Saturday, January 12, 2008

from Cassis, France

And so, a flight and two train rides later, we came to Cassis.

Where’s that? Just east of Marseille, on the coast. But a world apart.

The thing about Cassis is that…

It’s large enough to have at least two patisseries open every day.
Last year, it had sunshine on 329 days (source: Nino, of Nino’s Restaurant).
It’s snuggled between the tallest cliffs on the French Mediterranean.
People from all over come here for the bouillabaisse.
Not much is happenin’ in Cassis in January.
It has a port.
It is surrounded by vineyards producing white wine (and rose) that was the first to receive AOC status in France (if you don’t know what that is, trust me – to the French you are nothing wine-wise or foodwise if you do not have AOC status).
Ed wanted to celebrate the sale of his business by going to France.

Now, which of the above lead me to come here just before the start of the new semester? I’d say all but one.

We arrived on one of the few afternoons of the year where there was no sun. Indeed, the cliffs were hidden behind low, gray clouds. And the wind – ah, the wind! We are in the midst of a le mistral spell, when the vicious wind pounds at the south of France with such a fury that, they say, it drives people mad.

I had chosen a small hotel at the side with a view toward the sea. Nothing about my choice was good (meaning – it looked nothing like the cute place I had inspected on the Net and, horrors of horrors, if we wanted to use the Internet, we would wind up paying a sum almost as large as the cost of the dark, dingy room; that, more than the Mistral, would lead Ed to despair).

We set out for a walk so that we could take stock. I mean, the factors above notwithstanding, there is more than one French fishing port by the Mediterranean Sea. And yet... We breathed in the sea air, noted the fishermen on the pebble beach…

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…and hiked into town.

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It’s not easy to find a room in a place that doesn’t really cater to tourists in January.

But, never underestimate the power of an Ligurian restauranteur who for decades wanted to buy out space above his eatery so that he could open up a trio of rooms for his clients. How fortuitous that he should do so just before we showed up!

We ate at Nino’s to celebrate our good fortune.

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fish soup

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monk fish

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orange cake

Here’s Nino’s (the next morning), the restaurant with the whitest, brightest trio of rooms above.

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