Feature Story

A sense of community

Halle de Pleumartin, local products
The Church of the Trinity, Pleumartin
Apples from Pleumartin
Pomme de Pleumartin
The embrace of autumn leaves

Never thought that a brief visit in this small village from Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of France will elicit such pondering over the meaning of a community.

Pleumartin is a town in western France, with an area of 23 square kilometres and a population of approximately 1200. If you travel by car, you will probably enter and exit the village in less than 2 minutes. This is not the usual destination for your weekend getaway, unless you've targeted a nearby place - most likely, La Roche-Posay, a spa town renown for its thermal waters. Upon leaving La Roche-Posay, we were interested in buying some local products; the hotel manager recommended that we should go to Pleumartin, which is just 7km farther away.

The market of Pleumartin (Halle de Pleumartin) sits just across the town's church, which is hard to miss with its belfry raising above the surrounding buildings. If you are coming from a big city, this is not the kind of market you would expect to see. Built in 1650 by the Marquis de Pleumartin, it comprises a huge rooftop with a frame made entirely of oak-tree, hold by 40 wood pilons anchored to some cube shaped rocks and no walls whatsoever.

In some ways, this pointy wooden architecture conveys a strong hold, a stubbornness and timeless challenge against the church located across the street.

Halle de Pleumartin is the assembly point for any festivities, the rendezvous for villagers, the rural agora where they meet on Sunday, discuss and do their shopping for the week. While the whole village seemed empty, the market was boasting a continuous flow of human voices.

By the time we arrived at the market, there were only a few stands selling vegetables, fruits, some regional awarded wines and beers (Tête de mule), various confitures and meat – pheasant breast, salami and some varieties of dried meat.

In the middle there was a long wooden table and wooden benches. There was a group of ten, or about, locals sitting down, caught in a convivial talk, sipping wine from plastic cups. They were conveying a visible joy as if they were celebrating life: the quiet rural life, the sunny, brisk weather of a late autumn, the chance of getting together and tell tales and the blessing of a year with good harvest.

The next moment all went insanely noisy. The sudden wail of a air raid siren corrupted the peaceful atmosphere: while we were startled, no one around us seemed to mind the noise. Upon asking someone about it, we've got this simple answer: "It's the first Sunday of the month!". I found this insanely funny and hardly restrained my laughter while thinking to myself: "This is quite an original way of reminding people that today is Sunday, that a new month has began!"

About 30 seconds later the siren stopped and we were able to resume our shopping and ...observations.

We bought a bottle of wine, a confiture jar, some apples and a dish made of vegetables. The apples looked so appealing that I wanted to have a taste of it. And, something happened...

The moment I tasted the apple it was as if I travelled back in time to my childhood, it was Proust's madeleine moment, it was Anton Ego's ratatouille... I was 6 years old when I used to climb an apple tree in my grandmother's garden; I used to sit on its branches for hours while enjoing the delicious apples. At the end of the day, she will prepare a stew, some dish made of eggplants, tomates and bell pepper and, as desert, an apple pie made of the apples I picked from the apple tree.

Memories...fading away, but never lost!

We left the town, not before another sight would reveal a common occupation of people in this town community: a hunter, holding his gun in one hand and the brass horn in another, would cross the street heading toward the outskirts of the city, while his cocker spaniel dog was running joyfull, in anticipation of the hunting game.

Another hunter was to be seen at the rim of the forest, his gun ready to fire the deadly pellets...

The town is now behind us and my limbic system decides to recall the tasteful flavour of the pheasant breast and the buck roast I've enjoyed a few days back... However, more than that, it triggered a sudden call for experiencing, even for limited timeframes, the life, the stillness, the vibe within such a rural community.

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1 response

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (15 Nov 2018):

    Excellent photo essay and pictures...you have my vote!!!

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