travel blog: france – aix-en-provence, marseilles, cassis + paris
A trip to France filled with delicious and decadent food, bright crisp white wine fresh from the vineyards, amazing art and gorgeous sites.
Alright guys! I’m excited to bring you our latest travel adventure – this one with mom on board! My mombo had never been out of the country, and has been madly in love with all things FRENCH since I can remember – so for her 70th birthday we thought what better gift than to head on over.
Mom picked the cities she wanted to visit, we plotted the path, planes, trains and automobiles and off we went. The plan was to hit Aix-en-Provence first, then head to Marseille and finally onto Paris for just one night as that’s where we’d be flying home from.
What I thought was most interesting about this trip was that the city I fell in love with the most was one we had no plans of visiting. We’ll get to that later…for now, let’s start at the beginning.
What a lovely, lovely city. Aix-en-Provence has charming tree-lined streets, amazing art museums, fun nightlife, delectable food & wine and the cutest shops. We were only there for a couple of days, but you could easily make a week out of it – sipping wine and taking in the sights. I’d absolutely adore to visit this gorgeous city again. Until then, let me tell ya a little about what we did.
Drinks + Eats:
Our first night in town we wanted to get a steak (I mean, right?), so Dave found what looked like a moody little cocktail bar that also served fab food – La Chimère Café. Of course as silly Americans we wanted dinner at 6PM (hey, we’re old and tired). I think they even asked us if we were there for lunch or dinner. 😀 Anyhoo, they were super sweet and allowed us to be seated for dinner even though it’s typically served later. We were seated in the downstairs area, which was very red and very cool.
I ordered the steak and potatoes and it was delish. Totally hit the spot.
Once we had gobbled up dinner our adorable server said we just had to go sit at the bar and have a cocktail as that’s what they’re really known for. So up we went and bellied up to the bar.
Of course I did the thing I always do on vacation, which is order some fantastical cocktail and have absolutely no memory of what the heck was in it as I’m putting the blog together. Le sigh. Maybe one day I’ll write it down?
We really had a blast here, I think my mom wanted to see if they were hiring. Lol.
After dinner and drinks, mom hit the hay and Dave and I hit the town. We love to just wander and stumble upon hot spots – especially because we usually have pretty good luck. We found a lovely little area that had a sort of courtyard filled with people having wine and laughs. We popped a squat and had some more vino before getting to bed and getting some rest for the next day’s adventure.
The next place I just have to mention is Fanny’s, where we grabbed lunch the next day. Dave found this amazing little bistro one afternoon when we were craving something a little lighter (like some lettuce with a pile of meat and cheese on it, duh). Lucky for us, they had one more table outside open for us to take – I’d suggest making reservations if you plan to visit as we saw lots of people turned away since it was so busy. It also seemed full of locals, which is always a good sign.
The owner was a total doll and very kind to explain the menu to us a bit more as our French could use some work.
They serve out of this world salads, but also had hearty roasts and much more that rotates on a daily menu. I had a salad with basically every good thing that ever existed on it. It was perfection.
The last place I want to mention to eat + drink in Aix is La Fromagerie Du Passage. This was honestly one of my favorite moments in France. We stumbled (I’m telling you – walk around and discover!) this place down a small little thru-way and thought, shoot, cheese and wine – yes please!.
We ordered a glass of 2017 Baron Maxim Columbard that was so fabulous, we bought two bottles to bring back with us. And the cheese. Oh this freaking cheese.
This was a creamy brillat savarin cheese on a baguette with truffle honey that had me at hello.
And this scrumptious cheese – a fromage du maqis – had the perfect amount of funk balanced with a tart jam.
A must-visit is the large market that is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays that is right off the Place de la Rotonde. It has 2nd-hand vintage pieces, lots of textiles, soaps, lavender, clothing, purses and more. We definitely purchased a few treasures here.
Next up, there are amazing art museums to explore. Musee Granet is a lovely museum that features sculpture, paintings and much more. I’m such a fan of visiting art museums when we travel as I think it’s a fun way to be immersed in the history and culture of the country.
The Site Granet XXe, Collection Jean Planque museum houses amazing works by Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne and more. I was really blown away by the collections here, especially given the space itself is fairly small and intimate, so to be able to see so many masterpieces at once was quite an experience.
We were also introduced to Fabienne Verdier who makes gigantic horse hair brushes to create her art. It’s big, bold, and quite breathtaking.
Another spot that we loved is the Fontaine d’Albertas.
While the fountain isn’t a Trevi, there is something magical about how the light hits the square and the surroundings that makes this a picture-perfect scene.
After our lovely time in Aix, we headed onward to Marseille.
