About a ten-minute drive away, Lavelanet is not an especially beautiful town which means it doesn't get the attention that glamorous medieval Mirepoix does (ten minutes in the other direction). But perhaps because of this, I think its market is better in terms of choice, and it's definitely less geared to tourists. You don't, for instance, find anyone here selling garlic graters shaped like sunflowers. Once, according to local legend, a man did show up with a truckload of yellow jugs, pots and bowls emblazoned with olives and sprigs of lavender but he was never seen again. At least not in Lavelanet.
The town lacks a market square but it does have a small triangle near the church, an indoor halles across the road from it (that also functions as concert hall and indoor games stadium) and a long, skinny car park. All are called into use for the Friday market.
We usually end up parking at the northern end of the market, making our way down past the cinema through a throng of clothing stalls. You want a tangerine coloured bra size 44D? It's here. Underwear, sparkly tops and combat pants eventually give way to the food stalls. At least three sell paella. You can also buy roasted chickens and quail, moules, Chinese food like nems (egg rolls) and dishes that take well to reheating like chicken basquaise and Hungarian goulash spooned out from large simmering cast iron pans.
This is a mixed market with French, Spanish and North African people all shopping together. You might hear the occasional word of English at this time of year but it's rare.
My favourite area, the halles houses local producers. Here's where you find folk selling glass jars of foie gras and slices of dried duck breast made, literally, within a couple of kilometres. Lately, I've been buying my lettuces (called salades) from the old lady whose table is beside the old man whose vegetables are already always sold by the time we get there.
Outside, on the triangle near the church, the longest queue is at one of the bio (organic) stalls run by a man who farms up the hill from Camon. This week we couldn't resist his heirloom tomatoes: mixed baskets at a reasonable 2.50 euros a kilo.