The Vieux-Marché is the place to be on Sunday if you’re a local. Bakers, pâtissiers, butchers, cheesemongers, market gardeners… you’ll find all the best producers in the region here. If you carry on to the Place Simonet, you’ll even find some second-hand stalls.
Quality local produce
Mons has two market days: Friday and Sunday. The later, also known as the Vieux-Marché, will take you into a neighbourhood that, although it may not be very well known among tourists, still has plenty to offer.
On a sunny Sunday, my little ritual involves stocking up on ingredients for lunch in this market. On Place Nervienne, it’s basically fruit and vegetables, with the focus on what’s in season. One of the stallholders, Jean-François Bavay brings out all sorts of potato varieties and seasonal vegetables from his yellow lorry.
In among the wide stalls and the stallholders’ cries, there are also a few regional treasures: artisan dairy products, regional cheeses, quiches that are as unusual as they are delicious… The Joniaux family from the Ferme de la Bruyère bring out their artisan goat’s, ewe’s and cow’s milk cheeses from their white van. The best known of these is the Petit Mignon.
On the corner of the square, at the entrance to Rue Glépin, the huge lorries belonging to butchers, specialists in cured meats, fishmongers and rôtisseurs. The plan for Sunday lunch is roast chicken from the market, served with a salad and homemade chips. My mouth is watering already.
A Mecca for artisans
On the Place du Béguinage, the market gardeners give way to other stallholders, including bakers. At the Serge de Basècles pâtisserie, I find a sugar pie that’s almost as good as my grandmother’s. Perfect for dessert! Further along, Stéphan Haeseleer sells bread cooked on a wood fire on the Ferme du Hameau as well as Cramiques, Craquelins and, if you can’t make up your mind, Cramelins, bread made with both sugar and raisins.
When the weather is dry, the Place du Béguinage is also home to a bookseller specialising in paperbacks where, if you’re patient and careful, you can pick up some classics at a very reasonable price. Going back up Rue du Béguinage, I end up in the second-hand market. Collectable books, crockery, miners’ lamps, little statues, military headgear, old furniture, all sorts of unusual bits and pieces are piled high, resembling Ali Baba’s cave, where I’m off on a treasure hunt, rediscovering my inner child…
But listen, the Belfry is telling me it’s midday, and it’s time to go home and enjoy the chicken that’s still warm in my bag.