Before I just typed that I looked at Ashley and said, “How do you say ‘and’ in French??” Thanks for being my translator, Ash!
I have dreamed about going to France since I was little, always yearning to skip down a tiny street, wearing a striped shirt and a beret, carrying a baguette and a small dog. When Ashley agreed to go back to France (she’s been a few times), I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a macaron and a croque monsieur.
Our first stop, Marseille, was absolutely beautiful. It was a seven hour bus from Barcelona (not so beautiful) but worth it. Although the first bus smelled like a giant port-a-potty, and we had to change busses halfway through without any direction in English, it was all worth it in the end when we got off and saw the beautiful scenery around us. The bus station in Marseille sits on top of a hill, giving us the most spectacular view in the afternoon sun. I was thrilled.
We walked down the giant hill and ventured to our hostel. We stayed at Vertigo, and were really impressed. At first, it looked like the receptionist was walking us back into a creepy ally, with our room sitting above some sort of abandoned garage, but it ended up being a newly renovated apartment style room with a dining table, a kitchen, a bathroom, and eight beds. We honestly wished we were staying another night. The wifi didn’t work, but somehow we survived.
We met an awesome Australian girl named Nat, and invited her to come grab some dinner with us. It turns out that Europeans are nocturnal and don’t eat until past 7 or 8 pm, so we grabbed a drink at a bar located in the artist’ district first. This neighborhood was so cool. There was graffiti everywhere, but not those terrible tags or gang signs you see poorly sprayed on the side of a school. This graffiti was art, and we even got to watch some being painted live.
Walking through the neighborhood, there were bars with outdoor seating everywhere, and there was a live DJ playing a set in the middle of the square. It was very cool. We found a street lined with restaurants, and saw that one was open with lots of people sitting inside. Usually our rule of thumb is that if there are lots of people, it must be good! Guess what kind of food it was??
You’re right. We ended up seated at a beautiful (and amazingly delicious smelling) Pakistani and Indian restaurant called O’Pakistan. Am I obsessed with Indian food? Call it what you will, I don’t believe in labels.
Anyway, we ordered chicken tikka masala and chicken korma to split, with basmati rice and naan on the side. We had every intention of trying the Pakistani chai for dessert, but were way too stuffed by the time we were done eating. This was definitely the most different Indian food I have had, probably because of the Pakistani influence. It was less sweet and the sauces were thicker, but both dishes were perfect in their own right. By the time we left, almost the whole restaurant was full, with more people waiting to get in.
After dinner, we went back to the hostel where I planned on watching the last 30 minutes I had left of Avatar, but I passed out immediately. It’s extremely hard work to sit on a bus for seven hours.
With only one night in Marseille, we got up the next morning and wanted to squeeze in half a day of exploring before heading to Cassis. We walked up the hill to a bookstore where a little French man cracked himself up over trying to pronounce Ashley’s name. I almost peed my pants watching him say “Ashleeeeeyyyy Reeegannnn” over and over again to himself. After spending more money than we should have on books (at least its not drugs right?), we walked down to the water to take in the best part of Marseille.
We wandered along the edge of the water, admiring the different boats, the view of the city from all angles of the water, and watched French fishermen and fisherwomen (girl power) sell their catches right from their boats.
Climbing high above the port, we visited the Marseille Cathedral. The halls of the church were lined with the most intricate chandeliers and choral music hauntingly played as we walked through. It’s fun to compare and contrast the different religious buildings we have been in all over Europe, and to see how each city makes theirs different.
After a little exploring, we said adieu to Marseille and hopped on the bus to Cassis. Shout out to the little old lady who looked at us, pointed to a different bus than the one we were about to get on and said, “Cassis!” As much fun as it would have been to find out where she was going, I’m glad we didn’t have to.
If you have never heard of Cassis, it is a small French town on the Mediterranean coast. I was in love the second we stepped off the bus. The first things you see walking into town are the little stucco houses with their flower boxes and pastel tones of pink and yellow. The shutters and doors all coordinate perfectly, as do the stones that make up the roads. We had to stop to ask directions, but eventually found our way to the little blue door that welcomed us to our hostel. This one was made up of only two rooms, each with six beds, a little kitchen and a bathroom. Our room seemed to be nautically themed with a fishing net hanging above the bed.
Our first order of business in Cassis was the beach. We arrived in the afternoon, but the temperature was perfect and the sun was shining. I grabbed gelato on the way down- with a scoop of mint chip and a scoop of violet. Violet was amazing! It was sweet and floral, and not at all perfumy. Ashley decided on a sugared crepe and we headed down to the beach. The beach in Cassis is not sand, but just an expanse of pebbles ranging from tiny granules to big rocks. I loved sitting down and letting the rocks slip between my fingers, seeing how many different colors and shapes were occuring naturally all over the beach.
We spent the afternoon listening to the waves, enjoying the sun, and watching the couple next to us take pictures of each other in every pose possible.
For our first night in Cassis, we tried to find a restaurant that was traditional and not going to cost us our whole budget. We came across a restaurant on the water that had a good number of people inside, so we decided to give it a try. I had the moules frites, a traditional French dish of mussels and french fries, and Ashley had a salad nicoise. Both dishes were good, nothing too crazy, but good. We went back to the hostel to get some rest, and realized we were the youngest people staying in our room (fun fact).
The next day, the sun was blocked by big gray clouds and there were a few sprinkles of rain. We spent our lazy morning reading and writing, and eventually wandered out to buy groceries for dinner and to walk out to the lighthouse. Because Cassis is small, you can never really get lost- but we did our best to wander in and out of the streets near our hostel and down to the water.
Eventually, the sun popped back through and blue sky came into view.
We finished the night by listening to the new Adele song a few hundred times, and went to bed thrilled with the fact that we were alone in our room for the night. (Alone means no snoring!!!!!)
We woke up packed our bags, and hopped on the bus back to Marseille where we would continue on our journey to Avignon, another small French town more north. Luckily, it was absolutely downpouring as we waited for the bus, then again as we waited the three hours we had between different modes of transportation. To get from Marseille to Avignon we booked a rideshare through Blah Blah Car. That’s a real company, I promise.
Ridesharing is as awesome way to save money and, I’m not going to lie, being able to sit in a car instead of on a smelly bus was a nice change. The only problem was that our driver, Zohir, didn’t speak much (if any) English. Thankfully, the combination of Ashley’s French knowledge and Google translate allowed us to seal the deal. Zohir picked us up right on time in his BMW (oh yeah we were riding in style), and we listened to French comedy for the whole two hour trip. I assume it was very funny.
Lots to tell you about coming up! Avignon, Lyon, and other things that are hard to pronounce are comin’ atcha soon!
P.S Happy Halloween everyone! This year, I am dressing up like a tourist! Have some cider and a couple Reese’s in my honor.