I hate to cook, but I love markets!
I don’t know why, or what it is about them, but wherever I am in the world, the marketplace seems to beckon me. The simplest explanation might just be that it is a magical melding of the 3 C’s…Color, Cacophony and Camaraderie. And, oh yes, lest we forget number 4…the s-cents!
Grab your virtual shopping bag and let’s go marketing around the world. I’m sure you will find everything from soap to nuts! Let’s begin with soap.
MARSEILLES, FRANCE--MARCHE DU PRADO: Around 600 BC, Greek merchants from Asia Minor founded the port town of Massilia (Marseilles) that is now Marseilles’ bustling Vieux Port (Old Harbor). The twenty-six centuries that followed have made Marseilles the oldest of the great French cities and the city with the second largest population in France. Although Marseilles lies at the western end of the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera), do not expect Riviera ritz and glitz. What you can expect is a vibrant ancient port town that has become a leading place in theater, sport, and fashion design.
|MARSEILLES’ BUSTLING VIEUX PORT (OLD HARBOR)|
The Marche Du Prado is a market where hundreds of stalls line both sides of the Avenue du Prado. Among the treasures you will find are ribbon-tied Provencal pouches containing Herbs de Provence; hand–made, hand-painted pottery and the world-renowned, traditional French lavender soap. Marseilles is the capital of soap making and no visitor should leave without some genuine Marseilles soap. To be labeled Savon de Marseille, the soap must contain at least 72% olive oil. Soap infused with authentic Provencal lavender is the flavor de jour in the Marseilles marketplace.
|LAVENDER SOAP REIGNS SUPREME IN MARSEILLE MARKET|
NICE, FRANCE--COURS SALEYA: My life always seems to be running away from me. However, whenever I am in Nice France I seem to be able to finally stop trying to catch it. Nice (pronounced niece) is nice. Not only is Nice nice, it is incredible! This haven, that temporarily removes one from reality, is the reigning queen of the French Riviera (also known as the Cote d' Azur). If a portrait were to be painted of this queen of resorts, it would have to include sea, sun, art, architecture, history, culture, shopping, and some of the finest food in the world. Nice is Joie de vivre personified on the French Riviera!
|NICE IS THE REIGNING QUEEN OF THE COTE D’ AZUR|
On arriving in Nice, I always block out some time to stroll and lunch at Nice's famous Flower Market (Cours Saleya) in heart of Old Nice (Vieux Nice), two blocks back from the seafront. It is packed with a plethora of flowers, produce, restaurants, hip bars, and shops where you can buy Provencal goods. It operates six days a week. On Mondays, it becomes a flea/antiques market. At Le Safari, a restaurant that has been operating in Old Nice for decades, I opted for a plate of spiny sea urchins. Considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, this unique and savory seafood is both tasty and pricey.
|SPINY SEA URCHINS ARE OFTEN COMPARED TO OYSTERS|
BARCELONA, SPAIN—LA BOQUERIA: Officially named the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, the entrance to the market is tucked back in an alcove off La Rambla, the lively tree-lined esplanade filled with cafes, shops, vendors, artists and mimes.
ENTRANCE TO LA BOQUERIA
La Boqueria had its beginning in 1217, near the old city gate, with a few tables set up for the purpose of selling meat. In the mid-1830s, the city fathers decided to construct an official structure. Construction began on March 19, 1840. After a series of modifications, the inauguration finally took place in 1853. A new fish market opened in 1911, and the metal roof that still exists today was constructed in 1914.
|TECHNICOLOR CANDIED FRUIT DISPLAY AT LA BOQUERIA|
BANGKOK, THAILAND--FLOATING MARKETS: Thailand's capital of Bangkok, the "Venice of the East", is a potpourri of superlatives. It is the best and the worst. It is the most beautiful and the most slovenly; the most chaotic and the most serene. It is the classiest and the sleeziest; the most exotic and the most commonplace…and its floating markets might well be the most exciting markets in the world.
|A PLETHORA OF LONGBOATS PLY BANGKOK’S KLONGS|
Long-tail boats ply the canals, aka klongs, and offer sights you will see no other place in the world. You can purchase fresh produce from one of the boat people or have your meal cooked right before your very eyes. The Klong Show, is an absolute must for visitors to Bangkok.
