Taking full advantage of my last few weeks in France, last Friday we headed for Marseille directly after class. With the intentions of swimming and hope for nice weather, our bags were packed with swim suits and shorts, and sunglasses were prematurely propped on our heads, as we were ready to tour one of the oldest cities in France.
Five hours later, our car finally pulled up to our sea side hotel. But even though it was nearly midnight, we were still able to enjoy the sites as our car followed the sea line, curving its way along the coast.
Marseille is a port city in the South-West of France, nestled in its rocky seaside cliffs. It borders the Mediterranean, making it home to fisherman and sailors, however, it’s also widely known for its trade in soap, religious monuments, and not to mention, its 800,000 habitants are major fans of soccer.
Due to our late arrival Friday night, everyone took the pleasure in sleeping in Saturday morning, making us almost miss breakfast. (I’ve learned to love breakfast at hotels because it’s always brunch style: the closest thing to an American meal). Afterwards, we continued our leger Saturday morning poolside, with the sea just next to us.
The view was picturesque as the water resembles that of the Caribbean, except there were no waves; it was completely calm, with a colorful sailboat or kayak in sight, gliding through the water. And to top it off, the weather was perfect; sun, little breeze, and a temperature steadily rising throughout the day.
Around noon we swapped our bathing suits for shorts and tee-shirts and headed out into the city. On the way to friends’ apartment for lunch, we got to see la veille porte (the old port) and walk through le marché poisson (the fish market). Vendors were set up with their catches of the day, with live displays of lobsters, octopuses, and of course, fish.
There’s a theater next to the port called La Criée (the cry) marking the tradition of cries and screams from the market as vendors called out the prices of their catches, drawing in customers and clients.
After lunch we did a tour of Marseille including several churches, a quick view of the new art museum (it’s in construction), and ultimately Notre-Dame de la Garde. Before dinner we ended up at the hotel pool again.
Dinner was amazing. Being a port city and having daily access to fresh seafood, we went to a restaurant only serving fish and seafood. I ordered the specialty of Marseille, bouillabaisse, and it was outstandingly delicious. As a simple definition, bouillabaisse is a fish based soup. Sounds gross, but it’s SO GOOD.
It starts out with a bowl of broth made with fish and spices, and you mix garlic based mayonnaise into it (or at least that’s how we ate it). Then, the chef steamed five different fish for us, whole, and proceeded to debone, cut, and distribute pieces of fish between us, which you place in the broth. It seems incredibly bizarre and rather disgusting, but only the adventurous gourmands will discover how good it really is.
Sunday morning we couldn’t repeat our lazy Saturday morning as we planned to meet our friends for a hike. Our previous plans of picnicking on a boat were cancelled due to too much wind, so instead we followed a trail that eventually lead us to the sea and we picnicked there. Even with some wind the weather was still gorgeous and permitted us to get some color, and we were even courageous enough to swim a little (the water was freezing!).
After spending most of the day there, no one had the energy of motivation to hike back to the car, or head back to Toulouse. By the end of the day though we were back home finishing up last minute homework and dreading the start of a new week; the weekend passed by way too fast.