Almost every rental apartment in Nice comes with a shopping cart to take to the markets. They’re jokingly referred to as granny carts because it’s mostly older people who use them (sometimes it seems like it’s a walker replacement). If you don’t mind dragging them around with you, they come in handy if you tend to over-shop.
One morning I took my cart to the marché at Liberation. It’s the bigger, less touristy market and it has a big fish section. Mussels and olive oil were on the shopping list but schlepping them home wasn’t something I felt like doing.
Most of the time hauling the shopping cart around is a drag. I try to convince myself that there’s not much on my list, and limiting my purchases to what I can comfortably carry home will keep me from buying too much. As a friend would ask, “how’s that working out for you?” Not well lately! A beautiful tomato or a perfect melon will always be too tempting, so bags end up heavier and going further than is comfortable.
In NYC I’d always pick up a basket in the supermarket. When it started to get too heavy, it was time to hit the checkout. If I ever took a shopping cart, I’d end up with way too much to carry comfortably. Like a supermarket cart, the granny cart encourages excessive buying–you don’t realize how much you have or how heavy it is until you hit home and have to maneuver it up a flight of rather narrow steps.
Surprisingly, that morning, having the cart seemed to mark me as a serious shopper rather than a tourist. The vendors at the marché seemed to treat me with a little more respect. They came right over to wait on me. At one of the stands while I was buying a bunch of herbs and an avocado, the woman gave me a small handful of kumquats with instructions on how to enjoy them. The avocado was promised to be perfect for eating that day and it was perfect when I cut it open later.
Further down, the cart proved to be handy as a place marker, or defensive weapon, for keeping my place in line. With the woman who has a dozen types of potatoes and the blackboard indicating which potatoes are for what preparation, the lines can get long and/or overly chatty depending on the day—either way prepare to wait). Often your panier (the basket you pile your produce in) marks your place in line, but occasionally if you’re not paying attention, or someone reaches in to grab whatever you’re standing next to, you might lose your place. The shopping cart, strategically placed behind the person in front, is harder (but sadly not impossible) to ignore. But it being France, when you do make it to the head of the line and they see your cart, you are handed your purchases according to how heavy/dense they are. Potatoes on the bottom, tomatoes and peaches in the middle and tender lettuce and herbs on the top.
And off you go.