Published: November 11th 2009November 11th 2009
On the morning of our last full day in France we were very excited to venture a mile offshore from Marseille and visit the infamous fortress (and later prison) Château d'If. The 16th century structure is most famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas' 'The Count of Monte Cristo'. Walking up to the ticket booth along the harbor, however, we learned that we were lucky enough to have chosen a day with apparently iffy weather out at sea and as a result would not be able to reach the island. Fail.
Our next move was clear - eat something delicious, and what better way to start the day than with café crème and a fresh croissant smothered in ham and cheese? Since we were already at the port, we spent the next hour of so walking along and enjoying the sight of all the fisherman selling their catch - gilt-head bream, octopus, rouget, and other delicious things! Also along the harbor was a fun little Pastis shop specializing in obviously pastis and also absinthe. Though tempted to buy everything, I settled on a pair of little Ricard glasses and a larger water vessel to accompany them. What
I really wanted was an absinthe dispenser...luckily I was able to convince myself that it would break in transit back to the land of dreams.
We continued our exploration, checking out the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseill, the seat of the archdiocese. It was again in a Byzantine-Roman style like Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, but due to a random closing we were unable to see the interior. We also passed a memorial to death camps of some sort, but to be honest the monument itself looked more like a death camp than anything else.
Not quite hungry enough for lunch, we paroused a local market for some mandarins and stopped back at the Brasserie du Banque for another round of Fischer for the rest, and a Ricard for myself. So tasty! Now hungry, we ended up at a cute little restaurant near the Wine Cave from the previous evening. Starting with a round of Cagole, a local Marseilles beer, we then split two places - the Tagliatelles fraiche aux rougets and then then gnocchi aux St Marcelin et petits lardons. We were clearly carbo-loading with a hint of cheese, lardons, and fish. Delicious. For dessert we devoured fresh crepes with nutella, cream,
and an assortment of confitures.
The exploration then continued, this time checking out the Vieille Charité, an old alms house tucked away in the winding little streets a bit further away from the center. It is now half archeological museum and a gallery of African and Asian art, but as both were closed we stuck to walking around the central baroque chapel and nice courtyard with arcaded galleries. Some cute little French children playing made for a nice visit as well. Nearby was also a nice little soap store where I purchased some more local soap to bring back to the states.
Heading back toward the center of things we stopped for some hot chocolate, tea, and wine (for me, of course!). What proceeded was a serious of failed restaurant searches broken up by another stop for a round of beers along the port. When we finally did find the perfect place, a nice-looking restaurant called L'Epiciere, it ended up not being open for serving for another hour. Lame. Mike and I were set on eating there so the fact that the girls were tired, cold, and hungry really didn't phase us, lol. We were going to wait.
The wait was certainly worth it - for another 20some Euros we ended our journey in the South of France with a wonderful meal. The 2/3 of a bottle of wine that came included in the per-person menu price made the meal that much more enjoyable ;-). For my first course I had an out-of-this-world langoustine soup that was made to look like a cup of cappuccino. The top seemed as if it was torched somehow, hence looking chocolately, and the lump of creme fraiche in the middle looked just like a dollop of whipped cream. Round two was split with Mike (we each ate half of our dishes). My half was two deliciously cooked filets of rouget and another fish (I'm mad I didn't photograph the menu to remember better) served with some fresh veggies and a nice potato puree. The other half was in so many words pork wrapped in bacon and covered in a foie gras sauce - how bad can that be? Dessert was a nice chocolate mousse served with a bit of white chocolate and cape gooseberry.
Nice and full and just a bit tipsy we headed back to the hotel to pass
out for the night. The next day it was back to snowy Andorra - yes, snowy. The second we crossed the border it was legit blizzard-like. Oh the Mediterranean, how we'll miss thee! Until February, when hopefully I'll be in Malta!
There are more photos below