Sunday at the Saône Markets

On a clear blue-and-yellow morning, there are few things more satisfying than a stroll through the art, book, and food markets along the Saône in Lyon.

The art market, on the west side of the river, displays everything from jewelry to sculpture and paintings, some of it a bit scary but most of it impressive. Though the art market can get overrun by tour buses, the atmosphere is casual and it’s easy to strike up a conversation with the vendors about their work. The artist who produced the hand-painted card below recognized that I was foreign and told me that the tiny bird is called a “troglodyte mignon” (the second word of which means “cute”) because it is quaintly small and round, with a pointy little tail, and that it’s native to France but notoriously difficult to spot.

On the east side of the river is the food market. You won’t find cheaper produce anywhere in Lyon, and although some of the specialties might make your wallet tremble, they’re still worth drooling over at the very least. Olives, nuts and dates, honey, cheeses, fruit tarts, all sorts of brilliant flowers, homemade pasta, sauces, roasted chickens, paella, sausages, North African and Middle Eastern dumplings and pies, oysters, wines… Be very careful perusing while hungry, unless you’re prepared to carry it all home.

Book stands are just upriver from the food. These can be a bit hit-or-miss, though always entertaining, offering a hodgepodge of mystery paperbacks, art and photography books from the 80s and 90s, old magazines, hiking maps, and everything in between.

The heaped abundance and shouting vendors complete the storybook quality of the Saône markets, adding sound and color to the worn-to-fading image of Old World Europe and bringing it to life.

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