Marseille Day 1: The Bouillabaisse

Today we woke up, had some breakfast, struggled to figure out what to do while we’re here (we never actually did make any decisions), and then did some walking. We love walking.

The first stop was Notre-Dame de la Garde. It’s a basilica with an amazing view of pretty much the entire city of Marseille. So get ready for more “pretty view” pictures — sorry about that. While walking around, we were a bit sketched out by the city itself. The roads are skinny, the buildings are run-down, there’s graffiti everywhere, and quite frankly we were warned to keep alert here. After an entire day walking and getting to know the place, we’re waaay less worried, but still on alert for pick pockets. The run down buildings that seemed to indicate danger at first, now just add to the charm of the city. Long story short, Marseille is not always nice to look at, but it seems pretty cool so far.

Back to the Notre-Dame. It’s obviously beautiful inside and out. I was particularly struck by two things, aside from the view: 1.) the golden statute on top, and 2.) the fact that it kind of looks like a candy cane on the inside. I’ve learned that the golden statue served as a land mark for incoming sailors back in the day, and as for the candy cane effect — I have literally no idea. If you do, post it below!

From there, we walked down to Le Jardin de la Colline where we saw a monument dedicated to Abbot Dassy (founder of the Institute for the Young Blind and Deaf and Dumb). After this, Pinball Wizard was stuck in my head for the rest of the day (I’m currently humming it right now actually).

Onward and upward — well, downward actually… The next stop was the Vieux Port de Marseille. These days it seems to be the tourist center of Marseille. It’s surrounded by restaurants, walking streets, shopping, and the Tourist Information Center is actually only a block away. I tried on a couple Stetsons, Lucia tried on a dress or two, and we stopped for some lunch.

Enter the Bouillabaisse. I think everyone knows what this is — it’s a fish/seafood soup/stew. What I didn’t know was that it’s origin is right here in Marseille. This is THE place where it all started. So, when we sat down at the restaurant we had to try it. This whole experience started and ended terribly.

Let me start by saying that 90% of our interactions with the French folks have been phenomenal (this includes our stay in Paris, our stay in Marseille to date, and even the Swiss french). Everyone has been exceptionally helpful, polite, quick to laugh/smile, and completely dedicated to helping us even when they didn’t know a word of english. Today, however, our waiter was the stereotypical french person that you are warned about.

The Restaurant’s menu at the door mentioned that they had english menu’s inside, so we went in and asked for one when we sat down. The waiter brought it over, but the lunch menu was only available in French. This meant we had a few questions, and this required a new waiter. Here comes the fun… A guy approaches our table, crosses his arms, tilts his head up and to the side, and pushes his eyes up and to the left, and says “yes?” — Imagine a 14 year old girl with attitude being forced to hear someone else apologize when she doesn’t want to hear it…this is what he looked like, you could almost hear the sigh as he came over.

Lucia asks a couple questions, and he answers — still never actually looking at her, and rolling his eyes the entire time. We end up ordering the bouillabaisse to share, and I actually reiterate that it’s to share and we only want one (this is important later). He writes our order down, gives me an annoyed look (which I attributed to the fact that we were sharing one dish), and disappears. About 40 minutes later he reappears with a plate filled with fish/muscles/potatoes, and says “Bouillabaisse!” We smile, and nod. He goes to cut it all up, and dish it out for us. Aside from his initial attitude, things were going well.

When he sets the plates in front of us, we’re hit by a really fishy smell — we’re talking low tide. But everyone around us is eating it and LOVING it. People are literally picking up the bowls and drinking. How bad could it be? We start eating. It’s pretty bland…except for the fishy smell. Oops, now we’re choking on a fish bone (the thin kind). No big deal. I cough it up and put it in the bowl for the muscle shells. Oops, there’s another one….Like ten bones later, we give up.

We get the check, surprise surprise we got charged for two dishes instead of one. When we told the waiter, he said “well, the bowl is small, so I gave you two instead.” Wtf? He decided to give us two when we ordered one? awesome — thanks for looking out. Also ONE bowl is 30 euros. He’s a real nice guy.

Anyway, he brought us a new bill, literally threw it (and the plastic thing it comes on) onto the table and walked away without looking at us.

Two great experiences in one: we found out we don’t really like Bouillabaisse, and we had our first rude French dude encounter!

Now back to the normal stuff. Today was the gay pride parade in Marseille! We didn’t see too much of it, it was either just starting, or just ending when we walked by. Definitely got to see a couple drag queens in thongs, and a lot of people just having a great time.

Asside from that, it was a nice walk back to the hotel (along which we saw a couple interesting buildings), a quick dip in the pool, and finally a nice slow dinner with a bottle of wine!

Sorry for the long post, enjoy the photos!

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