Nostalgia for Olives

Cours Saleya Marketplace // Nice, France. Photo by: Charlotte Love

Cours Saleya Marketplace // Nice, France. Photo by: Charlotte Love

It’s a Sunday morning in May in Nice. I’m wearing shades and a nautical striped scarf, I’m holding street directions in my hand, and my body is buzzing in anticipation of the treats I will find. It’s market day in France. I head out along La Promenade des Anglais in search of the Cours Saleya marketplace. It’s easy to find. People—tourists and locals alike—are crowding the pavement and pushing baskets of produce forward through the herd.

Before anything, I hear shouts of prices, high-pitched mercis and bonjours, and the tinkling of wind chimes from a local vendor. The scent of lavender soap wafts over me then carries on quickly before I’m hit with the sharpness of garlic and oil from the bowls of shiny olives to my left. A little girl brushes my leg and giggles as she runs forward and hides from her brother behind the stands of pastries. There are piles of tomatoes—every shape and color—just ahead and I squeal, forgetting momentarily about blending in with the French.

I reach for a small woven bowl and fill it with two green tomatoes shaped like plums, what looks like a teeny squishy pumpkin, and one large red tomato--ribbed, so I know it’s a coeur de boeuf. The woman gives me a deal and I smile.

I move toward the tables of vegetables and pick a bunch of radishes because they look so pretty. Further along, a man with hairy hands gestures toward his table of berries—so sweet and ripe they are staining the white cloth beneath them crimson—and looks me in the eyes, says I can have three baskets for one euro. I’m an easy target and can’t resist. He stacks the baskets in my arms and I’m careful to walk slowly lest I spill the fuchsia juice down my blouse.

I buy a fig and eat it on the spot, curious about the pink seedy middle. It doesn’t disappoint.

One tangerine, three macarons—lemon, salted caramel, and pistachio, fifty grams of grilled squid, and a handful of provençal olives later, I’m greeted with the cheeses.

I gaze at the selection of Camembert and Roquefort and consider for a moment if I will be adventurous and opt for something different. But I don’t. I’ve looked forward to this all week. I select one crottin de chèvre—a neat white disk of goat cheese—and stare greedily as they wrap it in parchment.

My feet follow my olfactory senses and I find myself spending the next fifteen minutes alternately sniffing soaps and then swooning over the various scents. I pick each colorful square up and bring it to my nose, noting as I do so that I’m a nightmare customer. I like eucalyptus, mimosa, verbena, and patchouli.

I move out of the crowd and toward the beach, where I find a bench seat and examine my loot. The salty breeze is soft and welcome against my face. I bite into my tangerine and close my eyes, utterly content.