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Luxury villa rental company, The Villa Book, which represents a large selection of luxury villa rentals in Provence, has drawn attention to the threat to the local French market as the subject of its recent newsletter. The Villa Book feels that one of the many attractions of a villa rental holiday in France is the fun of shopping for food provisions in a local market.

Provence has some of the best markets in France - top quality, farm-fresh fruit and vegetables are spectacularly and lovingly displayed, as if vying for prizes at a horticultural show. Local goat farmers sit quietly behind their cabinets, offering the full gamut of delectable goat cheeses, from fresh, soft and creamy discs to mature and pungent little pellets. Flowers, local wines, honey, fragrant herbs, crafts - it's a dizzying experience. But will it all last? That was the question that stalked the market stalls during the recent, hotly contested presidential elections.

A central issue in the election was national identity: how do the French see themselves in the modern world, and how can they protect what is quintessentially French from the forces of globalized culture? And here, food is a big issue. To the French mind, their best food is produced by traditional, family-run farms, and small, local, artisan enterprises. Yet increasingly, these appear to be under threat from European Union legislation. In the interests of consumer health and safety, the European Food Authority has recently ratcheted up its stipulations for food production ('from farm to fork'), in areas such as the inspection of premises and labelling, with associated costs and paperwork. On the ground, the market stallholders see their suppliers wither, and are convinced that the EU favours big farms, the industrialized food-processors, and hence the supermarkets. There are plenty of causes of irritation, and the EU usually gets the blame,fairly or unfairly. Cheesemakers feel under pressure to abandon unpasteurized milk, essential for flavour, according to most connoisseurs. Old vineyards are being grubbed out for failing to live up to modern economic pressures. Wine bottles now have to bear the words 'contient des sulfites' (contains sulphites) on the label, as if this was some kind of poison  but all wine naturally contains some sulphur dioxide: you can't make wine without it. Presidential candidate José Bové, sheep farmer, anti-globalization activist and national hero, made such issues a central plank of his campaign, but made little impression on the vote. The question is: will Nicholas Sarkozy, the outright winner, pin his loyalties to Europe, or to French food producers? In his honeymoon period, the jury is out.

Meanwhile, rural France battles on regardless in time-honoured fashion. Which means that this year at least, visitors to Provence should be able to enjoy the markets without sensing the icy fingers of EU bureaucracy. You'll find excellent markets across the region, at Apt, Bonnieux, Carpentras, Cavaillon, Gordes, Goult, Lourmarin, Maussane, Roussillon, Sisteron, St-Rémy-de-Provence, to name but a few. The most famous of all is at L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which has a farmers' market on Thursday, and a large antiques market (plus food and crafts) on Sundays and a massive antiques fair at Easter and on 15 August.

The Villa Book has a huge selection of villas (more than seventy) to choose from in Provence, ranging from enchanting small farmhouses to the magnificent Château de Grimaldi (sleeps 18) near Aix-en-Provence. In the lavender-growing area of the Pays de Apt we have a property called, appropriately, Valensole (sleeps 7 - 9) and, a little to the south and a short drive from Aix, the impressive Bastide des Plaines, perfect for larger groups (sleeps 16). Close by is the Manoir Rognes (sleeps 8), an 18th-century manor house; Sousquières(sleeps 18), a former monastery dating from the 11th century, no less; and Campagne Pontes (sleeps 7), near Puyricard. None is far from a good market. In the area of Les Alpilles, named after its backdrop of a craggy limestone massif, the Maison de Maussane (sleeps 8) is in a village noted for its weekly market. Similarly, the village house Villa Maillane (sleeps 8 - 12) is within easy reach of the market at St-Rémy, while the elegant 18th-century Bastide des Barrattes lies almost equidistant from Cavaillon and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

For further information about our Provence properties, or any of our other destinations, please contact:

Susie Marquis
The Villa Book Ltd
Tel. 0845 500 2000
Email: susie@thevillabook.com

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of The City Apartment Book Ltd in the following categories: Food & Drink, Travel, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.