I took a short train ride to Marseille in the South of France as a breather from bustling Paris. The balmy and humid Mediterranean air welcomed me. Whilst wandering around, its prominent Italian and Greek influences became quickly apparent.
Overlooking the port. What kind of plant is this? I thought it’s olives…
This gorgeous port city is the oldest city in France and boasts of an active fishing industry. The scenic Vieux Port (The Old Port) is dotted with restaurants, cafés, and bars. Many waterfront establishments are closed during the Winter months, which played in my favour because I find swarms of tourists overwhelming.
Food enthusiasts are probably wondering: How was the seafood? Did you have Bouillabaisse?
That’s saved for another post. Instead, I’d like to share about my retreat in a quaint, rustic bed and breakfast.
Courtyard and pool.
From its streetview, I would never suspect that a bed and breakfast existed through the narrow and unremarkable doors. Stepping inside, I was transported into a cozy and charming sanctuary.
View from my breakfast table.
The gentle host prepared breakfast at dawn and guests were invited to mingle and share travel stories. My travels showed me that Europeans do not eat breakfast like North Americans do.
Le matin à Paris: The flakiest, butteriest croissants are found at every corner.
A croissant or a slice of buttered baguette with coffee is the usual Parisian fare. Italians linger over coffee in a similar fashion, sometimes with a piece of baked good. Meanwhile, Barcelonians don’t seem to appear on the streets before lunchtime. Correct me if I’m mistaken.
Nope, there’s no hashbrowns, sausage links, or pancakes here. Homemade preserves, pats of butter, and rustic bread beckons bonjour.
But look at this beautiful bread… can anyone complain? Alongside a glass of cold orange juice and a mugful of steamy coffee, this comforting spread prepared me for the chilly, windy port.
Here, I also enjoyed a delectable fig marmalade that was made by the host’s wife. While the blueberry and currant jams were great as well, this dark and sticky fig concoction tugged at my heartstrings.
The combination of the orange peel’s slight bitterness, the aroma of smoky honey, and the tiny crunchy bits of fig seeds was worth waking up early for.
The recipe? Between my limited French, an exchange of hand gestures, and moments of skepticism between me and the host, this was what I gathered.
- 6 cups of fresh figs, quartered
- 2 small oranges, quartered, seeded and sliced thinly (with peel on)
- 3-4 cups of sugar
- 1/2 cup of honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
Simmer the ingredients slowly for 1 hour. Stir regularly and add tiny amounts of water if necessary.
Serve with crusty, rustic bread.
That’s the best I could do, honest.