Cannes markets Couv_Les_marchesOne of my earliest memories of Cannes was seeing flower markets on Sunday morning in May 1978 on my way to the railway station for a day in Monaco.

Amazingly — so I thought at the time — the railway station was just behind the market.

I was studying in France at the time and went south with some of my classmates on our last weekend away before classes concluded for the summer. It was probably Pentecost.

We had no map of the city and, with basic instructions from the lovely lady who ran the Modern Hotel (still there in Rue des Serbes), found our way around.

Notre Dame de Bon Voyage Cannes bv5As no one wanted to join me en route to Monaco, that Sunday was all mine, after Mass at Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage near our hotel.

Looking back, I must have seen the flower market in Les Allées de la Liberté, across from La Croisette, and right next to the pétanque area. This would have been near Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage.

Afterward, I must have walked to Marché Gambetta, which, on foot, is a minute or two from the railway station. More flowers — everywhere — a splendid sight on a sunny Sunday morning!

Cannes’s city motto is ‘Those who come never leave’. Truer words were never spoken. (That said, one mustn’t forget Dr Johnson’s verdict, ‘A man who is tired of London is tired of life’. I can’t trust any Englishman who doesn’t love London.) Once we left the city on the train home, those three days were well embedded in my memory. If you haven’t been, you must go!

The advert at the top of the post is part of the latest city campaign to promote local markets.  This one says (idiomatically translated), ‘Want a peach? Go to your market!’

No trip to Cannes is complete without the markets.

Updates regarding Mondays were made in June 2015.

Photo credits for the markets and ad campaign go to cannes.com.

Marché Gambetta

Marché Gambetta is between Rue d’Antibes and Rue Jean Jaurès (where the railway station is). The other streets bordering it are Rue Chabaud to the west and Rue Tesseire to the east. (Rue Chabaud — on the other side of Rue d’Antibes — is Rue Macé. So, if you’re on Rue Macé, just cross Rue d’Antibes, and Marché Gambetta is but a short walk away.)

Rue Chabaud has both a fishmonger and a butcher. The June 2013 issue of Cannes Soleil, a local newsmagazine, said that the family who have run the fish shop for generations also opened a fish restaurant in Cannes. Unfortunately — and to their disappointment — they discovered that patrons did not want local fish (why??) and the family turned their establishment into a crêpe restaurant. Business is booming, which is great for them. I’ll look at fresh food, especially fish, in another post on dining out.

Rue Tesseire has an upmarket cooks shop and a beauty supply shop which sells all sorts of colour in tubes for use with peroxide. I had a peek inside. They appear to sell to the public, therefore, ladies who do their own colour would do well to spend a while browsing. There is also what looks like a reputable hairdresser a couple doors down, with prices that are cheaper than those in the London area.

Marché Gambetta underwent a facelift in 2011. It is now a covered market. Prior to that, they had much more food on offer — including the old staple of French markets, the horsemeat van.

Marche Gambetta Cannes marche%20gambetta_420x630It currently has an abundance of clothes on offer and much less food.

When I started making biannual visits to Cannes before the Millennium, there were about three aisles of stunning French food and vegetables. Customers were spoilt for choice.

In 2011, there was only one and a bit of another aisle featuring food. The cheap clothes — nothing one would wish to buy — were taking over. That said, I was able to buy some marvellous cherries and a superb small brie aux truffes for €3. The brie, by the way, went in the suitcase chill bag!

Between then and now, the cheesemonger from whom I bought the brie had pulled out of the market. The place where their stall stood is still vacant, unfortunately. The only other cheesemonger there had supermarket cheese, nothing worth buying. I didn’t see any exceptional saucisses or cold cuts. If you want to get fresh meat, it seems as if you now must rely solely on the butcher in Rue Chabaud — good for him. Still, it’s another sign that Marché Gambetta is, sadly, not what it once was. And, most of it is cheap, awful clothes and shoes.

The fruit looked okay, but, probably because of the long winter (I was there in June), most of it came from Spain. However, the vegetables looked good and some of those were French.

One stall which might interest readers belongs to the spice man. He has an extensive range of fresh spices and aromatics for Provençal, North African and Asian cuisine. He’s a very nice man who also speaks English. This was the first year I haven’t bought from him. He used to have test tubes of Madagascar vanilla (you could buy three or six at a go, all in one tube) and powdered saffron which, whilst not cheap, was more expensive elsewhere. This year, he had neither. Thankfully, Cannolive came through for the powdered saffron and at a comparable price.

