Palais Longchamp, Marseille
My holiday was very good, but mostly not relaxing because I was with 2 small children for much of it. I don’t know how people with their own children actually cope. As Asshole said, “I hadn’t realised it would be so relentless.”
The relaxing parts of the holiday were anything I did without the children – for example, being out in Paris just with Jono on Tuesday night and Sunday night. And Jono had totally spoiled me by sending a car and driver to pick me up at the airport on Tuesday.
I took the TGV from Paris to Marseille on Wednesday morning. I spent the afternoon with Little Sister and the kids just wandering around the Vieux Port and old Marseille. Asshole and I went out after the family dinner for a couple of beers and an adult conversation that was mostly about guns.
I spent Thursday day with Little Sister and the kids at the natural history museum in Palais Longchamp and in the park behind it. In the evening, Asshole and I went out on our own to have a grown-up dinner. We decided to go for a proper bouillabaisse, a speciality of Marseille. That is food, so I will go into a lot of detail.
If you are not familiar with bouillabaisse, here is the wiki explanation.
We researched our restaurants and made our final choice based on location – only one of the recommended places was near a metro station. I booked an outside table.
Our dinner was very entertaining. We had about 60 different waiters, and I don’t think we saw anyone twice (except the maître d’). I ordered a pastis as an aperitif and the waitress had trouble with my order. “What kind of pastis?” she asked me en français. “I don’t mind,” I said in English. “I don’t know pastis, I just want a pastis.” She had to call over another waiter so they could discuss it. They asked me more questions. “I don’t care, you choose. Just bring me a pastis.” Eventually I got my pastis – no idea what kind it was, but it had been an awful battle just to get a basic drink. Asshole, because he is a cretin, had a beer.
We ordered the basic bouillabaisse with a langouste thrown in. As Asshole was going to be drinking beer throughout the meal, I chose a half-bottle of wine for myself. The waiter complimented me on my fine choice and assured me that it would be perfectly paired with the bouillabaisse. That made me feel rather smug, and it was a beautiful wine, but of course my fine choice had only been a lucky guess.
The bouillabaisse was served in 2 courses: first just the broth, which was very rich and flavourful, and then a huge serving of several kinds of fish + the langouste. It was accompanied by a large plate of toasted baguette slices and a bowl of rouille. More fish and a pot with more broth were placed on a side table, but Asshole and I could not even finish what was already in our bowls. It was a fabulous meal.
Fête de la Musique
The evening of the bouillabaisse, the summer solstice, was also Fête de la Musique all over France. Fête de la Musique is not about music at all – all the music we heard was crap: cheesy French pop, karaoke, and singing waiters (although thankfully not where we had dined). Fête de la Musique is just an excuse for street parties and, in Marseille, an excuse to keep the metro open past 9.30 p.m. There were soldiers with machine guns guarding the Vieux Port station when we went home.
We arrived in Paris on the TGV late Friday afternoon. We dropped our stuff off and then headed straight for the Eiffel Tower, which was at the top of the 5-year old’s “must see” list. It was pouring rain, but there was still a crowd, and the visit was a general ordeal. In fact, I remember at one time thinking, “This could be my hell.”
Friday night ended for Jono, Asshole and me much later at Banana Café. I had worried that Asshole would be uncomfortable in a mostly gay club, but he was all right and I was very proud of him.
A good part of Saturday was spent around Notre Dame and the gardens behind the cathedral. Nephew was pretty taken by the architecture, especially the gargoyles (including the one with the man’s face – thanks, Olive) and the flying buttresses that, I had to explain, don’t actually fly.
On Sunday I went with the kids (meaning also Little Sister and Asshole) to the Louvre. We headed straight for the Egyptian rooms, which nephew loved. It’s pretty fun seeing little kids get really interested in stuff.
Just before 5 p.m., I put all the kids on the TGV back to Marseille and nearly fainted with relief.