The foie gras, the bottles of Fitou, the endlessly sunny days of summer, the ravishing countryside, the continual sense of history, I could go on. But one little known (or little written about) joy of living in the deep south of France is being able to wear exactly what you want. Dress codes may exist around here but, if they do, I've yet to come across them. If you feel like channeling the entire chorus of Les Miserables in peasant skirts and shawls, you can do that (and believe me, I do). Jeans and T-shirts are fine too. Black and bling? Why not.
Mirepoix has only a handful of clothing stores but high fashion percolates down to the Monday market with remarkable speed. So, like everywhere else at the moment, racks right now are gloomily stocked with black, greige, prunes and purples. Just what we need in a recession, right?
Mirepoix market also has more than its share of brightly coloured ethnic/hippie embroidered and patchwork jackets, velvet vests and layered skirts. The friperie stall seems to have disappeared but, in Lavelanet, there's an enormous four-sided stall piled with secondhand clothing, usually three euros an item or two for five. I've dropped a few euros there...
That's one side of the picture. The other is that if you do want to dress up, you don't have to look far. Check the astounding array of hats. A shop in Carcassonne sells chapeaux gorgeous and elaborate enough for Ascot. Local festivals often bring out hat sellers who specialize in more casual, but still smart, things to put on your head. But an edible hat? That's a first. I was so beguiled by this Mirepoix stall-holder's leaf-bedecked headgear that my hands shook. So excuse me if the shot is a little bit out of focus.