For our second week in Provence, we headed down to the coast.
If most people around the world call it the French Riviera, we always call it “Côte d’Azur” or coast of azure because of the incredible shades of blue of the Mediterranean sea. The French never call it the Riviera.
Our first stop was in the town of Cassis where we had Bouillabaisse. It is a local fish soup that can only be found in that area since the original recipe calls for the use of 7 specific species of fish which live around the rocks between Marseille and Monte Carlo. These species are harder and harder to come by, so what used to be a staple in the local poor people’s diet, has become a expensive delicacy (around 50€ per serving for fish soup…). For a bouillabaisse, the fish is quickly boiled in broth and that broth is used as a base for a chunky bisque. The cook will filet each fish and place them on a platter with boiled potatoes. The “bisque” is served very hot in a soup plate in front of each guest at the table and is only used to warm the fish up. So you place pieces of fish and potatoes in your spoon and then dip it in the hot bisque and then put it in your mouth. The bouillabaisse (like all fish soups in France) is also served with croutons and an aïoli/paprika mix called “rouille” (rust in French because of it’s color).
We also visited Saint Tropez, Cannes, Menton, Eze and Monte Carlo where Dave picked a very nice yacht to take back with him to the US 🙂 We had a picnic by the sea in Roquebrune near Monaco. I had brought some nice wine from Bordeaux, proper plates and silverware + charcuterie and stinky cheese. Voilà! How is it that food, simple as it may be, tastes so much better when you eat it by the water?
The old Nice has to be my personal favorite. There is a Farmers’ market every day there! Nice and Menton have a very Italian feel to them. This makes you feel like you’re in a different country altogether. It actually feels quite special so come across road signs pointing to Italy.
The sea front in Cannes is called “La Croisette”. The name comes from the French verb for passing someone on the street: se croiser. In Nice, it is called “La Promenade des Anglais” (The English Promenade). This comes from the olden days when the British gentry would come to the French riviera while on their European tours or just to escape the cold of Winter. If you watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey (spoiler alert), you know that the Dowager Countess is heading for Cannes as we speak :0) These “promenades” were ideal locations for street photography. From the two girlfriends eating ice-cream on a bench to the German biker covered in tattoos: portrait photography heaven!!
Note: if you ever are in Menton, do have pizza at Pizzeria Vesuvio. I checked their rating on TripAdvisor later and they had quite mixed reviews. This shows how misleading that site can be. Truly one of the best pizza I have ever had with a fantastic waiter to boot!
As for the bouillabaisse, we had it Chez Gilbert on the Fisherman’s wharf. Truly spectacular!