Queues aren’t what they used to be

I used to get excited seeing a nice long queue when I visited a new French village or town.  Nowadays, everywhere you go there is a queue following the spaces marked on the pavement so I don’t stop to look.  I try and do all my shopping when it is quiet.

But the right kind of queue is worth the wait.  It is usually found in markets or in villages and towns that are not focussed on tourist trade.  When you say to yourself “Why is there a queue here, what is everyone waiting for?” you have found a line worth joining.  As you stand on the end of the queue, you will notice that everyone knows everyone else and they are chatting while they wait.  This is not a problem or an inconvenience, it is a chance to catch up with friends and neighbours before buying from someone you know by name and who lives in the same town or village.

wooden circular crate filled with sardines neatly organised radiating out with tails in the centre and heads at the edge.
Fish at Prayssac market

For me, the queue usually leads to great bread and unforgettable cakes.  I’m the puzzled English person in a line of French women stretching down the street outside a tiny shop.  (The best ones are always tiny, only big enough for two customers at a time.)  Sometimes it is a butcher, a traiteur or a cheese shop, which becomes part of a regular shopping trip on the way home to the UK or at the start of a holiday.

edge of black car, trestle tables stacked with bread and cakes, with one whole table covered with crocodile made of bread.
Market at Montcuq

In Cazals, the queue led to the baker who had come 2nd in a competition for the best bakery in France.  The queue was all locals, apart from me but they knew what they had and valued it.    For the slow traveller, the wait is worth it, for it brings you into the local daily life.  You can’t rely on  the guide books, you must use your eyes and trust your senses and you will be rewarded with your own slow travel experience.

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