Marseille.

An hour and a half from Madrid? Forty Euros roundtrip? Yes, please. Marseille is a very easy weekend getaway, and was a nice glimpse of something new for both of us. Marseille would be a perfect place to go when it's warmer; it's fjords looked perfect for hiking and swimming, but the wind was too bitter to even coax us to walk that far.

John wasn't feeling great (after a week of feeling awful, poor guy), so we kept it low key, which was just fine with me. We sipped café au laits, walked around the port, and glimpsed the catch of the day (see photo below) from local fishermen. We ate French food in a delightfully cozy restaurant near our hotel, where the chef was the owner, host, and waiter. And speaking of delightfully cozy, we stayed in the smallest hotel room I have ever stepped foot in. (Two steps from bed to bathroom, three steps from bed to door. But it was clean and had the comfiest bed I've slept in in a long time, and was very central, so no complaints!) We visited Notre Dame de la Garde, the church that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea (on the hill in the photo below) at sunset. I felt a bit like we were in Northern Africa in many neighborhoods, with countless women in full burqas or at least head coverings, Air Algeria offices, and African food/clothing/hair braiding stores everywhere. One evening we wound up in a little Tunisian restaurant ladling broth over warm cous cous and meat, sipping sweet and milky mint tea. 

We took a morning/afternoon trip to Aix-en-Provence, a mere thirty minutes from Marseille; it's a charming smaller town with good shopping, street musicians, and great ambience. On Saturday, it had farmers markets with fresh flowers, fruits, and vegetables galore; the locals all had plastic baskets in hand to collect their produce for the next few days and flowers for their tables. I had the best sandwich I have ever eaten (no exaggerations, I promise!) at Corner Bistro--go and eat the chicken sandwich; you will not be disappointed. And if you are, I will pay for your chicken sandwich, but I will require a five paragraph essay on why it didn't pass the test. And because it was cold and I read about a good English bookstore in town, we stopped by Book in Bar, a most charming little bookshop/café with an excellent selection of books (yes, yes...I purchased Lila by Marilynne Robinson...support your local bookstore!) and wonderful, warm-your-bones chai tea lattes.

La vie est belle.

Next to the port. Marseille.

Next to the port. Marseille.

The view from Notre Dame de la Garde. Marseille.

The view from Notre Dame de la Garde. Marseille.

Decoration inside Notre Dame de la Garde. Strange for a church, isn't it?

Decoration inside Notre Dame de la Garde. Strange for a church, isn't it?

Best sandwich I have ever eaten, hands down. Aix-en-Provence.

Best sandwich I have ever eaten, hands down. Aix-en-Provence.

These carrots looked perfect, even on a cold winter weekend.

These carrots looked perfect, even on a cold winter weekend.

My idea of a perfect afternoon: a bookstore, tea, books, and hanging out with John. Book in Bar, Aix-en-Provence.

My idea of a perfect afternoon: a bookstore, tea, books, and hanging out with John. Book in Bar, Aix-en-Provence.