Day 6: Marseille, France

Day 6 – Marseille, France

The third port of call on our Western Mediterranean Cruise was Marseille, France. Marseille is one of France’s main ship ports with its huge cruise terminal. From Marseille, one can take a day trip out to Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, or Avignon. If you’re in Marseille in the month of July, be sure to make the trip out to see the lavender fields.

Since we only had a few hours in Marseille, we decided to stay local and DIY the day. Our day started off with a taxi from the cruise terminal straight to Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica. The Basilica was built on the foundations of an ancient fort that stands at the highest point in Marseille.  it’s definitely a good idea to take a car up. The walk is no joke!

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If you climb all the way to the upper church (there’s an elevator as well), it offers a gorgeous view of Marseille and the Mediterranean.

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We walked our way down from the Basilica to the Vieux Port, or the former port before the new port was built. The walk was very pleasant and we got to see the winding pathways and side streets of Marseille.

The highlight of the Old Port is their Ferris wheel! At 7€ per person, it’s a bit pricey, but the view is quite nice.

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Our late lunch was at Les Halles de la Major, a covered gastronomic food market located in the vaults of Marseille’s La Major Cathedral, which has been remodeled to a retail area. There are a bunch of food options inside the market and the best part? Your food gets brought to your table after you order! My sister opted for a juicy, rotisserie chicken. I had a gorgeous burger while my mom went tapas style and had a bunch of pickled and cured veggies.

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Be sure to stop by L’Esperantine de Marsille, a boutique chocolatier nearby Les Halles that is famous for their olive oil green chocolate. Look at this gorgeous chocolate!  

Day 5: Cannes, France

Day 5: Cannes, France

The second port of our Western Mediterranean cruise stopped at Cannes, France. Because the dock in Cannes is too small to accommodate large cruise ships, we had to tender to the port. Basically this means that the cruise ship will stop within a 5-10 minute boat ride away from the dock and use its life boats to ferry passengers to shore.

Since we weren’t really interested in a day trip to Nice or Monaco, we opted to stay in Cannes and explore the town on our own. A 3 hour walking tour with the cruise ship would’ve $55 per person, so we decided to DIY it!

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Cannes was one a small fishing village, but is now a glamorous and expensive seaside town that’s considered one of the social hubs of Europe. It’s the host to the International Film Festival as well as a popular vacationing spot for celebrities.

Our first stop on shore was the Marche Forville market, a covered food market that’s open daily from 7:30am to 1:00pm. It’s a great spot to shop for fresh produce as well as food souvenirs. We had some delicious baby bananas and mini strawberries and picked up some homemade olive paste to take home.

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After snacking at the market, we headed through the Le Suquet (Old Town) area and up to Notre Dame d’Esperance, which is located at the top of Suquet Hill. The walk up is filled with stairs, so definitely pace yourself!

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Right next to the church is the Musée de la Castre, or Castre Museum. The museum is located in the ruins of an old medieval castle that belong to the monks of Lérins. It now hosts collections belong to the city of Cannes with primitive arts from the Himalayas, Tibet, the Artic, pre-Columbian America, Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean. The museum has a medieval tower that offers a 360 degree view – if you want to climb 109 steps! In my humble opinion, it really is worth it, even for those of us who don’t like heights!

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The Old Town offers excellent souvenir shopping opportunities as well as restaurant options. We walked around for a few hours before stopping for a very late lunch at Café Bohéme, located close to the water. They’re one of the restaurants that continue serving throughout the day, as some restaurants in Cannes stop lunch service around 2pm. Their lunch special is to die for! An appetizer + entrée is about 18€, which is a steal when you see how big the portion sizes are. None of us finished our meals! I had a very delicious smoked salmon appetizer, followed by the fish of the day with a plate full of steamed sides.

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Dessert was at Amorino, because we just had to see if there was a difference between Europe and NYC. The end result? They are definitely more precise about the flower-crafting, which resulted in a prettier flower. Maybe it’s just me – or maybe it’s just because I’m in Europe, but it definitely tasted better too!

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Stay tuned for our next day!

La Sirene

La Sirene is another one of those long-time bookmarked restaurants on my list. It’s affordable, in an easily accessible location, and is BYOB (with a corkage fee). When my coworker suggested Restaurant Week Lunch at La Sirene, I quickly hopped on OpenTable to reserve us a spot.

When we arrived at 12:30PM for our reservation, the restaurant was packed. Almost all the tables were full. We were seated in a table-for-two and given menus to look over. We took this time to sneakily look at our neighbor’s dishes to help us make our final decisions – we’re both visual eaters.

