Wednesday, 15 December 2010 12:00 AM
Sandra Shevey, street market historian, walking guide and campaigner is blogging for Travelbite.co.uk about street markets in the UK and across Europe. Here is the third instalment of a series of blogs on traditional markets on the French Riviera:
At the Cannes market at the Porte Forville 300 farmers shop their produce. It is open five days a week 6am - 1:30pm but closed on Monday and Thursday.
The Mediterranean market hall, c1885, is similar in style to that at Menton. Supported by metallic arches it was designed by architect Hourlier and boasts a colourful hollow tile roof.
Despite adaptation the Cannes market is still a bit of a showoff, boasting such exotica as black radishes (bigger and more bitter than the red), loose unpickled gherkins and white onions.
Farm tables are strewn with eggs, gourds, artichokes, beef tomatoes and grapes - all cheaper than those purveyed by larger suppliers.
It is harvest time and thus the produce is even more gorgeous than usual.
There are different sections for each kind of produce- fish, fruit, bread, pasta, vegetables, salads, flowers, cheeses, meats and cured meats, eggs, spices and tapenades.
Loose teas in tins abound: four red fruits, jasmine, vanilla, green and Earl Grey. Spices are sold loose and from sacks. It is all very earthy. There are marjoram, basil, oregano, chervil, parsley ... The smells are invigorating.
The pasta corner sells all varieties of local produce. Along with pastas there are all kinds of tartes and quiche: quiche Provencal - consisting of tomatoes and Provencal herbs; tarte a l'ancienne with courgettes, chard and rice; and marceline artisanale (cheese and bacon puff pastry).
There is a lot of Italian produce as the Italians do not recognise the Frenchifying of Nice. To them it remains 'Nissa'. But then Genoa to the French is Gennes which to the Italians is Genova. So go figure.
All around the market cafes sell fast food including potatoes au gratin, pintade, pork fillet, quiche maison, stuffed tomatoes, mushrooms and courgettes. Norbert, chef at one of the cafes, explains the difference between Provence and Nice fillings.
"Province mix is bread based whilst Nice uses rice". Either way, yum. Stuffed vegetables are my favourite tapas ... always have been, always will be.
Peaches, pears, and nectarines nestle amidst nettles and leaves. Cabbages as big as basketballs compete with massive cauliflowers and courgettes. Oh! Ragged rocket and mesclun are dumped onto a farm table side by side with peppers (red and green), courgettes and aubergines.
There's a wonderful buzz to the Cannes market in the old part of town. Even though it has been tarnished by city ways and has succumbed to money, it is still a magical, magical place.
Menton and Nice are cities and their markets reflect commercial concerns. And yet it was in Nice that I discovered the most populist of all old local markets.
The Liberation market in the sixth district of Nice, a peaceful residential northern suburb, is an open market dating back to 1900 which runs six days a week (it is closed on Monday) from 6am - 1:30pm. The produce here is one-third cheaper than at the Cours Saleya market and the clientele mostly local.
This market is massive and wends its way up the High Street, round the squares and plazas and ends up at a small Victorian market house overlooking a sweet park.
As is typical in France all sources of origin are clearly marked and most of the produce is labelled as 'French'. Melon, beefsteak tomatoes, endive, artichokes, flowers and leeks (white, slender stalks) are all labelled as 'French'.
Here you can find salad Genovese as well as salad Nicoise. Here you'll see patrons in cafes having a leisurely drink (Kier) whilst nibbling at tapas before taking some lunch. It is all soooo civilized.
Tubs of salad - Chinese lettuce and rocket - sell for 2 euros which at Marks and Spencer cost twice as much for half the amount.
The old indoor market reminds of the old Borough market before redevelopment ruined it. It is also much cheaper than the Menton market. Pates, terrines and hams are half the price.
Closing time hits sooner than you'd expect so I suggest you arrive early....about 6am if that's not too early?!
In part four of my series on the French Riviera I reflect upon the antiques markets in the area before moving up the coast to the Italian Riviera food and general markets in part five.
By Sandra Shevey
Sandra Shevey runs market walks around Riviera local markets. Contact: email@example.com
Sandra's trip to the French Riviera courtesy of Sci Villa Sud Pre.
Copyright Sandra Shevey 2010 All Rights Reserved