THE popular continental market returned to St Helens at the weekend, with traders bringing over a little piece of Europe to the town. But are they willing to maintain the continental tradition of haggling over prices here in St Helens? We armed reporter Chris Amery with a tenner and sent him to investigate...
THE continental market is always a popular visitor to St Helens – bringing a unique and special atmosphere to the town centre.
And this year the arrival of dozens of traders along Church Street and Church Square was yet again greeted warmly by scores of shoppers.
This time though, armed with just £10, I was challenged to put my typically British restraint to one side and practice the art of haggling.
I’m not normally one to quibble over prices and with so many stalls to choose from, it was tricky to know where to start.
This year there was a noodle bar, Spanish, French, Greek and German food stalls, pick-and-mix sweet and nut stalls and a chocolate fountain stall – not to mention all the clothing, keepsake and handbag traders.
Starting near the top of Bridge Street, a continental cake stall was the first to catch my eye.
And, following a blur of haggling, I had a bag of five delicious cakes in my hand – down from £3.95 to just £2.
Following an unsuccessful bargaining attempt at a sweet and nut stall, which brought me back down to earth with a bump, I then found my next willing trader at a French food outlet. Before I knew it I had a plate of orange and strawberry crepes – French pancakes to you and me – for £4, down from £5.
On a roll, a bread seller was happy to sell a giant ciabatta for £2.50, down from £3.
But now, with just £1.50 left in the coffers, the haggling was only going to get tougher.
Such was the quality of much of the produce on sale that I quickly came to the conclusion that I had to be realistic.
But then, when I spotted a stall serving delicious Spanish paella, I just had to give it a go.
The trader drove a hard bargain, and I’m not certain I got a full portion, but I ended up persuading him to serve up a tray of chicken and chorizo paella for less than half the advertised price!