Marseilles is a lovely port city filled with fabulous food and a fantastic view of the sea. Marseilles definitely has more of a city-vibe than Aix-en-Provence in that there were clearly a lot of tourist traps (expensive restaurants on the port with so-so food) and overall felt more bustling. I’ll be totally honest here and say that I think Marseilles is a fun place to visit, but I’d probably make it a day trip and stay in a smaller town nearby (and yes, I have a recommendation coming)! Marseilles did give us what I thought was the best meal of the trip, seriously – my last meal kind of status – check it out below.
Drinks + Eats:
The meal to end all meals! I found Entre Terr et Mer online and booked it based on the reviews. It ended up being the most memorable meal in the most picturesque little alleyway – just perfect.
We ordered the “small” meat and cheese tray as a starter. It could have been the whole meal! Everything was spectacular. We scarfed down every last bit with a fabulous crisp white wine. YUM.
Then came THE platter. Shrimp, clams and oysters, oh my. Hands down the freshest seafood I have ever had in my life. If you are anywhere in France, ever – you must get to this restaurant y’all. I’ll never forget it.
Given it was going to be hard to top that last meal, we thought we’d try some non-French food. We asked the owner of our little B&B where we should eat in the neighborhood and she suggested Sur Le Pouce Sarl, a Tunisian place just down the street. We had an amazing harissa dip to start (that I really need to try to make at home) and I had the merguez sausage while Dave opted for the lamb for an entree. We loved these dishes so much – as soon as we got home we found a Tunisian place that delivered and we ordered the same thing!
Last, we hit up L’Epicerie L’Ideal for a quick glass of wine and a snack. This is a lovely little shop / restaurant that has lots of fun foodie items (sauces, pasta, honey, jams, etc) for sale and fantastic wine. We had a white bourdeaux that was one of the best wines we’d ever had (Chateau l’Hospital, AOC Cotes de bourg, 2013 if you can find it). We had a little fishy snack and enjoyed watching the city pass by.
One of the first places we visited in Marseille was the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde. It sits on top of the highest point in Marseilles, so it has a spectacular view. And the inside of the basilica was breathtaking.
Another site I’d list as a must-see is Palais Longchamp. We didn’t explore too much as we were headed out of town, but what we did see was quite amazing. It’s one of the top tourist attractions in the city and I can see why.
While we were in Marseilles we had a desire to seek out a more small-town-vibe day (and to find all the wines), so we decided to take a day trip to Cassis. And this ladies and gentlemen, was my favorite stop of the trip.
As it typically goes with our vacations, unplanned detours tend to end up providing us the most memorable moments. And that was the case with visiting Cassis on a whim. We ate, we drank, and we took in the lovely post-card-like harbor.
Drinks + Eats:
We first stopped into the Bodin Winery where we had a fabulous tasting and learned about the wines made in the region. Cassis is known for bold, crisp and flinty white wines, which is very much up our alley.
We also hit up Clos Sainte-Magdeleine and did a tasting which was also awesome. Man, we could have kept going all day at this. Fresh sea air and delicious wine. Yes, please.
After several sips of vino, we were craving a sandwich for lunch, so Dave found this adorable little delicatessen, L’Atelier Gastronomique. I had a baguette the size of my arm, and yes I ate the whole thing and honestly could have had another. It was epic-ly good.
Last in the food and drink department, we decided to grab a warm drink on the water. We sat at Cafe Glacier Liautaud and had a lovely cappuccino (mom had a hot cocoa)!
Cassis is so dang pretty. Picturesque, in fact – so walking around the small harbor is a must. I probably took a million pictures here. It looked like the set of a movie.
The other lovely bit of Cassis that I enjoyed was popping into all of the cute little boutiques and shops. My favorite being the L Eau De Cassis Boutique perfume shop. Mom and I had a field day, and we each picked out some scents to bring home, because of course we did!
Honestly, Cassis was so captivating and gorgeous, simply walking thru the town and taking little alleyways led us to some beautiful scenes.
I truly loved Cassis and would recommend spending more than a day here as there are a lot more vineyards to see and I’m sure great food to be eaten. It was such a treat to discover this adorable coastal town.
Well, I debated whether to include Paris or not since we really only went to Paris to fly out of back home to Chicago. We had only one night there, but the dinner we had was so good – I had to include it in this novel of a blog. Dave wanted a classic French bistro experience, and lucky for us he was able to get us into Petit Pontoise and we had a perfect meal. We had the best Parmesan ravioli I’ve ever eaten, a lovely goat cheese and beet salad and a steak to end all steaks. And the atmosphere was so cozy and delightful, I’d go back in a heartbeat.
And with that last meal in Paris, we were done! We had so much fun exploring and eating our way through France. I’m so glad my mom’s love of France eventually got us there, as I was blown away by the beauty, the kind people and the bread. WHY IS THEIR BREAD BETTER THAN ANYWHERE ELSE ON EARTH!?!? 😀
Till next time!