French Market Returns
It was Friday morning on my way to work that I saw them: the tell-tale trucks and stalls and the lyrical chatter of French wafting toward me on the breeze from the Shannon. The French Market has returned to Athlone.
The last time they were here I recalled my first experience with them – it was magical. Fog parting to reveal a magic, boisterous market with more stalls than you could fit in the small pocket around Athlone Castle. I noted there seemed to be less stalls setting up Friday morning and looked forward to returning at lunch to witness the market in full swing.
Imagine my surprise when, returning at lunch, I found no new tents set up. The market has shrunk from their last visit, which had been smaller than the visit before. No more cured meats, no more giant grill with steaming, simmering spicy French food, no stalls filled with brightly painted wooden children’s toys. This time the market consists of a selection of olives and baked goods, a soap stand, the obligatory crepe van and . . . .patio furniture, of all things.
Instead of being elbow to elbow, the few tents present were set up with loads of space between them. The entire area along the wall of the castle was taken up by the patio furniture display.
I can’t say how disappointed I am. I paid €7 for a single bag of garlic-stuffed olives (ouch!) and couldn’t even get up the enthusiasm to buy myself a crepe from the crepe van. What happened to the cured meats? The toys? The leather goods? The hot food?
Where is the magical French market? This paltry handful of stalls selling laser-engraved glass cubes, health products and cheap-looking jewelry just isn’t the market I used to love.