or pastis next to a torn fresh baguette that could be seen on a table behind the main counter of many stalls. Sharing a glass or two with a neighbor or regular customer seemed to be the norm.