The Floating Market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours

Number 1 of the 100 Things to Do in Provence Before You’re Too Old to Enjoy Them , this annual spectacle is an expansion of the ancient tradition begun by the fishermen who lived in little houses outside of town. 2 Sepia postcardEvery Sunday, they would plant their families securely between the boxes of fish and pole their little flat bottom fishing boats to the center of town offering their fresh catch for sale to the eager city folk waiting on the docks. The annual “Floating Market” takes place every first Sunday of August when it occupies the Sorgue River that splits into narrow fingers as it winds around and through the town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. 1 Red hat, baby bonnet, sunflowersThey certainly don’t do this to attract more visitors to the town – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue already has one of the biggest and most popular outdoor Provençal markets. And this year’s Floating Market is just one weekend before the number of stalls selling second-hand finds and antiques doubles from just under 300 to well over 600. And the permanent antique stores and antique malls are already crowded year ‘round.
Besides the antiques, the star of the town’s show is the Sorgue River that appears suddenly from underground east of here about 5 miles away in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and diverts around L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue making the town an island (in the Sorgue).3 driver, red hat, off shoulder blouse Photographers seek out the 17 old paddle wheels that used to power the textile mills and the little quaint footbridges that cross the five rivulets paralleling the two main splits.
So why DO they do it? The main reason for the Floating Market appears that it is a lot of fun. 4 lady driver flowersEach shallow boat – called “nego chin” in Provençal meaning dog drowner in English– has a driver that poles it around, there is a little hole in one end of the nego chin to slip the pole through and all the way to the bottom of the river, anchoring the boat in one place where the fishing’s good. The crowds really love the costumed children and adults and do whatever it takes to give the sellers their money, receive their change, then reach down to accept their purchases – all from about 7 feet above the water level.5 blue skirt melonsAnother reason for the Floating Market may be the influence of the Club de Nego Chin, an association promoting the old way of fishing that sponsors nego chin summer camp, one and two person races, jousts, workshops on how to build the ancient boats, 6 Four boats fruit juice, sunflowersand other summertime cooling off events to keep the tradition lively for up-coming generations.

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KirkandAnneQuitoThe best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France.
While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.

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