By Katherine Harvey
In an effort to save energy, France recently decided that all air-conditioned retail establishments must keep their doors closed, as leaving the doors open with the air conditioner running results in 20% more energy consumption. , not to mention that leaving the door open negates the AC point, a fact that most French traders don’t understand, but we’ll get to that later. In case you were wondering, outdoor patio heaters have been banned for a few years. In cities with less than 800,000 inhabitants, illuminated advertising must be extinguished from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. with the exception of train stations and airports without mention of buses which are a very important means of transport in this French department. although knowing how public transport works here, buses probably don’t run during these hours. A heavy fine of 750 euros or approximately $760 is imposed on all offenders, but the frequency with which the fine is imposed is unclear, although it is conceivable that it is daily. Restaurants and bars with terraces can keep their doors open and a small fine of up to 150 euros will be imposed on offenders, presumably bars and restaurants without terraces, again the frequency is unclear. That’s all well and good, except it won’t work in Antibes or probably any French city that attracts tourists and has retailers that want to sell their wares. Some businesses like the wine merchant NICOLAS who have shops all over Europe comply with this by posting a sign on the door in nice big letters saying it is open and air conditioned so you know why the door is closed; it is comforting to assume that it is company policy to comply with the law. Other retailers say they wouldn’t have customers if they had to close their doors and just turn off the air conditioning, saying it really doesn’t make any difference, which of course doesn’t matter if the door is open and others are willing to risk fines and leave the air conditioner on and the door open. Some stores here don’t even have doors and are open to the street, putting up a metal grate when closed. Stores pay a fee to have merchandise or signs on the street that attract customers and having a closed door is interpreted as unwelcoming. I throw my hands up on this one.
While the products are kings on the market, the other stalls are numerous: spices, soaps and creams, olives, cheeses, flowers and plants and more. Nicole and her husband have the only butcher stall in the market, making it one of the most popular stalls where there is always a long line of eager customers. while waiting to choose which pâté or terrine they want: quail, rabbit, tongue, poultry liver to name a few or maybe it’s a free-range chicken, veal kidneys, beef tenderloin or a sausage that is in the spotlight: merguez, chipolatas with or without herbs, parrugines and of course local pudding. There are at least four types of cured ham on offer sitting on top of the meat crate, including San Daniel and prosciutto.
Maison Hibert is the new cheese stand in the spot which has always housed the biggest and most important supplier of cheeses on the market. Jean Marie had a small cheese and charcuterie stand in the market for years and when the Var family who had the main cheese stand retired after 32 years old, the space was taken over by the lucky son of Jean Marie, Alexandre. In addition to the usual brie with cow’s milk, camembert and reblochon there is are more unusual cheeses such as sheep’s cheese camembert and a creamy white goat’s/sheep’s cheese. Different types of tomme, a hard cheese made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk or a combination of two of these are available, a favorite being the flower tomme (tomme with flowers) with its edible flower crust with a variety of blue goat cheese coming in second.
New on the market this year is the representation of the post office. Caroline settled under the bust of Championnet whose name is inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and was a prominent figure in the French Revolution, commander-in-chief of Rome’s army to protect it from the Neapolitan Court and British Fleet and later Commander-in-Chief of the Army of Italy; he was greatly admired by Napoleon. His only connection with Antibes is that he died here and is buried in Fort Carré. The bust of General Championnet sits on a pedestal at the entrance to the market opposite the Town Hall, a stone’s throw from Michel’s stall. Caroline sells stamps, shipping boxes, pens and scales to weigh letters plus cords with very practical retractable cord if you want to wear your key around your neck and send the post at the same time free advertising. I bought some stamps that I’ll probably never use, but I thought they were lovely because they had characters from Grimm’s fairy tales, Andersen and Perrault. Caroline gave me the choice of a free pen, letter scale or lanyard. I choose the lanyard that I will probably never use either.
