Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse: a traditional Provencal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille.

I can’t say how long I’ve wanted to eat bouillabaisse
growing up I read Marcel Pagnol, a god amongst Provencal literature
his series: Marius, Fanny, Cesar take place in the heart of Marseille where Cesar, a lively choleric character, runs a bar
the world of Pagnol is a world like any: family, friends, love, foes, food, drinks
it is lively, it is flavorful, the language sings
it is french from the south, from the sea, with accent, punctuation, words like no others
The bouillabaisse is a classic dish from this part of the world
as it requires specific fish and spices one can really only eat the “real thing” here

Friday night we were invited to a party of ten at “la table D’eux” restaurant to eat the famous soup
and I was excited
as we walked into the restaurant I was taken aside right away to the kitchen to see a basin filled with odd looking fish covered with garlic, saffron and who knows what

Our host have been fantastic
we help out all week
we’ve mostly been cleaning up the olive grove; mowing, chopping, making it nice
we get a lovely place to stay, the best grocery, (I have a tab at the boucherie where I’ve been trying all sorts of local specialties)
and on Friday we go out

Now we could just go out and eat but Geraldine (she likes to be called Gerry but Geraldine is so pretty and she does look a little bit like Geraldine Chaplin) goes above and beyond
She knows we are curious so she makes sure to introduce us to the locals
She arranged a couple tours to local olive mills
Took us out to try the Beaujolais nouveau

In the kitchen of the restaurant the mother of the cook explains to me how the soup is made
the various fish have been sitting in a wonderful mixture of spices for hours
The broth is made
veggies are cooked
one by one, depending on their size, the fish will be added at the last minute so they cook to perfection

in the restaurant the table is set
as we wait we are treated to a few rounds of sparkling wine to celebrate Isaac and Haley’s engagement
the traditional plate of charcuterie sits on the counter
someone tells me to try this and that
I try everything

We are now ready to hit the table
Bouillabaisse has a special order of thing
first the broth is served pipping hot topped with rouille spread on croutons
rouille is like a spicy homemade mayonnaise with garlic and saffron

The broth is heavenly
rich, flavorful
the crouton soak just enough of the broth for an easy chew
the rouille tops it all
I am in heaven

Then comes two huge platters of fish
it has all those crazy fish I saw earlier in the kitchen plus mini crabs, mussels and squid
I try everything
Next you place any of the fish you want in your plate
grab a few potatoes if you wish and cover that with the broth that has been kept hot

we all go for several rounds
wine keeps filling our glasses
our bellies are getting fuller and fuller
there is so mush fish to be eaten

several hours later
that’s the way it goes here
a proper meal takes hours
the fish is gone and we are served an expresso followed by a few shots of Lemoncello
jolly and filled to the rim we exit the restaurant with kisses on the cheek to the cook, his mom, the waitress

another meal in Provence gone by
I am looking forward to next Friday
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Belgentier

it is later Sunday
almost 9pm
it was a busy week end
yesterday Eric, Isaac and I went for a nice long hike
about 18km up a cliff and mostly up and down a nature path that took us through forest, ruins and some fantastic stone pillars called “les aiguilles” (the needles)

the walk also took us to a monastery, closed this month, where the monks are famous for a liqueur they make called Chartreuse
apparently only three monks know the recipe
it involves about 130 different herbs
we were hoping to get some
maybe we will if they open their doors in December

Today we had a car so we took advantage of it and visited Toulon, Cassis and “les calanques”
Toulon had a great outdoor market
I bought some olives, fruits and veggies
we stopped at a bakery
every bread here, even the various forms of Baguettes have a name
I can’t tell you
I look at them all and say this one and that one
and maybe this one too
they are all so good
I could make a whole blog about that

My brother told me before I left that the bread was better here then back home
and so was the butter
now we do make really good bread home and have quite a variety
but the butter
it is so good
like it’s sweet, maybe less salty, maybe it’s the milk
I don’t know
the butter is very very good

The thing about the bread is that every single bakery I tried so far was great
The one in the village here makes the most decadent almond croissant
it has more than just a little almond paste in it
it is filled with this gooey almond mush that makes your knees go weak
so good
People buy bread everyday
it’s part of the daily routine
the baguette under their arm
totally true
daily
also bread and chocolate
you will often see kids being picked up from school chewing on some pain au chocolat

there, I was barely going to talk about this and you got me going
bread and butter
never had so much of both
I could also talk about the cheese but not right now
(so amazingly good if you love cheese)

what else
there were many highlight this week like trying the Beaujolais Nouveau at the local bar
that was fun
you order a glass and in comes a whole plater of charcuterie to go with it
after four glasses and as many plater you feel like you may just consider moving permanently to this lovely place

on Friday our host invited us to the other bar in town where the special was “moules frittes” (mussels and fries)
the fries were some of the best I’ve ever eaten
large cuts perfectly golden
crunchy and tender
the mussels were serve in a lovely little pot
they were bathing in a large quantity of broth made with generous amount of cream, wine, onions and secret spices
I had a word with the cook
I said please pretty please would you let me sit in one of these days and watch you cook
he said ok
he loves to cook and could tell I love it too
I can’t wait

