I was last at the Sunday market on the quay side in Bordeaux in 2008. Apart from a couple of street musicians missing from the scene and one less wine sampling stall to tempt me, nothing had really changed. Even the sun had come out again to bless the French food with its intense light and warmth. On my five day visit to Bordeaux I generally found quite a few things had changed in my favourite city in the South West of France - not better nor worse - just different.
Then I suppose anywhere will change over seven years and those nice café waiters and waitresses at the Cinéma Café Utopia that I got to recognise between my three visits during 2004 – 2008, they had all moved on to other jobs and lives. Jacky the camp waiter at another coffee haunt, on the rue St Catherine, seemed to have disappeared too and his, bijou behind the counter domain, had been given an upgrade en plastique rouge. It was more open plan now. One thing there hadn't changed at all. The Michael Jackson Thriller music still played constantly in the background. Jacky was now Jackie – a short, dark haired dark eyed, waitress continually intent on chatting to an older man sitting outside. I considered asking about the whereabouts of M. Jacky but the question got stupidly complicated in my head that was trying to express itself in limited French. So I didn't bother.
And so, on this hot early-ish Sunday morning, I made my way from the relatively unpopulated centre of Bordeaux towards the Chartrons district (about a fifteen minute slow walk) where the open market had been set up at seven o'clock that morning. Remembering that I got severely sunburnt last time in 2008 I donned a summer linen cap and protected my arms with a long sleeved shirt. It was already too warm for a coat even though I saw some French men wearing short woollen scarves! I had been in Bordeaux less than a day and my feet were already starting to blister up from my extensive enthusiastic perambulations around the hot city. It must be something to do with the heat as historically I have suffered from blisters every time in Bordeaux but rarely anywhere else. I even know the name for blisters in French just in case I need to visit la pharmacie. Blisters are les ampoules and plasters are les pansements. The verb to hobble is clopiner and I did a lot of clopping around while I was there and afterwards despite les pensements. At times I felt distinctly like an old man shuffling around. Oh la bloody la!
|les ampoules (both feet were affected thus)|
As I approached the market a wave of real and nostalgic happiness swept over me. Here I was again in a joyously beautiful foodie environment joining the throngs of local French shoppers and a few delighted tourists. This time I managed to chat to some of the stall holders in French about their wares and I was very pleased with myself that I could do this simple thing in their language. Everything looked so beautifully tempting and the Bordelaises certainly know their oignons when it comes to display and customer friendliness. It was a shame I wasn't in a position to buy any of the fresh meat, fresh fish and vegetables. This was because I was staying in a hotel with no provision to cook anything.
I marvelled at the variety of artisan loaves of bread on offer all of which looked a lot more tempting than the little baskets or cloth hats of teeth shattering rock-hard chunks of bread that the French bistros invariably offer to accompany a meal. One of the butchers offered me an unctuously fatty and nutty flavoured slice of saucisson sèche to sample and I enjoyed comparing English butchery styles and products with the French varieties. There were a lot of varieties of long fresh sausages the width of chipolatas but about six inches long. They all looked very neatly arrayed and temptingly fresh and glossy in the display units, especially those densely speckled with deep red hues containing chorizo.
There were fresh rabbits on all three of the butcher's stalls all with their livers and kidneys on show and of course, the yellow skinned fresh chickens complete with drooping necks, red feathered heads with beaks agape and bright Lego yellow coloured feet. As for the duck products I made a note of some of the names: Canard, a duck aged 2-4 months, Cane or Canette, a female duck, Caneton, a duckling, Magret de Canard, a breast of duck that is often smoked or air dried. Then the duck products such as Confit d'oi/ de canard a preserve of goose or duck in its own fat and Gésiers confits duck or goose necks in confit (often used in salads). Finally, Graisse de oi/ de canard goose or duck fat used for enriching soups or casseroles as well for roasting potatoes. More about the butchery side of things in a forthcoming blogpost where I take a visit to the marché des Capucines.
As you can see from this edited three minute long video I got busy with my video camera trying to capture something of the atmosphere of the fantastic open market. Sometimes the stalls (like a great cheese stall in the market centre) got so wonderfully busy that I had to edit out the images of the bottoms and backs of the customers because they are nowhere as interesting as the products constantly hidden by the depth of the crowds.
Most of the stall holders had offers chalked up on chalk boards in, to my English eyes, almost unreadable French hand writing. It was all very neat but so compact that one word seemed to blend into another and en occasion the letters became indistinguishable from the numbers. Saying that I did find some of the boards a lot easier to pick out the individual words even if the words themselves were unfamiliar to me with my limited French. Much easier and pleasant to the ears were the constant pleasantries spoken by the stall holders and their happy customers. You can hear them in my video above.
Back at the hotel with my now very sore feet the charming young woman receptionist told me that there were two chemists open in Bordeaux on a Sunday and both were on the other sides of the city. These could mean a long walk for me! Reluctant to walk I opted for the one near to the marché des Capucines and according to the map just down the road from the tram stop at place Victoire. I got myself a tram ticket and took the tram to place Victoire and hobbled the rest of the way down some dodgy looking streets to the chemist. Armed with my purchase of plasters for blisters I took a brief look around the partially closed indoor market and promised myself a return visit on Tuesday.