Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gorges and Gorgeous Cities

The next two days turned into a feast of landscapes and vistas of varying sorts. We tried to wake up early the day after frolicking off to Cassis so that we could frolic in quite another direction. During my first trip to the south of France, I was lucky enough to visit the Gorges du Verdon. At that time, I was with a french family who opted to take paddle boats through narrow channels of this stunning lake. This time my friend and I decided to take paddles boats again, but instead of the river-like passageways, we stuck to the wide open expanses of water where we could also utilize the slide that was attached to our small vessel.... Yes, I said slide and yes, it was clearly my heartfelt desire not hers. The only snag in our charming plan was the fact that due to a lagging GPS and my less than spectacular navigatrix skills, we missed several exits and arrived over an hour later than planned. Happily, we had been smart enough to buy sandwiches and water before heading off on our journey, so we were able to enjoy a peaceful lunch while drifting on the open waters. After we lounged about for a bit, I of course took full advantage of the small slide that I barely fit into, splashing down into the pleasantly warm and salt-free water several times before we had to pedal back to shore. We ended up deciding to stay home again for the evening, enjoying some delicious wine from Cassis and girl gabbing into the night as good friends so often do.

The next morning was another fairly early start, as we wanted to finally head into Aix-en-Provence proper so I could see the city centre and get the real provence experience. As it turns out, I was not remotely disappointed by the beautiful architecture and gorgeous ambiance of the region. We stopped into several of the shops about town, wandered a local market, and had a delightful afternoon cocktail at a notable café. I bought some Herbes de Provence to bring home for future culinary experiments and my friend decided to surprise her parents (who would be arriving home later that evening) with a traditional dessert of the south, the tarte tropézienne. We had to jet home for a short while so she could let some workers into the house but was actually the perfect time for us to rest and regroup before heading out to Marseille for the evening.

In contrast to the more quaint villes of the south, Marseille is a much bigger and older city. It has a reputation for not being super safe in some areas, but I was really looking forward to experiencing at least a taste of such a famous city. Our plan was to park near the Musée des civilisations and then walk around the old port. It definitely had a different vibe than most of the cities I have been to in France but I liked the feeling of history and intrigue nonetheless. Our primary objective, however, was to enjoy a lovely dinner while in town, so we efficiently hopped onto the web and found a few restaurants of good repute to peruse. Ultimately, we ended up at a place we hadn't searched for at all but was well equipped with outdoor seating and more importantly, room to sit down. The waiters were incredibly nice and accommodating, offering me a menu in english but also placating my desire to practice french. They even went so far as to humor me when I was brought out a full fish on my plate, head, tail and all. Now, I know that many fish are served whole, but I suppose I am (in addition to being a baby brat) also used to them showing you the creature, then whisking it away to strategically guillotine the sucker. Once I realized that the poor beast would be staring AT me while I tore apart his innards, game was officially over. My dear french friend obligingly called over the server and explained that I was currently being traumatizée and asked if he could please behead the poisson. Laughing hilariously, the man brought the fish back to the kitchens where in some way shape or form, the necessary pieces were removed and I was able to continue my dinner without fear of making eye contact with my food.

Once we finally made it home, I was happy as a clam to indulge in dessert, a bit more wine, and crash deliriously into dreams of beautiful gorges, even more gorgeous cities, all sans fish head.

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