The market is still a good place to go for flowers, however. You never know, you might be a lunch guest, and an unusual yet reasonably priced bouquet still serves well as a hostess gift.

Marché Gambetta is open between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. 

Léon Gambetta

Leon Gambetta Wikipedia 220px-Léon_Gambetta_by_Lége,_ParisA closing note on the prevalence of French streets and squares named Gambetta. Léon Gambetta (1838-1882) was a statesman of the Third Republic. He was an accomplished lawyer and orator who took unpopular political positions which greatly pleased the general public. He served as Prime Minister for three months, between November 1881 and January 1882. He died on New Year’s Eve that year from cancer of the gut. Wikipedia tells us:

His public funeral on 6 January 1883 evoked one of the most overwhelming displays of national sentiment ever witnessed.

And:

Many suspected him of desiring a dictatorship; unjust attacks were directed against him from all sides, and his cabinet fell on 26 January 1882, after only sixty-six days. Had he remained in office, he would have cultivated the British alliance and cooperated with Britain in Egypt; and when the succeeding Freycinet government shrank from that enterprise only to see it undertaken with signal success by Britain alone, Gambetta’s foresight was quickly justified.

Gambetta managed to frequently annoy his fellow politicians, although they held a grudging respect for him. He was not a royalist. Nor was he a collectivist communard. He championed small shopkeepers. His father Joseph was a small-scale grocer in Marseille. Even in the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was making inroads in food production and distribution. Small chains of grocery stores appeared in Marseille, which had a negative impact on the family business. It was this development which informed Gambetta’s political outlook domestically and accounted for his popularity with many Frenchmen:

This resentment was not only directed at bourgeois industrial capitalism, but also at the worker, who was now proclaimed as the backbone of the French economy, stripping the title from the small, independent shopkeeper.[3] This resentment may have been passed down from father to son, and manifested itself in an unwillingness to support the lower-class Communards[‘] usurpation of what rightfully belonged to the “petit bourgeoisie.”

Marché des Allées de la Liberté – Marché aux Fleurs

Halfway between Marché Gambetta and Marché Forville (see below) is the Marché des Allées de la Liberté, which is also home to the main Marché aux Fleurs (flower market).

This market is across the street from the beachfront throughfare, La Croisette. It is near the large rectangular fountain over which a statue of Lord Brougham presides.

This is a good place to have a rest and, if one is lucky enough, watch the pétanque teams. This is another local feature which appears to be in decline. When we visited between 1999 and 2003, people played pétanque in the late afternoons and early evenings. Now the courts stand empty. Still, the area is lined with plane trees (platanes) offering cool shade on a hot day. There are plenty of places to sit and partake of a cold drink or some ice cream from the nearby stands.

The flower market is open every morning.

At weekends, the area is also open to an antique and second hand market between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Another part is dedicated to local painters and sculptors selling their art. They put up their stalls at 10 a.m. and finish at 6 p.m.

Marché Forville

This is the Cannes market.

Marché Forville (pron. ‘For-vee‘) is large, so plan on spending at least a half hour there, possibly longer. Many locals go to browse and buy, especially when they’re stocking up on fresh fruit and veg.

That said, the food selection didn’t look quite as appetising to me as it has in the past. Again, this might be because of a late spring, which also affected French growers in the south. I also did not see any exciting cheese or meat selection this time.

However, this is the market where you can buy fresh fish on the premises or just across the way. Note the sign at the top of the picture which says ‘Local Fish — Direct Sales’. If you’re a self-catering gourmand, do try and buy fish from Cannes and elsewhere on the Cote d’Azur; you will not be disappointed.

Marche Forville Cannes marche%20forville_420x630

One can also find fresh flowers here every day.

Another big draw for Marché Forville is the extensive antiques – second hand market which runs every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. As time goes on, this extraordinary market will become less intriguing for me. Only a few years ago, most items — from secular to religious — were at least a century old. Little by little, more merchandise has been from the 1950s and 1960s and is mostly secular. The ivory crucifixes and prayerbooks bound in mother of pearl are long gone, sadly, as are the silver samovars.

Much of the oldest merchandise is oriented around the table. If I were a newlywed and had received money as a wedding gift, I would certainly kit out my kitchen with the antique china sets and linen napkins on sale. It is very high quality and in excellent condition.

You can also find all sorts of sterling silver and good silverplate, especially 10- or 12-piece place settings of cutlery in the original chests. There are also many silver salvers of various sizes and designs.