|BUY PRODUCE OR A COOKED MEAL FROM THESE BOAT WOMEN|
NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA--- SAINT JOHN CITY MARKET: Saint John’s City Market is Canada’s oldest continuing farmers’ market. When it officially opened in 1876, Saint John was one of the world’s leading shipbuilding centers. The market’s ceiling resembles the inverted hull of a ship. The Market’s hand-hewn timbers and dovetailed joints have stood fast for more than a century. Fortunately, the Great Fire of 1877 left the market building undamaged.
|MARKETPLACE CEILING RESEMBLES INVERTED HULL OF A SHIP|
Within the market, colorful stalls display local foods and handcrafted items. Dulse, the leafy sea vegetable that grows on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, is considered a maritime delicacy. Handpicked and sun dried, it adds a light salty taste to salad and seafood dishes. Slocum & Ferris, established in 1895, is the reigning merchant at the City Market. They will be happy to give you a sample taste of dulse before you decide to purchase it. I took them up on their offer. My reaction to dulse…UGH!
|TRY SOME DULSE…YOU MAY LIKE IT|
HELSINKI, FINLAND—MARKET SQUARE: Facing the Baltic Sea, in the shadow of the Presidential Palace, Market Square is located at the eastern end of Esplanadi Park (aka Pohjoisesplanadi or Espa), the green heart of Helsinki. At Finland’s most famous market, bustling with locals and tourists from spring through fall, you can buy anything from fresh fish straight out of the Baltic to Finnish fur items, handmade jewelry and souvenirs.
|HANDMADE CRAFTS AND FURS AT MARKET STANDS|
Some of Finland’s most famous shops, such as Marimekko, iittala and Aarikka, frame the Espa. You can have a meal cooked right before your eyes at a market stand or spring for the high life at the nearby Café Kappeli, a traditional meeting place opened in Helsinki in1867.
|MIME ORDERS LUNCH AT FISH STAND|
MONTECRISTI, ECUADOR---HAT MARKET: As we shopped the Ecuadorian artisan stalls in search of the perfect Panama hat, musicians perched atop colorful painted buses called chivas serenaded us. Known for their lightness, durability, flexibility and comfort, the quality of the hat (the grade) depends on the quality of the straw and the number of threads per inch in the weave. Some straws are so fine that the resulting hats feel as if they are made of cloth. Montecristi’s Panama hats are so flexible they can be rolled and placed into a box.
|MONTECRISTI, ECUADOR---HAT MARKET|
Montecristi artisans, taught the trade by their fathers and grandfathers before them, weave Panama hats that have been called the finest in the world. You might wonder why these hats made in Ecuador are called Panama hats.. In 1835, Manuel Alfaro, arrived in Montecristi to export Panama hats. Cargo ships filled with his hats headed to the Gulf of Panama. Gold Rush prospectors arriving and passing through Panama needed hats for the sun. Thus a thriving Panama hat business was established in Ecuador. The price range of Montecristi hats is based upon the weaving, finishing and authenticity of the hat. However, at the Montecristi Hat Market you will pay far less than you would in the US or Europe.
|MONTECRISTI ARTISAN WEAVES A PANAMA HAT|
ISTANBUL, TURKEY—SPICE BAZAAR: I promised that I would take you marketing for everything from soap to nuts, so now that we found the soap, lets go for the nuts. And, what better place to go nutty than at the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul? Built in 1664, the Spice Bazaar (aka Spice Market) has a total of 85 shops selling a plethora of nuts, dried fruits, vibrant heaps of spices, Turkish Delight (lokum), assorted sweets and other goodies. After the nearby Grand Bazaar, (the largest and most famous of Istanbul's covered bazaars) the Spice Market is the city’s most famous covered shopping market. However, without a doubt, it is the most fragrant of all the markets. As in many markets around the world, tasting samples are offered. Be advised that a little haggling is expected and usually results in a lower price for your purchases.
FROM SOAP(IN MARSEILLE) TO NUTS (IN ISTANBUL)
Trust me, you’ll go nutty deciding what to buy, not only at Istanbul’s Spice Market, but at the wide variety of markets around the world.
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer, and International Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio. She is the winner of 46 national Travel Writing Awards. TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JANET STEINBERG