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By Margo Lestz
Cours Saleya is the heart of Old Town Nice and it’s always pulsating with life. Striped awnings cover its centre and shelter the products on offer in the daily market. Crowds of locals and tourists come here to do their shopping or sometimes just to look and snap photos of the colourful displays. The scents of fresh produce and flowers seem to put everyone in a good mood and the atmosphere is friendly.
Cours Saleya hosts four different markets. The most well known is the Marché aux Fleurs, or Flower Market, held Tuesday through Sunday. It’s actually a combination of the flower market and the fruit and vegetable market but the name, Marché aux Fleurs is commonly applied to the whole thing. The fruit and vegetable stands pack up by 1.30 in the afternoon but the flower stalls stay open until about 5.30.
The flower sellers…
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The medieval town of Tourrettes-sur-Loup is known as the “City of Violets.” The city celebrates the end of the flower harvest in March, with the “Fete de la Violette,” an event that was started by Victor Linton, a jeweller who came to the village in 1947. The “Victoria” violet, characterized its five petals, long stem, and deep violet color, is a fragrant, winter flower used to make ice cream, jam, candy, beauty products, perfume, cosmetics, & more. The leaves are cultivated later to make the essence used in many famous perfumes.
Food stalls and violet-themed products were front and center with crowds mingling throughout the town’s cobblestone streets and enjoying the weekend festival – taking time to smell the
To take advantage of the (government regulated) twice-a-year sales (les soldes) in France, I recently went shopping (window and otherwise) at Cap 3000 shopping mall, located just west of the Nice airport in St. Laurent-du-Var.
And of course, lunch was on the day’s menu (see below).
There isn’t an American-style food court, but rather, a few restaurants in the mall – popular, as indicated by the line of people waiting for a table. One even provided a nice bench for customers and, with efficiency in mind, passed out some menus to look at while waiting in line. I got one of the two last available “plat du jour“: veal with mushrooms, served with melt-in-your-mouth potatoes and courgette flan – delicieux!
Similar to the Salon des Vignerons, this annual exposition was equally impressive, with winemakers, artisans, and culinary specialists all enticing visitors to taste and sample their wares. Held over a five-day period at the l’Hippodrome/racetrack in Cagnes-sur-Mer, the event hosts regional productors from all over France.
Of course, my first stop was at one of the champagne stands, where I sampled their Brut Rosé – it was miam-miam! Foie gras, super-size cheeses, meats and sausages of every kind, olives, nougat, macaroons, oysters, and cassoulet were on display in the pavillon – a feast for the eyes, as well as for the tastebuds – Bon Appétit!
Maybe our memories are exagerrated and tastier than the reality, but one thing I really miss is the lusciously red, ripe, meaty beefsteak tomato found in the U.S. at the farmer’s market. Oui, France has its version, bien sûr, but does the “coeur de boeuf” in France equal the garden variety “beefsteak” tomato? I was on a quest!
I went to the marché en plein air in Antibes and scouted the vendors’ stands for tomatoes: all shapes and sizes were available – I bought two different varieties that looked similar to beefsteak – one was priced at a hefty 9,50€ per kilo (about $6 per pound) but it looked like the real thing. I have tried “coeur de boeuf” and found them a little bland tasting, comparatively speaking, so maybe this would be ‘it’!
After slicing the tomatoes, I realized they weren’t the same red or as meaty, but it would be the taste that counts, right!?
So, what was the verdict? Well, it tasted like a tomato and was good, but it still lacked that deep, rich, full flavor I was craving.
So, my quest continues during the current tomato season, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll have to smuggle one from the US! 🙂
Photos from the town of Antibes & its market (hover over photo for caption)
During my recent trip to Egalières, I took a side trip to one of the largest and most well-known markets for antiques, the town of Isle-sur-La Sorgue. Famous also for its large, moss-covered water wheels, this town is a must see, with its crystal clear river running through the town’s center and the beautiful building of the Caisse d’Epargne bank. So, what did I buy? Well, I almost bought a beautiful, oval, gold, baroque-style mirror (no photos allowed and there was an employee staged there), but even with a small discount, it was pricey. That being said, I still see the mirror and hope it will go out of my mind soon!
Is the open-air and covered market disappearing in France? One would think so, from the large prominent supermarkets like Auchan, Carrefour, and Leclerc, but not to worry! There’s the open market in Cours Saleya and at Malaussena in Nice. Cagnes-sur-Mer, just outside of Nice, has rebuilt and opened a new covered market, with all the relevant fanfare – Bon marché!
I recently signed up to do a group cooking class at a top-rate restaurant in Nice, called l’Univers. Not having a cooking gene, I figured I could watch and learn something – but NON, this was a hands-on cooking experience! I don’t eat a lot of fish, so never handle or cook it…until then, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The class started with a walk to the famous, daily food market in Cours Saleya, with the chef – he had planned the main course for the day, but needed to see/decide what would he vegetables he wanted to include. It was amusing to watch him browse the local vendors stands, instantly choosing things that he was mentally preparing. He choose nettles, which I had heard of but never saw or touched (yes, the leaves do sting ever so slightly to the touch) – were we going to eat them? Not exactly – they were cooked to make a dark green sauce to accompany the red fish (see photo).
Back at the restaurant, wearing plastic aprons, we watched the chefs demonstrate and then, we each took a turn – fileting and de-boning the sole, pulling stems off of rocket lettuce, fileting red fish, and of course, observing the chefs as they cut, cooked, and created delicious delicacies. I tried to avoid semi-guillotining the red fish – a necessary step before fileting them, but concentrated on not cutting my self and the job at hand (pun intended)!
After about 2 hours, everything was ready, so we sat down to a beautiful table setting and were served hearty wines and the day’s cooked catch (three-course meal). Everything tasted wonderful, as we relaxed, chatted, and enjoyed the fruits of our (and mainly the chefs) labor! What also impressed me was the relaxed, easygoing ambiance in the kitchen, thanks to Master Chef, Christian Plumail, and Chef Nicolas, as they joked with us, taught us basic skills of their craft, and patiently explained and answered our questions.
I am planning on doing another class, and if and when you visit Nice, it is definitely worth doing (the class was done in French, but the Chef also speaks English).
(hover over photo to see the caption)