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Highlights

when one doesn’t know where to start; start with highlights
Paris is already gone by and I barely said a thing busy we were soaking it up
and before Paris there was Canterbury
didn’t even mention that did I
images are worth a thousand word, I will use this

Canterbury: awe, solemnity, beauty, moved to tears when I entered the crypt
why?
I think the sense of time, history, people, us in some ways passing through, achievement, faith, war, love, peace
I don’t know
and didn’t need to think it
the feeling was there and was enough
I loved Canterbury
later on we went back to hear the choir
we went to mass
I never go to mass
it was beautiful
the whole ceremony punctuated by a mixture of voices all tones and range mixed in unison in this huge sacred place

that was Canterbury cathedral
highly recommended

then Paris
an overnight bus ride from London that took us on the ferry in the middle of the night
long and groggy is the feeling
in the middle of the night we go through border
the French one
I’m a little nervous again, borders tent to do that
Charlotte is ahead
the officer says “bonsoir”
she says “bonsoir”
he then says “and in the morning you say…”
She is puzzled for a second then responds “bonjour”
“and in the afternoon…”
that’s the trick question, one must know that to go through border
Charlotte answers: “bonne après-midi”

I go after Charlotte
He says: “Bonsoir”
“bonsoir”
“She looks like you”
“She’s my daughter”
the officer winks, stamps my passport, “Bon séjour”
off I go
I love France already

True things about Paris: people are not rude
or at least no more then anywhere else
also, I was under the impression that there would be dog droppings everywhere
that was an old rumor
Paris is clean, surprisingly clean
Paris highlights: everywhere you look is beautiful, the bakeries, la Seine, the multiple bridges, la tour Eiffel at night, walking and getting lost, our hosts
Paris was thrilling and exhausting
you just can’t help wanting more of it

We are now settled in a beautiful nook in Southern France
up against a cliff looking down valleys
olives trees lined up on “restanques” (dry-stone wall terraces)
a 2 km path takes us to the nearby village (and bakery)
today we’ll explore a different path that leads to a monastery
the monks are known to produce “Chartreuse” and honey
worth investigating

at this point in our trip we have been reunited with my son and his …  fiancé!
he proposed in London about a week ago
sweethearts
so it’s five of us for the month in Provence
we will be clearing the orchard, helping out on the land
it is a country where thyme and rosemary grow wild
as my son said “herbes de Provence” could just as well be “weeds of Provence”
we love it

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Margate

Margate, seaside town
I love: the early quietness, the sounds of seagulls, the salty smell in the breeze
I love looking out at the sea
some morning there is no line between water and sky
variation of blues blend in one another
coming from Nova Scotia I should be use to this
but in Nova Scotia I don’t live by the sea
We are lucky this week to have a flat that looks onto it
and huge windows to boot

highlight of the week
a very long walk along stunning chalk cliffs
Chalk Cliffs
I didn’t know cliffs could be made of chalk
it feels like they should be all dissolved already
there is a castle sitting on an edge
it’s been made into condos
there are big walls protecting the cliff
to the water you’d go little castle

Broadstairs
it’s the name of a town
we walk all the way to it
highlights: pasties at the meat shop
ooooo the nice meat shop
something so nice about a shop that knows it’s business
we buy several pasties
pasties: take some dough, could be flaky, could be like pie dough, make it good either way. Add just about anything in the middle of that dough. Like a sausage, a burger with condiment, a whole breakfast: bacon and eggs and ketchup too, a beef stew, a beef stew with veggies, the list goes on…
I think the English invented a fantastic to go food
if it’s done well it is quite good
the ones we had were delicious
the best: an apple turnover loaded with apples

Other food highlights
because isn’t food an ongoing highlight when you travel
we have free tab at the local pizza shop
the ladies we are staying at and helping out are back in London and own a fine pizza place
they can’t cook for us, we get as much pizza as we want
by now we have tried all of them
by now we are a little sick of pizza
but, the one that stands out, because it is a combo I’ve never had before on the thinnest pizza dough I ever bitten into is the Blue Cheese and Pear
notice that I used capital letters for Blue Cheese and Pear
it’s that good

yesterday because we all had enough pizza I made a chicken pot pie
that was quite delicious
comfort food

what else
it was Halloween and plenty of local fireworks kept exploding everywhere
Friday and Saturday
???
November first is All Saint’s Day
Day of the dead in Mexico
I bet they have lots of fireworks there too
we don’t do that in Canada
November 5th will be Guy Fawkes day
all around England people will light big bond fire
to celebrate a failed attempt to blow up King James 1st
???
the poor guy was found maybe minutes before he was to light the fuse that was to blow up the houses of parliament
to the Tower of London you go!
and for your mischief we will light fires all over England forever
that was four hundred years ago

interesting how habits and customs come about

well I must go help and paint some more
maybe we’ll go on another big walk later today
few more days in Margate and off to Paris
oh la la
looking forward to croissant, cheese and wine

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