Aimlessly wandering around Marseille without a map on a particularly warm August day, I was in hot pursuit of my afternoon pit stop. It had become my daily practice during my travels to stop and rehydrate wherever possible. So when I spotted a café up ahead with a ‘climatisation’ sign, I knew I’d found my place.
Touristing is exhausting
Approaching the entrance, I noticed a vacant table which had already been set for one, so I immediately made a beeline for it. Perfectly positioned in a corner, a canopy overhead and a row of potted miniature orange trees to one side – this served as the boundary fence separating it from its neighbour – I quickly placed my sunglasses on the table to mark my territory. It was quiet, shaded and offered respite from the madness outside. This is all I was really seeking. And a cold drink … and perhaps a little sugar hit.
Is it hot or is it just me?
Being the height of summer, everyone was enjoying the warm weather on the beaches, the port and cafes. There’s only so much ‘crowd’ I can handle at any given time. I settled into my quiet corner and, moments later, was happy to see a waiter coming towards me with a menu in hand. After ordering a glass of rosé and a bottle of water before I was even handed the menu, I asked what he would recommend for dessert. He pointed to the menu, suggesting “the crème brulee, Madame”. Having been on the road in France for almost 5 weeks, and having had my fair share of crème brulee by that stage, it was clear that an effort was required on my part to decipher the menu, in search of an alternative. I never thought I would utter these words, either via a keyboard or verbally but here it is … I was over crème brulee.
I think I’ve met ‘the one’ ♥
As I attempted to decode the French menu, I was approached by a gorgeous young man – I seem to attract them except this one was much younger than my Parisian gent a few weeks prior. This one would have been about 2 or 3 years old. I’m a sucker for big blue eyes and his were mesmerising. He did, however, look like he could do with a bit more time in the sun – he was very pale, all over. I know this because he was only wearing a diaper. He had pretty much adopted the café courtyard as his own private playground and I sensed he had taken a bit of a shine to me … constantly darting back and forth between tables, telling me in garbled French baby-talk that he ‘had a toy car and would l like to play with it?’ At least, this is what I thought he said as I don’t speak French, or garbled, or baby talk in any language. He stood at my table for a little while, running his toy car between the sugar bowl and the pepper shaker. By his excited chatter, it was very clear that he loved his toy car.
The wine is cold … cold rosé … yes
The waiter returned with my vin rosé and bottled water just as my pint-sized friend released a modest baby fart into his nappy. He looked up at me, then to the waiter, let out a small laugh and waddled off towards his mother who was seated 2 tables away, with his cute little fart wafting closely behind him.
I ordered the Baba au Rhum avec fruits. The words looked familiar – how could you possibly go wrong with fruits after all? I pointed to it on the menu and even attempted to verbalize it. We both smiled. We both knew my pronunciation was not good … bad, even. I managed a ‘merci’ and settled back into my seat.
I felt like I was in a dream. Marseille is a beautiful port town. I enjoyed the close proximity to the port that my AirBnB accommodation offered. As for the old town (or Panier) – it was full of history. I loved walking around, getting lost in the quiet cobbled streets, taking in the history, the architecture – the modern buildings co-existing with those that appeared centuries old. It satisfied the obsessive photographer in me.
My thighs will thank me – one day
What I didn’t enjoy was the proximity of the apartment I was staying in, to the ground floor. I had a fabulous view from the 6th floor bedroom window, looking out across the rooftops and chimneys of Marseille to the Notre-Dame de la Garde … it shone so brightly in the night time, it was magical. Getting up to the 6th floor via the stairs every day for 7 days however, was a workout I didn’t plan on. The very thought of carrying my weary body up and down those stairs more than once, in each direction, on a daily basis seemed unbearable.
Marseille was not in my original plans, so I hadn’t arranged passage there from my previous stop (Lyon) nor did I have anywhere to sleep. I was trying to fill a gap in my itinerary for a week and, in my excitement to find lodgings at short notice, I failed to identify on the description blurb that there was no lift, it was on the 6thfloor and it was one room. I only saw how perfect it was – read this as ‘it was available and the price was in my range’. It felt like home, so I overlooked the absence of a lift. My thighs however, were very aware that they were doing overtime. As I was walking 5-6 hours per day being a tourist, the stair workout was the ‘extra’ that I didn’t need. My thighs will thank me one day is all I kept telling myself .
“If you build it, he will come”
The Baba au Rhum arrived – deconstructed. So it would appear I need to assemble my own dessert. The Baba was positioned on the left side of a rectangular plate with a small dollop of chantilly cream next to it. On the right side of the plate sat a small mound of various fruits in a bowl. Finally, beside this was a shot glass filled to the brim with rum. Using a spoon, I scooped some of the fruit onto the Baba and slowly poured the rum over it, stopping intermittently to allow for ‘soak time’. It looked exquisite, although chantilly cream is definitely not my thing.
Young blue eyes is back and quickly notices my platter. He comes to an abrupt standstill at my side. His sight line barely table height, he babbles something undecipherable and just looks at me, then to the fruits. It seems we are finally speaking the same language. I pick up a strawberry from the Baba and hold it up to show his watchful mother from across the tables. I then motion to give it to him and she nods, smilingly. His little hand takes the strawberry and he steps away but then appears to remember his toy car. He turns to pick up the car with his free hand and goes back to mummy. I continued to eat the fruit using my own hands until they were so sticky I needed to rummage through my backpack for wet wipes – a travellers’ essential item. I resume with the spoon provided for grown-ups.
As I was savoring the heavenly mix of sugar and alcohol, a panicked realization flashed through my mind … I had just given a child alcohol, albeit a strawberry soaked in rum. And, as if in synch with my thoughts, at that very moment I heard a little commotion from my little man’s direction. Looking across the courtyard, I could see mummy had picked him up and appeared to be coming towards me, expressionless – she was holding him up and away from her person, her arms outstretched. We didn’t make eye contact as she walked past me. In an instant, I understood. She was actually taking him to the bathroom which was located through the doorway behind me. He had over-pooped in his diaper. If the aroma emanating from his little bottom as he wafted past was not enough to convince me then the sight of the offensive nappy was a sure giveaway. I looked at the wet wipes on the table and wondered if I should offer them. It was the least I could do. I was so sure that the sharing of my rum-drenched strawberry stimulated his sudden bowel movement, I was overcome with guilt. Coincidence? I eventually convinced myself that it was a combination of fruit and running around that would’ve prompted his messy bathroom stop. Toddlers and drunk fruit obviously do not mix.
Baba au Rhum avec fruits became my new favourite dessert that day. Well, maybe in the top 5. Crème brulee is still up there, somewhere.
© madame fishflower® 2018