Since it was so cold outside and neither of the salads looked appealing (too cold to eat something cold!), we both opted for the French Onion Soup with roasted bread with Swiss au gratin. It’s a different take on your typical French onion soup since the cheese was on the bread instead of the soup. The soup itself was excellent and tasted great soaked up with the bread. I just wish there was more cheese!

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I opted for the Gnocchis A la Parisienne, or gnocchi in a truffle white sauce with Swiss au gratin. It’s basically a French mac and cheese with Swiss cheese and truffle sauce. When the dish was served, it was still bubbling – so definitely be careful! It’s super hot! The gnocchi was really good – they were soft and pillowy. It really hit the spot on such a cold day.

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My coworker had the Steak Tartare, which they grind themselves in-house. I had a few bites of it and enjoyed it. It was perfectly spiced and flavored. Highly recommended if you’re in the mood for a good steak tartare!

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For dessert, La Sirene served up a mini selection of their house desserts – Banana Brulee, Choux Chantilly, and sherbet of the day. My favorite of the bunch was the Choux Chantilly, which was a light choux puff pastry with whipped cream. The puff pastry was soft with a bit of a crunch and the whipped cream was light and airy. The Banana Brulee was interesting take on a classic crème brulee, using banana pudding instead.

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Service was hectic, to say the least. There were two waiters in my section and they seemed a bit frazzled. I don’t know if they numbered the tables wrong or what, but the table next to us got all three-courses wrong. Several other tables also received late or wrong orders – we almost got two rounds of dessert! Perhaps we had just caught them on an off day? Regardless, the food was solid and I’d definitely come back if I’m in the mood for some delicious French.

Manila Social Club

I was a huge fan of Miller’s, so when I found out that they’ve been replaced by a new Filipino-French restaurant, I knew I had to try them out. Manila Social Club, located on the corner of Hope Street in Williamsburg, serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11am – 4pm. We arrived right in the middle of brunch time and wait about 15 minutes before we snagged two seats by the bar.

The menu is small, but varied and they’re currently only serving coffee and mocktails. The mocktails all sounded super delicious, but as we were catching a movie right after, I didn’t want to drink too much! Once you order, they bring over complimentary biscuits with ube spread. The ube spread was so good! It was sweet and buttery and spread so evenly on my biscuit. I’m not usually a fan of biscuits, but I gobbled them right up.

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We started with an order of the Lumpia Shanghai ($8.00) to share. Lumpia is sort of a Filipino egg roll of an assortment of goodies wrapped inside. These came with longaniza, or a type of Spanish sausage similar to chorizo. The lumpia were perfectly bite-sized and tasted amazing with the dipping sauces.

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We also ordered a side of Spam Fries ($7.00) to nibble on while we waited for our appetizers. I’m convinced these “fries” aren’t made with real Spam because it wasn’t overly salty or had the processed texture known to Spam. Regardless, they were very tasty – not too salty at all.

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For my entrée, I had the Mango Soufflé Pancakes ($14.00) with Ube Ice Cream. They offer this dish with syrup, but you don’t even really need it because the ube ice cream is more than enough. The pancakes are very moist and soft – when smeared with the cold ube ice cream, it almost melts in your mouth. I really like how there are little mango chunks in the pancake.

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The Boyfriend had the Meat & Eggs ($14.00), which features garlic fried rice, pea shoot + radish salad, two eggs any style, and a meat of your choice. He picked the Longaniza, since it’s a bit harder to get that elsewhere. The longaniza had a hint of spice, but wasn’t overpowering. It paired very well with the garlic rice. The Boyfriend was already full from our appetizers but he finished his entire dish!

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I think there was a mix up with the orders and our entrée orders didn’t get processed until much later in our time at the restaurant. The manager comp-ed our appetizers since we waited 20-30 minutes for our entrées. They didn’t have to, but it was a really nice gesture and showed how well-versed they are in customer service. I really appreciated that they proactively did that without any further prompting from us besides a casual inquiry on our food. I highly recommend Manila Social Club – be sure to try anything with Ube!

Christmas Eve Dinner

Finding a restaurant to have Christmas Eve dinner is no small feat – especially if you don’t want to be locked into paying an exorbitant amount in mandatory prix fixes.  Sometimes it takes extensive Yelp searches, multiple phone calls, and numerous dead-ends until you find the right place. Don’t know where to begin? Try out this list of my tried and true holiday dinner spots!

If you’re craving French, Le Midi, which offers a la carte dining on Christmas Eve, is perfect for you! The prices are very reasonable and its central Manhattan location will make it easy for everyone to just hop on the train. Service was attentive and if you’re lucky, you might even have the place to yourselves for the night! Their Entrecôte, which is a premium cut steak with string beans, maître d’hôtel butter & potatoes au gratin, is to die for!

