La marché niçoise

Story and Photo by Willa Tellekson-Flash

The city of Nice draws you out into its streets, which are full of life. On the ten-minute walk from my apartment to the beach, I passed sidewalk cafés where men and women paused to sip espresso and smoke cigarettes, street vendors complimenting passersby in hopes of selling fresh flowers, and merchants tucked behind the sidewalk, their stores stacked with antiques.

But the most exciting of my discoveries was the street market that parallels the Promenade des Anglais, a long stretch of rocky beach and palm trees. Open every day but Monday from 6 am to 1 pm, the market sells fruits, vegetables, and local delicacies under colorful tents that line the Cours Saleya in the old city.

I stumbled upon the marketplace during one of my morning walks. The vibrant colors of fresh fruits and vegetables, the smells of spices piled in rows of baskets, and the sound of the merchants attempting to catch the attention of locals doing their grocery shopping overwhelmed my senses. I meandered down row after row of vendors, stopping to test dried apricots and marvel at the deep red insides of a blood orange. It is a mistake to visit this marketplace on an empty stomach, as everything will seemingly become a necessity. I stopped to watch an elderly woman with jet-black hair cook socca, a crêpe made of chickpea flour famous in Nice, on an open black oven. The smell of fresh olive oil made my mouth water, and after handing over a couple euros, I devoured a steaming hot, crisp piece of the pancake covered in salt and pepper.

Visitors with cameras roam the marketplace, capturing the vibrant colors and exotic foods on film, but the market is not justmerely a tourist attraction. Locals stroll through, dispensing coins in return for bags of fresh peppers or cartons of tomatoes and catching up with the other regulars. The vendors are friendly, and especially hospitable to those willing to try out their French. I was offered countless varieties of olives, raspberries so red they were almost purple, and chunks of fresh mango cut open just for me.

The marketplace encompasses the spirit of Nice. It is full of energy and life—color, aroma, and noise—yet maintains an antique and old-fashioned quality. People converse and wander; they sit and observe. No one talks on cell phones—instead, they settle at the cafés that line the marketplace and spend time with friends and family. I went back to the market every day after discovering it. Sometimes I saw the same giant blueberries and sherbet-colored mangoes, but there was always something new to be seen, smelled, or tasted. The market, like the city, drew me out of my apartment and into the streets, to discover, wander, and explore.

This story appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Baedeker.


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