One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

Posts tagged “English

Englishman is wilting in the Marseilles Summer

So, very sorry for neglecting this blog somewhat. My newish job has really taken over my weeks of late, and I haven’t had the time to keep this updated with things as I had hoped.

So the first thing I need to talk about is my not-so-new love affair with a certain bar in the 7th A of Marseille. As you should know by now, the Apéro is a sacred activity, and this becomes ever more evident now we are in the blistering heat of summer. I think the thought of the apéro with friends or family at the end of the day is what drives many French people through each day at work. It certainly feels that way with me!

One of my favourite places for such an Apéro is Cafe de l’Abbaye, near to Abbeye St Victor south of the port. What was a pretty quiet bar through the winter has now become the cool place to go for a drink with friends after work into the sunset. The views from the small terrace overlooking the fort and the entrance to the port make it a perfect setting.

Drinking an apéro with a friend. He has gone for a Mauresque (Pastis, sirop d’orgeat, 1 ice cube and water) and me a Tomate (Pastis, Grenadine, 1 ice cube and water). Very refreshing. I have been reading a great book lately, (Dial M for Merde by Stephen Clarke) about a an Englishman in the South of France – sounds familier right? In it there is a quote about men from Marseille and Pastis. It compares a Pastis to a female breast, and says “one is not enough and three is too many”. Although this is a little crude, it is very true. Pastis is very good for two drinks, but after that my mouth starts to feel like I have been anesthetized somehow.

… and so we moved onto a beautiful Cote de Provence rosé, with ice cubes as it was around 36 degrees!

One of the big features in Marseille is there is a lot of street art and graffiti. Some of it is stunning, and some a bit mindless. I have found a few examples in English, and often there are a few grammatical errors of spelling mistakes which makes things a little funny for me, be it a statement of love or a line from a film. I did however find the example below in my local area. I  have searched the statement on the internet and haven’t found anything to suggest it was taken from somewhere else, so I can only believe that the person who wrote this has A) a flawless grasp of the English language, and B) a poor relationship with his/ her father who is now a capitalist. Intriguing…

I have to leave you with news that this week is the biggest Pétanque tournament in the world in Marseille. Players and journalists from around the world (but, mainly France!) have descended on Marseille for a fight to the death, as well as to drink many litres of Ricard to win the trophy, which is all sponsored by local newspaper La Marseilles. I am lucky enough to be working in a place where the journalists, TV presenters, players and their WAGS are all staying. It has been an eye-opening experience. They drinking Pastis all day, answer the door for room service each day completely stark naked and enjoy a Police escort to take them to each event. A POLICE ESCORT!?! Only in Marseille.

Anyways,

Onwards!

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Englishman attempts Marseille fish soup

So, after finally having a day off with decent weather (no wind!) I decided to take a little fishing trip out on my kayak to fish for the classic rock fish, which frequent the coastline of Marseille and form the basis of the famous Marseille soupe de poisson.

I managed to get a rough idea of the recipe from several friends and members of my girlfriends family to give it a shot, so having gathered the other ingredients together I went about giving it my first attempt.

Firstly, I sweated 3 cloves of roughly shopped garlic and 2 chopped onions with some olive oil for around 20 mins. I also added a small amount of chopped ginger because I love it, but I couldn’t taste it in the final soup so I won’t bother again!

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Next I added 5 roughly chopped tomatoes with the seeds removed, roughly chopped red pepper, bouquet garni and sweated some more, before I seasoned with salt and pepper and added 1.5 litres of water. This is supposed to be sea water, but I’m not sure that is very hygienic when you see half of what seems to floating around in there at present!

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I simmered this on a low heat for another 25 mins.

I had managed to fish a variety of species that are perfect for the soup. The only species I was unable to catch which would have been perfect is the infamous Rascasse, but they are very difficult to catch.

From left to right… Sarran, Sarran royal, Sar, Pataclet, Girelle royal, Girelle, crénilabre & Roucaou.

