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On the Road with Sally: Saint Jean du Gard

Saint Jean du Gard

On the Road with Mustang Sally

Sally’s first road trip was to the Cévennes and Tuesday market in Saint Jean du Gard. The town’s history dates back to the twelfth century when monks from the Abbey of St-Gilles created the settlement on the banks of the Gardon River. With its religious beginnings, Saint Jean du Gard and the surrounding area- the Cévennes- became known as strongholds for French Protestants (Huguenots).

The citizens, mostly white-shirted Calvinist peasants (Camisards), famously banded together to fight royal control throughout years of religious wars. Many fled to America, England, and Switzerland from 1685 into the early 1700s to avoid ongoing persecution. More recent history of Saint Jean du Gard includes the town’s mention in Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.

San Jean du Gard

Market day in Saint Jean du Gard

Because market days seem to be the focus of my explorations in France, I planned the visit to Saint Jean du Gard on a Tuesday.San Jean du Gard When I arrived in the town, I was surprised to see familiar sights. I had been here before on my trip a few years ago — the same visit when I discovered Uzes.

It was a rainy, overcast day, but that didn’t stop me from wandering around to some of the same places I remember before and exploring new photo opportunities. First, there was a stop at the “indoor” market area to take note of the products indigenous to the area and those in season.

 

Apples, apples, more apples.

 

Apples everywhere. All varieties of juices. Many types of apples are the same as in the States. Only a few I’ve never seen before. In addition to raw apples, there are several versions of apple juice. I’m not a big fan of fruit juices; I didn’t buy any to bring back. Nevertheless, it makes a great photo.

 

 

Also in season are chestnuts. While researching Saint Jean du Gard, I learned that chestnut trees were once an important food crop and brought wealth to the area because of the popular “marron” nuts. When planting mulberry trees to “nourish” the silkworm industry became more profitable than harvesting chestnuts, mulberry trees took over much of the landscape. Fortunately, marrons are abundant enough in the markets today for all to continue to enjoy.

Root vegetables and pumpkins

Pomme de Terre (potatoes) are probably found on French dinner tables more than any other side dish. So it is no surprise there are bushels and baskets of white and red-skinned potatoes in every market, regardless of the season. Baking potatoes (russet-type) are harder to find in the markets where I’ve ventured. Indeed, I haven’t seen Outback Steakhouse giant-sized spuds anywhere.

2013-11-05 09.47.14Squashes and pumpkins are now on display in time for fall menus, including creamed soups. The usual way I prepare squashes —  like splitting a butternut squash in half and baking it with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon — is unheard of by those I’ve asked. Instead, the squash is peeled and steamed, then mashed. The one at my house will end up in a creamy, cold soup.

2013-11-05 09.47.21

One vegetable, pictured in the photo on the right, is a giant radish. According to the vendor, it is eaten raw like its tiny kin. Presumably, it’s almost as hot as horseradish. I’ll find out the truth later.

There are not as many varieties of green, leafy vegetables like collards and kale in these markets. Other types of veggies include endive, shallots, fennel, and leeks. Eggplant (aubergine) is very popular and prepared in many ways. Mesclun, spinach, and other salad greens are on the market annually. Having lived most of my life in the southern states of the US, I don’t recognize many vegetables here. Some I’m trying for the first time — fennel, for example. Yum!

People watching

Sneaking photos of interesting people is another reason I love market days. Saint Jean du Gard has its own unique flavor for my spectator sport.

Village views

Now, for some of the best views along the journey. Perhaps this will give you a feel for the town of Saint Jean du Gard. Even on a less-than-beautiful day, it’s a special place to see.

 

 

 

The Cévennes

Along with the quaint village streets and scenes, tourists head to Saint Jean du Gard for the steam train ride through the mountainous areas of the Cevennes. The 45-minute roundtrip to Anduze is on my to-do list on a sunnier day.

Hikers and outdoors travelers head for this part of the Cévennes and the Cévennes National Park in the summertime in droves. The beauty of the hills and river, speckled with small farms and villages, also attracts photographers and artists.

Did I mention? … there are pottery shops and wine domains everywhere.

Cevennes

Cevennes

Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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