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Marseille – Or, the city by the sea.

January 3, 2012

I went to Marseille for a quick visit to a dear friend who just had a little girl. To sum up my visit, the baby was adorable, my friend was adorable and Marseille was adorable. How can you not love Marseille? It’s almost always sunny, it’s by the Mediterranean Sea, it’s old and beautiful, alive with people, some very poor, some very rich, but all as warm and buoyant as their southern accent. Marseille is a city of contrast, built around its old harbor and up its hills, made up of tiny villages with very distinct identities. People in Marseille live outside – playing petanque, soccer, hanging out in front of their building, hanging laundry from their windows, drinking pastis on a terrasse near the vieux port

You’ll also find hidden alleys and secret gardens that will make you dream of summer in the middle of December.

Of course in Marseille one must make some purchases. Four things you cannot leave the city by the sea without (thankfully all are very inexpensive):

Lavender and herbes de Provence. These are the two most characteristic smells of the South of France. Lavande grows wildly in the many hills of Provence and is used around the house either in bouquets or sewn into little pouches to put in your closets to perfume linens and underwear. Herbes de Provence is a mix of the wild aromatic herbs that also grow in the Provence hills: romarin (rosemary), basilic (basil), thym (thyme), sarriette (savory) and marjolaine (marjoram). Indispensable when making ratatouille, delicious on any meat (just rub the mix on chicken or steak before roasting or grilling), or when making tomato sauce, or even just sprinkled on pizza or tomato tarte.

Olive trees of course abound around the Mediterranean. I picked up these boards and utensils made from centuries-old olive wood from a local artisan who was also selling small baby olive trees. Wish I could have smuggled one home to Brooklyn…

And last but not least, the legendary savon de Marseille. Made from olive oil and local natural scents (yes, lavender, but also orange blossom and jasmine, to name a few favorites), this soap has been around at least since the 12th century. It is good for your skin, non-allergenic and organic. It is used not only as a hand or body soap, but also as a laundry detergent (very efficient!) or even a cleaning product. In short, it’s awesome. Like Marseille.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2012 8:23 am

    Yes! Agreed! I have been living here for 2 months now and it has a certain magic.

  2. January 3, 2012 10:10 am

    You’re all stocked up on French goodies! Those cutting boards are BEAUTIFUL!! My father brought me a similar one, years ago, from Italy. Can’t remember what type of wood but I adore it. It looks so wonderful there! Lucky girl.

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