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If you’re craving Italian, try any of these two Altamarea restaurants – both located in Soho. If you’re looking for more rustic Italian, try Osteria Morini. The restaurant has a great homey feel to it and the prices are super reasonable. Osteria Morini is offering their a la carte menu as well as some special Feast of the Seven Fish specials. Definitely try their Cappelletti, which feature tiny truffle-ricotta raviolis in a melted butter sauce with prosciutto.  The ricotta ravioli were soft and pillowy and paired so well with the light butter sauce.

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For a more modern feel, take a walk down the main streets of Soho to Costata, which is part steakhouse and part pasta lover’s paradise. If you’re more of a pasta person than a steak person, try their Garganelli with alla fiamma, speck, radicchio and truffle cream.  This dish is super light and fragrant – not heavy at all. The speck and truffle cream work together so well.

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For larger parties, San Marino is my go-to spot for holiday dinner. Party of 8? No problem. Party of 12? Even better! And the best part? They allow reservations for parties of 12 on OpenTable! They offer their a la carte menu with no special price hikes during the holiday season. Most of the time, since it’s inside a hotel, you get the private room to yourself. We love coming here for our annual holiday dinners. Service is impeccable and attentive and the prices are reasonable. My favorite dish? Their pink sauce ravioli!

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And last, but not least, Rafele is a great option for larger parties. For parties of 10 or larger, you will have to commit to a family-style prix fixe but the prices are super reasonable. A prix fixe of 3 appetizer choices, 2 pastas, 2 entrees, 2 sides, and 3 desserts is just $55 per person. I think it’s a steal!

Hurry up and make your Christmas Eve dinner reservations today! And be sure to use OpenTable for those points!

Buvette

I was looking for a new breakfast spot to try out when I stumbled on Buvette, located in the West Village. Buvette is a quaint little French restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s pretty hard to find if you’re not familiar with the West Village – both the Boyfriend and I actually went the wrong way twice!

We arrived around 11:15am and the Boyfriend ordered lunch while I ordered breakfast.  I like that they offer the breakfast menu with the lunch menu so we can get both at the same time. I went with their most popular dish – Steamed Scrambled Eggs with Prosciutto ($12.00). They offer a smoked salmon option as well but I opted for the less traditional breakfast combo. The dish comes with the fluffiest eggs I have ever eaten and three slabs of bread drizzled with olive oil. The result is a build-your-own egg bruschetta dish that was pleasantly filling.

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The Boyfriend with with the Steak Tartare ($16.00), which features chopped beef with capers and cornichons. The steak tartare was also served with toast. The tartare was very good – fresh and seasoned perfectly. I’m used to the beef being chopped a little more finely than the one here but it was still pretty good. The Boyfriend quickly gobbled up all the tartare and was left full but not too much.

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The Boyfriend ordered an Americano with milk on the side while I ordered a Latte. Both were extremely good – the coffee was strong without being bitter. There’s seriously nothing better in the morning than a fresh cup of good coffee. The service was good – there was nothing amazing about it. The dishes did take a bit longer than usual to come – I’m chopping it up to the fact that their eggs are steamed and scrambled in an espresso pot. Overall, great dishes but a bit pricey for a normal breakfast.

Cantine Parisienne

The Boyfriend and I were looking for somewhere close to Chinatown to have a quick meal before heading up to 34th street to catch an afternoon movie. We were bouncing a few places back and forth until I remembered that I had a BlackBoard Eats deal for Cantine Parisienne, located in the Nolita/Little Italy area. We arrived around 2:00pm and was seated immediately.

I opted for the Croque Maison ($14.00) with a sunnyside up egg on top of the ham and caramelized cheese sandwich. It’s a classy French version of a grilled cheese so there was a lot of melty gooeyness involved. It comes with a side of mixed greens so it’s definitely a pretty big portion. I normally love Croque Monsieurs so the added egg was so delicious!

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The Boyfriend went with the Cantine Burger ($14.00), which is a blended patty burger topped with caramelized onions and mixed greens. I took a bite of the burger and it was super juicy. The table next to us even stopped mid-meal to stare at the burger! It comes with a side of fries which were crunchy and crispy. I’m not normally a hamburger fan (I prefer cheeseburgers) but this one was pretty good.

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We opted for their White Chocolate Mousse ($8.00) for dessert and it was the perfect end to a very savory meal. Since it was white chocolate, it tasted less sweet than regular milk chocolate, which the Boyfriend really liked. I thoroughly enjoyed the caramelized white chocolate “cookie” on the top of the mousse – so crunchy!

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Service was nice and attentive throughout the meal despite the fact that we had a deal. I love that about places! I’d definitely be back in the future – even without a deal.