Earlier this month one of my friends from high school came to visit, and I couldn’t have been happier to see her! Sadly during her first couple days here, my foot was still swollen so we didn’t do a whole lot. I think I was more annoyed by it than she was, though, because I’d been thinking for weeks about all the places I wanted to show her, but she was exhausted from traveling and was perfectly content hanging out at the beach.
One night we went to out dinner with some of my friends here, to a restaurant in Antibes that has a different jazz band play every Wednesday and Friday. There’s something about jazz music that always puts me in a good mood! My friend is much more knowledgable about jazz than I am, so I wanted to be sure to take her to this restaurant, called La Voûte. It’s pretty small, and is underground, so you’re essentially eating in fancy cave. Three friends from my study abroad group joined us (sadly one was flying back to the States the next morning). We sat up front, very close to the three white-haired jazz players. One played the piano, and the other two switched between different brass instruments. One of them was with his wife, and would take breaks from playing to eat with her for a bit. Both he and his wife were very friendly, and kept making jokes to us (in French). A little later, two more of my friends came; they’d been working in Cannes for the Film Festival. It was so good to see them, because I’d been dying to hear about what they’ve been up to at the Festival. Plus we didn’t have a lot of days left together at that point, so it was just nice to hang out together.
The next day I took a train to Marseille with my friend from home. My host mom had discouraged me from going there, and I have no idea why, because it was such a fun city! Though it doesn’t seem to have the best reputation security-wise, so that’s probably why. Anyway, Marseille is France’s oldest port, so there’s lots of Roman history and lots of good seafood (like bouillabaisse, a fish stew) there. The city is known for its soap, so of course I had to buy some. It took me a while to decide which parfums to buy, but I finally settled on a muguet (lily of the valley) scented one, a marin (sea) scented one, a rose scented one, and an olive oil one. Then my friend and I both bought the same pair of espadrilles in different colors. I definitely wasn’t in need of another pair of shoes, but we passed right in front of a store with them displayed and a sign with the name of the French brand that makes them…neither of us could help it!
Savons de Marseilles
A church I’ll have to visit the next time I go to Marseilles, for both the building itself and the view it has over the city.
After that we went to a museum called La Vieille Charité, which had an exhibition called “Visages: Picasso, Magritte, Warhol.” This was something I’d actually intended to see in Marseilles, unlike all that shopping. Years ago La Vieille Charité was a house for the poor and homeless. Since then it’s been renovated and turned into a museum that houses archeological findings from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as art from African, Oceanian and Native American cultures.
La Vieille Charité museum is the chapel in the middle of the picture as well as the building surrounding it.
My friend and I stuck to the Visages exhibit. It started with “Visages de la Société,” which featured paintings and photographs that sought to show how people’s identities are being lost in urban life. The constant movement, the technological developments, the large crowds of people; the artists demonstrated how all of these things contribute to a loss of individuality. Next came “Visages de l’Intimité.” The artists in this room tried to create an uncomfortable relationship between their subject and the viewer. The subjects were placed in a more personal setting (at home, in front of a vanity, with family, etc.) than those in the Visages de la Société artworks. The discomfort the artists seek to imbibe in the viewer reflects the disquieting, strange world people were forced to confront with the First World War. The last part of the exhibit was “Visages de l’Esprit.” The goal of artists here was to find a way to represent things that do not have a concrete presence in reality, such as dreams, desires, and thoughts.
After the exhibit, we split a pizza for lunch (one that was covered in a mix of vegetables, because we both felt like our diet had consisted only of bread, meat and cheese lately), then headed back to the train station. We’d both underestimated the time it took to walk from the train station, so we ended up having to run a bit. Unfortunately the Marseilles train station has A LOT of stairs. But fortunately we made it with time to spare.
The next morning my friend and I took the train just over the border into Ventimiglia, Italy (except in France they call it Ventimille). There’s a market there almost every day of the week, with clothes, leather goods, table settings, scarves, pasta, cheese, jewelry, and some cheap touristy things we avoided. I couldn’t find any specific directions for getting there from the train station, but everywhere online said to just follow the crowd, and it totally worked! There are so many people going there that it’s not at all difficult to find. Plus it’s literally a straight shot toward the water from the station.
The outdoor market, which runs along the beach.
TripAdvisor was right in saying that Ventimiglia has some of the most beautiful beaches.
View of the Alps
I’d purposely brought a minimal amount of money hoping to limit my spending, but I still left with a new wallet and new purse. The problem is, I lost the only wallet I brought here and the only purse I brought here broke. I decided that soon I’d better make sure I could fit everything I want to take home in my suitcase and two backpacks, otherwise I’d have to send a box home in the next few days.
After coming back from the market, I had to prepare for Isabelle’s rosé dégustation, which was the next morning. Everyone had to wear pink and bring a dish of pink food. I still had to iron my dress (the skirt of the dress is all pleats, so I knew it was going to take me a while) and cook (I’d decided to make prosciutto-wrapped asparagus), and we were going to Isabelle’s for dinner that night. I was hoping to find white asparagus, but all the grocery stores only had green, so I bought extra prosciutto to give it a complete pink(ish) covering. Not the most creative dish, and not entirely pink, but I knew it would taste good and was confident I wouldn’t mess it up. I’d thought about making pink deviled eggs (by soaking the eggs in a beet juice mixture), but I didn’t have time to allow for making mistakes. So prosciutto-wrapped asparagus it was!
Isabelle invited the wine team (and my friend from home) over to her house a bit earlier than normal so we could cook together. We made a traditional Provençal dish, whose name I had trouble pronouncing and will have to ask Isabelle for again. We cooked garlic in milk on the stove for a bit, that blended the mixture with anchovies and olive oil.
Each person had a little pot of this mix that was kept warm by a candle.
We had potatoes and a variety of raw vegetables (carrots, radishes, mushrooms…) that we could dip in the mixture. I’m not usually a huge fan of anchovies; I’ll eat a few if they’re mixed in with a lot of other food, but usually end up picking most of them out of whatever I’m eating. However, blended with garlic, milk and olive oil, their flavor wasn’t as overwhelming. I mopped up every last bit of the mixture with the delicious French bread Isabelle had put on the table.
Then Isabelle brought out roquefort cheese (a kind of blue cheese) that a friend had brought her from the region Roquefort. I thought this was dessert, but no, Isabelle had bought a brioche (sweet bread) with praline inside that she brought out after the cheese.
As always, I left her house completely stuffed. I was seriously considering skipping breakfast the next morning to make sure I could fit into my pink dress for the rosé degustation.