Villefranche's hidden treasure
One of the Port de la Santé key characters, Jean-Paul Roux, the descendant of five generations of fishermen, doesn’t need to harangue customers. On his stall, the beauty of fresh small hake, mackerel, saurel, sea bream and lobster is sufficient unto itself. "If Jean-Paul doesn’t take out his fishing-boat, he is unwell" says Stéphane Flé, a native of northern Picardie, who hires out boats and has been adopted by the local fishermen corporation.
The sixty-year-old Jean-Paul Roux is president of the Industrial Tribunal of professional fishermen. Within the bastion, the Citadel, where the Town Hall and the Volti Museum are nestling, the dukes of Savoy marked a lasting impression on Villefranche and the County of Nice annexed to France in 1860.
They also left the harbour basin, La Darse, first a naval base, today a marina. Cruising tourism has partly replaced that. From March till November, 300 liners, carrying each 3 000 to 6 000 people, follow one another in the harbour. Facing Cocteau’s Chapel, a square has been developed to supply visitors in souvenirs in a few hours. Fashionable boutiques start invading the Rue du Poilu and the Rue Obscure.
The latter is part of the vestiges of a traffic corridor that used to run along the Middle Age ramparts. A 130 meters long tunnel, it served to shelter the population in case of bombing of the city.
The other part of the street is due to in habitants’ personal choices at different periods and that explains its disparate architecture. Anyway, it is a site to be visited. Two families of market gardeners have been working and selling in Villefranche for over 40 years. Gina Ugolini is one of them and every morning she puts up her stall with her fruit and vegetables on Place de la Paix or Place d’Anjou.
On the quay, the restaurant "La Mère Germaine"(whose son-in-law Rémy Blouin introduced tamouré in France) has allowed Diaw, a native of Senegal, to sell his trinkets between the tables and keep proclaiming in a laugh: "When you don’t have what you want, you’d better be happy with what you have!".