Fish market in the old port, Marseille / France

  • The setting
    The setting

This fish market is the perfect equivalent to a “true” farmer’s market from a fisherman’s perspective. The fishermen come with their boats directly into the old port (Vieux Port) of Marseille, set up their stalls on the quay and start selling  the catch of the day. And only real fishermen with their own local catch are allowed to do so. It seems to be fairly regulated.

And the old port of Marseille (2nd largest city in France) is an integral part of the old town. In this U-shape basin many sailing boats are anchoring and surrounded by old buildings which are still partly apartments with real “indigenous” people. The setting has quite some charm which can also be enjoyed in the bars and restaurants overlooking the port.

But lets come back to the market. There are maybe a dozen stalls or so. Each one has a couple small basins, partly filled with water, where the fish is being displayed. And not only fish, there are mussels, wild oysters, octopus amongst others. The offer is not really cooled by ice or so, but umbrellas protect them a little bit from the intensive sun.

The fishermen or their family members are selling the fish directly to – mainly – locals. Tourists (like me) are taking pictures and making aahs & oohs which does not seem to disturb the vendors. As it might be unpractical to buy fresh fish as a tourist, there is still opportunity to try oysters when available. Unlike in some other countries, the vendors open up the oysters on site, which makes them the perfect snack before going for lunch. The ones I had the chance to try were so called wild oysters. They were collected along the way by the brother of the lady selling and opening them for me. Taste wise they were fine, but I still prefer those from the Bretagne region.

And most of the buyers seem to be local regulars. Some of them know exactly at which hour to come to catch real fresh fish of high quality. And this might not be the earliest hour of the day. Even though I saw mainly older people buying, I was told that it is rather a cross generational affair.

One stall had a swordfish displayed. It was quite a mighty fish! It sold in slices , steak size, similar to a tuna steak. As the back bone was strong the vendor had to use saw and knife to cut it. A rather impressive and raw experience.

Seeing living fish barely covered by some water led to some discussions between visitors and vendors. The fisherman’s response to the comments was simple: I do what is being done to cattle, poultry, pork etc. Two different ways of perspective on life, not necessarily compatible I guess.

All in all: A gem for those who love to buy local from real fishermen or look at what the (local) sea offers to eat

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