The fish stand La Sirene (the mermaid) opposite the market with its restaurant MerSea has been open for decades. Last summer, in addition to their usual fare, they were selling roast chickens and Cornish hen, but this summer they decided to stick to fish, crab claws, oysters (Belon, Fine by Claire and Gillardeau, a large family operation for more than a century with farms in Normandy near Utah Beach and in County Cork in Ireland), lobster (spiny or blue) and various kinds of prawns including blue and giant prawns. The cheerful Nico, who was the second responsible, has now left La Sirene
and opened his own fish stall just about opposite La Sirene on the other side of the market where there was a butcher’s shop for a short time. The future will tell if it was a good idea, but the fact that Nico installs you at a small table and serves you six fines de claires and a glass of Chardonnay to spend the morning is a definite plus. There is only one other fish shop and that is Marius at the bottom of rue Sade opposite Place Nationale. This is the second summer for Marius and his wife since the former owners Thierry and his wife Magie have retired.
A new trend seems to be transporting your children in a small cart instead of a stroller, which makes a trip to the beach much easier since you can throw all your gear, picnic and child or children in a spacious, safe and comfortable vehicle. These red canvas wonders often have a canopy that protects delicate skin unlike the usually useless canopy and umbrella of a stroller when the only protection from the sun would be to cover the whole stroller so that the poor child sees nothing but sun. tissue. That’s if the parent thinks about it.
In addition to the ubiquitous motorized scooter, another mode of transportation for the past few summers has been the Golfette. Dashing Alexandre Biscuit has a small fleet of golf carts that operate exclusively in Antibes, Cap d’Antibes and Juan les Pins. The parent company, Gingy Groupe, also offers a much appreciated valet parking service on the Garoupe beaches in summer and Alex “in winter” in Courchevel with its fleet which is a equally clever idea. It’s a lot of fun to ride in one of these vehicles, strapped in securely and certainly going too fast for the conditions. The drivers are all young, probably college students with summer jobs. The trip isn’t exactly conversational, holding on can be a challenge, but it’s a guaranteed adventure, just not for the faint-hearted.
The beach has many other pleasures than cooling off at sea: stand up paddle, jet ski, kayak, outrigger canoe, but the water toy of the day is the Australian Fliteboard 2.2 battery-powered hydrofoil surfboard that makes you fly over the water as if by magic. And now it looks like inflatable flotation devices have reached a new level: big round slices of watermelon with black seeds and green rind, donuts with pink icing and multicolored sprinkles with a bite, ice cream cones also vanilla with nuggets, rainbow colored unicorns and hippos, turtles with brightly colored flowers on their backs (a new type of painted turtle I guess), smiling snails, stingrays, crocodiles, sharks, red seahorses, flamingos of various sizes, an all-too-familiar red sleeve holding fries, and even a pineapple but not SpongeBob SquarePants. A veritable menagerie, snacks included.
Thursday is the day of the big market and also the flea market or flea market with stalls around the bandstand in the Place Nationale which is also the terrace of many restaurants. Giant statues of Tintin and Snowy his dog, second-hand Hermes scarves in their original boxes, perfectly polished hotel silverware, sparkling crystal chandeliers don’t even scratch the surface of what’s available. Mrs. Davidoff and Miss Luna, 14, a Jack Russel and Yorkie mix have the only laundry stand. Mme. D, who sells her immaculate old sheets and cottons in many towns in France, has been coming to Antibes for more than 20 years. Cocktail napkins, tablecloths, pillowcases, coasters, shirts, aprons and more, all hand-embroidered, some with intricate lace, Mrs. D has it and it’s as pristine as the day it was made. I’m still hoping to find a linen top sheet with an H but so far no luck.
The other morning, when I went shopping, it wasn’t the long-awaited Igloo but a motorbike in front of the back door. I taped a note to the seat of the motorcycle asking the owner not to block the entrance to our house and when I returned the motorcycle was moved. The owner appeared, kindly apologized and said he didn’t know anyone lived here! Live here, we do, and happily.