When I embark on the hour and fifteen minute train ride just over the border to the Friday market in Ventimiglia, I have visions of cashmere sweaters, fab purses, scarves, gorgeous italian cookery (and food), and an assortment of stuff for the maison. Since I plan to stock up, I bring my big shopping bag with wheels.
When I arrive in Ventimiglia and walk the three or so blocks from the train station to the waterfront where the market is held, I’m not disappointed. It’s like miles and miles of consumer wares, from an array of gorgeous leather goods to housewares to dime store crap. I’m atwitter with excitement — very similar to how I used to feel before going to Barney’s.
The first thing I see is cashmere sweaters. I touch them, careful not to make eye contact with the proprietor. Once you make eye contact, they’ll bargain you down and the next thing you know, you’re the proud owner of the butt ugly puce sweater (the one you happened to be touching when eye contact was made) because you can’t resist a bargain. They’re thick, colorful sweaters in a variety of designs. I want them all (except the butt ugly puce one), but know I can’t even consider buying anything at this early stage.
The prices and quality varies from stall to stall so I stroll the stretch along the promenade to comparison shop.
I’m told Ventimiglia is lovely. A beautiful seaside setting, an ancient village perched on a hill, tree lined streets, cafes and gelaterias on every corner.
It’s only been five minutes and I’m already in a mental frenzy. What color should I get? What style? And more importantly, what?
Oh my god, look at the scarves! It’s like the crayola 500 pack…so many colors! Orange suede boat shoes for 10 Euro! They say orange AND boat shoes are in this year. This could solve all my fashion problems. A huge chunk of parmesan reggiano for 4 Euro?!!!!! That’s better than Trader Jo prices! More cashmere…hmmmm, that reddy orange color is nice, but I’m not sure it looks good on me. What do I wear it with? It’s almost summer. I don’t really need it. What if that color is out of fashion by next fall? Maybe I should just get black. Boring. Damn, I could use a large pot for pasta. Those are the most beautiful olives I’ve ever seen. Ooooo, batteries.
By the time I’ve reached the last little stall, I’m still not sure what to get. I want everything. Sort of. Maybe I’ll be able to narrow it down on my second lap.
It’s starting to get crowded, and I’m just as confused this time around. I can no longer think in complete sentences. My brain is a cacophony of “blue? red? orange? green? v neck? crew? move it fat ass. fuchsia? button down? zebra striped? 6 quart? 8 quart? don’t touch me bitch. crockpot? orcchiette? penne? double A? triple A? Jeezus christ lady don’t push! zipper? hoodie? parmesan? asiago? BLUE! periwinkle? navy? teal? aqua? powder?
By the end of the second lap, I’m emotionally and physically exhausted. I don’t know if I can handle another lap. Especially without sustenance.
Do I want a sandwich from one of the stalls? Something sea-foody from one of the cafes along the waterfront? A pizza? Panini? Pasta? Salad? I’m getting woozy and need to sit down.
Three hours later (it took an hour to decide what to order, an hour to get it, ten minutes to inhale it and 20 minutes to get “la conta.”), I venture back to the market which is now a seething cesspool of humanity (I use the term “humanity” loosely. I can’t go back in there. But I must. I can’t go to the famous Ventimiglia market and return empty handed. I dive back in and find myself in front of yet another cashmere stall pondering the age old questions (Periwinkle? Navy? Teal? ….)
But wait!!!! I can see them from here. Shining like a beacon in the glaring sun. A couple of little yellow and white dishrags. I’ve been looking for something to replace the clumsy white terrycloth hand towel in my 1/2 bathroom. And they’re called torchons in France and panni straccio in Italy, both of which sound much more elegant than dishrag. 1 Euro. Sold! My work is done here. I’ll have to come back for the cashmere sweaters, the pots and pans, the purses, shoes and scarves another day.
On the train ride back to Antibes, I look into my almost empty wheelie bag and am overcome with non-buyers remorse. I can’t believe I wheeled this thing all over Ventimiglia and only got a dishrag. Damn, I should have bought those olives!