One Thursday in 2009, SpouseMouse and I found a magnificently large Art Deco silver cocktail shaker and pourer with a long, elegant, graceful handle with scallop detail on the top and bottom. It would have looked very much at home in Bertie Wooster’s flat. Jeeves would have found it a pleasure to use for cocktail hour. We must have looked at it at least three times. Should we or shouldn’t we?

Two days later, we approached the woman behind the stall. I can’t remember if she quoted us €110 or €120, but we bought it for €100, if I remember rightly.

The bottom of it has a Birmingham hallmark. The other stamp reads:

Kirby Beard and Co.
Paris
Fabriqué en Angleterre

You need good eyesight and a good magnifying glass to read it. However, we now own a piece of 20th century Anglo-French retailing and household history. And, yes, we do use the shaker a few times a year. When not in use, it has a prominent place on top of the drinks cabinet.

Kirby Beard and Co., Paris

Kirby Beard 1023KIRBYbisKirby Beard and Co. started out as a Gloucestershire pin maker (see p. 12 of PDF). It was founded in 1743 — most probably under a different name — by William Cowcher, who owned companies in Gloucester and London. Although the name might have changed, this historical document about pin and needle manufacture tells us that it had been family run for 150 years. It was probably the oldest manufacturing firm in England. (Click the picture — courtesy of Silver Collection — to enlarge; it will open in another window.)

Robert Kirby and George Beard were senior partners of the firm in 1816. Beard had started as an apprentice and worked his way up the management ladder, not uncommon at the time. The document tells us that he was instrumental in introducing machinery to produce these delicate metal items which we now take for granted. At the time, all the work was done — amazingly — by hand with a different workman responsible for each step of the process.

An early experiment in 1818, using American Seth Hunt’s machine for applying pinheads, was unsuccessful and had to be abandoned. In 1833, Beard’s son — also named George — became an apprentice to the firm. It was around that time that the company began using a steam engine and machines for making pins and needles. Their steam engine could draw and point the wire. Soon afterward, they were able to make pinheads direct from the wire. The delicate machines could produce unfinished pins at the rate of 180 per minute. Further processes were applied to achieve a finished product.

Kirby Beard and Co. moved to Birmingham and had their main office at 106 Newhall Street. Their needlemaking factory, established in 1862, was in nearby Redditch. They expanded into hairpin making and, when the aforementioned document from which I’m summarising was published — on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries — they were one of the UK’s largest hairpin makers. They used their own specialist machines to turn out ten tons — 20,400,000 hairpins — a week.

In 1878, the firm took part in the Paris Universal Exposition (which later became the World’s Fair) and listed their business addresses — in addition to their Birmingham and Redditch ones — as 18 Cannon Street, London, and 5 Rue Auber in Paris.

A collection of letters from the late 1890s between two well-bred New England ladies Amy Heard Gray and Helen Maxima Heard reveals that Kirby Beard pins were also popular in the United States. Mrs Heard’s husband was a diplomat in Korea at the time and she missed many of the items she was able to purchase in America. In a letter dated December 17, 1891, Helen wrote to Amy asking for

a small box of Kirby & Beard stainless steel pins.

Among the footnotes to the letters is one (31) which says

Kirby, Beard, & Co. was a specialty shop at 5 rue Auber in Paris, presumably with a branch in Boston.

Failing that, there must have been a distributor or agent — possibly in New York — who was able to get the merchandise into Boston’s better shops.

In 1929, Kirby Beard & Co. sold their pin and needle making business to Milward’s.

Their Paris shop sold a variety of upmarket and unusual items, among them silver, rare books, clocks, watches, cigarette boxes, tantalus decanters, picnic sets, coffee makers, ashtrays and executive novelties.

At the time our cocktail shaker was made, it is possible that Sir Alfred St Valery Tebbitt headed the firm:

Sir Alfred St Valery Tebbitt (1870 – 30 March 1941) was described in his obituary in The Times as “a prominent member of the British Colony in Paris“. He was managing director of Kirby, Beard & Co. and British Chamber of Commerce, Paris, and of the Hertford British Hospital, Paris.

He was knighted (Knight Bachelor) in 1936, and was also an officer of the Legion d’honneur.

He was the son of Charles Tebbitt and Emily Houston. In 1904 he married Gladys Pendrell Smith; they had two sons and one daughter.

He died in 1941 and is buried in the Ascension Parish Burial Ground, Cambridge.

Tomorrow: Shopping in Cannes — everywhere else