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I added the fish whole to the soup, except for the slightly larger once which I emptied and added. I then cooked this on a low heat for 25 mins, stirring occasionally until the fish had broken down in the stew. I then added Saffron and seasoned again.

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I then filtered into a bowl, making sure to press down hard on the fish and veg solids to extract all the juice.

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We tried the soup last night with Rouille covered croutons floating in the top. It was pretty good, but I might have to do a bit more research for next time, in order to get a stronger flavour from the soup. It feels like I’m missing something…

Here are a few photos taken from out on the fishing trip. The islands I was fishing close to are the two just off the tip of Endoume. One is called Degaby (with the small castle on top) and the other is just the isle of Endoume.

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The Guardian – The view from Marseille

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(Currently updating this from the beach. This is currently my view, above!)

Firstly, sorry for not updating this recently. I have started a new job a week ago which is now taking up a lot of my time. All good though!

Last Monday, on a rather overcast day here in Marseille I organised a small apéro at one of my favorite café overlooking the port  to discuss the French elections with Guardian journalist Jon Henley. Jon was on a mission to travel around France through the week, hearing ‘normal’ people’s opinions on the French elections so far. He was then live blogging his experience through The Guardian website and twitter, to create an interactive map of his journey along he way. He arrived in Marseille on Monday morning, and would leave Paris on Friday, and his journey in between would be entirely spontaneous, based on suggestions of issues in certain regions and people who wanted to talk to him about it.

I gathered a few friends I have here, including my fiancée, and some choice opinions from the discussion can be found HERE.

(NB: I was more involved in the organisation of the project, and didn’t share any views that I have, as it was more based on people who had lived in and knew Marseille for a long time.)


‘Melting-pot Marseille’ reflects France’s immigration debate -AFP

Here’s a short report in English from AFP news, which I had a tiny part in helping organise.  The piece talks about the history of immigration in France, and the rise in popularity of the Front National.


Marseille election results for the 1er tour

Just a quick update to say that the site for the election results in Marseille is now live, and is being updated as soon as the results come in. You can search by arrondissement or polling station.

Click the image above or click HERE to go to the site


Marseille – Provence 2013 Capital of Culture Programme

The Programme for next years European capital of culture programme (so far) has just been put online in English. Click the link below or the image above to be transported to the virtual programme now.

http://www.mp2013.fr/ext/avp-en/


Artisan 13 – L’Ecosse à l’honneur

Over the weekend I headed out to St Just to l’hotel de département for the Scottish themed Artisan 13 festival. The Conseil General along with the Anglo Med business network had worked in co-operation with the Scottish tourist board to promote Scottish and Provencal designers, jewelry makers, musicians and food experts to create a unique Provencal-Celtic blend.

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The expo featured some fantastic Scottish musicians, dancers and singers playing traditions folk music. I have to say it left me a little teary-eyed and emotional, even a little home sick (even though I’m English!) It was lovely to hear some songs in the English language again, and it was great to see the local children getting involved too.

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We moved on to the exterior food stalls and outdoor activity stands. We saw most of a live food show by 2 top chefs who created deserts containing Foie Gras. I tried the samples, and can’t say I liked it too much, but I was impressed by the preparation and techniques they used.

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For lunch we had a Scottish/Provencal mix of Haggis accompanied by a Seafood platter! Probably not the best mix I know, but we were trying to get into the spirit of the day! (Note the chutney accompanying the Haggis. I have never heard of this before, so I suspected it was to make the Haggis slightly more palatable for the French!)

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We then headed over to the Scottish produce stand where they were selling traditional Scottish smoked fish for a very reasonable price. Note the very special label below…

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We also talked to one of the head Chefs of the stand, who runs one of the largest catering schools in the Provence. He told us that they do exchange programs with other catering schools around Europe over the summer, where students can come and learn about traditional Provencal cooking, and vise-versa for the French children they exchange with. A lovely idea!

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All-in-all it was a fantastic day with a great ambiance. I’m looking forward to seeing more events like this in the lead up to Marseille-Provence 2013 capital of culture.