Food, Travel

Eating and Drinking Marseille

This is a photo collection and summary of the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin’s dining adventures in Marseille. They received no recompense in any form whatsoever for what they are about to write. It’s all in the name of information sharing, to help other travellers make better choices. So, one of the main reasons why Marseille was so exciting, despite the terrible weather, was because as a grande ville, the dining options were far more varied and interesting than the handful of eateries in Metz.

Here, one could find food that was not-French-cuisine. Here, breakfast needn’t necessarily be croissants and orange juice. As the duo had explored Marseille’s markets in a previous trip, their food focus this time round was mainly on restaurants. (That said, they did quickly wander through Noailles to buy nuts, spices, teas, herbs and olives to carry back to Metz.) The first restaurant they dined in was L’Ecailler, one of the several restaurants on Rue Saint-Saëns that offered a 15€ menu of entrée, plat, dessert.

It’s one of those restaurants where there’s a server permanently parked at the door hustling people to come in, but service inside can be painfully slow. The place was packed to the brim though, so the duo will acknowledge that. GodzillaPin was embarrassed at the end of the meal when the waiter told him their card machine was not working and he had to go hunt down an ATM to withdraw some cash. The food was OK but the overall experience wasn’t great, so there will be no repeat visits to this place.

Dinner that night was at a chic establishment called Les Akolytes. Right on the corner of Rue Papety and Rue des Catalans, it has an air of recent refurbishment. This was the meal before the marathon, and when GodzillaPin told the Ninja Turtle that it was a tapas-style dinner, she worried for a while that she wouldn’t have enough to eat.

Menu board at Les Akolytes. Each person chose two or three dishes, but they were all for sharing.

Menu board at Les Akolytes. Each person chose two or three dishes, but they were all for sharing. Everything looked so darn delicious!

The Ninja Turtle’s fears were unfounded. The portions were generous and hey, in France, one could always fill up on bread. Carb-loading, right?

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In retrospect, this was by far hands down the winning meal of the whole trip. The ambiance in the restaurant made it perfect for romantic dinners, gatherings or special occasions, and the food was superb. The waiting time was a bit long, but it was a one-man-show in the kitchen and totally worth the wait. Definitely going back the next time they return to Marseille.

Post-marathon, the Ninja Turtle filled up on plenty of raisins, bananas, and oranges, so it wasn’t until 3pm that the duo went out hunting for lunch. On a Sunday, that doesn’t bide well. At all. Most restaurants stop service at 2.30pm. In the end, it was back to Rue Saint-Saëns, but this time, they really couldn’t stomach another tourist-trap meal, so it was back to the trusty old standby:

Hey, after running 26.2 miles, one is entitled to eat anything one desires. There is nothing wrong with a humble lamb kebab.

Hey, after running 26.2 miles, one is entitled to eat anything one desires. There is nothing wrong with a humble lamb kebab.

Later that evening, it was a long and windy uphill hike from their hotel to dinner. The restaurant was called Adonis du Liban, and while the service was slightly awkward, the food kept on coming. They started with a Lebanese soup of lentils and freekeh (not pictured because it looked horrendous but tasted not too bad), and proceeded to the following:

Also ordered a half-bottle of rosé wine to celebrate.

Also ordered a half-bottle of rosé wine to celebrate.

They almost had to beg for mercy when the shish taouk served with a Lebanese rice pilaf showed up at the table. That said, it was a really delicious meal and worth the effort of getting to the restaurant. Various online reviews also claim that it’s super authentic as far as Lebanese cuisine goes. The duo aren’t experts in Lebanese food, but they’d happily recommend this place.

Of course, there’s always room for dessert, and as the couple walked along Vieux Port, one of the various ice cream parlours caught their eye.

OK fine, Italian gelati. They chose amarena (cherry), tiramisu, marron glacé (glazed chestnut) and nocciola (hazelnut).

Fine it’s not ice cream, it’s Italian gelati. They chose amarena (cherry), tiramisu, marron glacé (glazed chestnut) and nocciola (hazelnut).

Monday lunch was at a little dining place called SO… Marseille on the other side of the port. In fact, the duo have eaten at this place two years ago, on their first visit to Marseille. It wasn’t intentional, they’d just forgotten they’d been here before, which was strange because the Ninja Turtle had happy memories flooding back as soon as she sat down.

Lunch was called a tasting platter of 8 tapas, but it was really more like a giant super-loaded salad drenched in lots of olive oil.

Lunch was called a tasting platter of 8 tapas, but it was really more like a giant super-loaded salad drenched in lots of olive oil.

Can you feel the sunshine on your skin and smell the Mediterranean just by looking at this food? It tasted of holidays.

Can you feel the sunshine on your skin and smell the Mediterranean just by looking at this food? It tasted of holidays.

Some may consider this a bit touristy, but the duo didn’t mind. The food was exactly what they came to south of France for, and the service was simply marvellous. The waitress was super-friendly and helpful, plus dessert was amazing:

Tiramisu and a macaron au chocolat with raspberry coulis.

Tiramisu and a macaron au chocolat with raspberry coulis.

One can probably make a pretty accurate guess at the tourism statistics of Marseille simply by looking at the number of British pubs that line Vieux Port. O’Malleys, The Queen Victoria, The Shamrock Irish Pub… you get the idea. It looks like the local Marseillais(es) have no problems assimilating the drinking culture into their own lifestyle though.

A beer pong tournament every Tuesday. Winners are entitled to an open bar.

A beer pong tournament every Tuesday. Winners are entitled to an open bar.

The final meal in Marseille on Monday night was at Le Grand Baie. Being completely unfamiliar with Mauritius cuisine, the duo didn’t quite know what to expect. Turns out, the little cosmopolitan island is quite the melting pot of cultures, and this blend of Creole, Indian, Chinese and European flavours is reflected in its culinary offerings.

Don't remember the names of these, but they were very much like Chinese shiu mai, Indian samosa, Portugese filetes de peixe and something incredibly crunchy but unidentifiable.

Don’t remember the names of these, but they were very much like Chinese shiu mai, Indian samosa, Portugese filetes de peixe and something incredibly crunchy but unidentifiable.

The owner was a really friendly man who was hell-bent on re-creating Mauritius for his diners. It was lashing with wind and rain outside, but inside, he cranked the heating right up, and served the alcoholic beverages with a very liberal hand. The aperitifs at 4€ were comparable in price to most other restaurants, but here, Daniel served up DOUBLE the quantity.

The Ninja Turtle went with a gambas curry for her main course, and was delighted with the size of the crustaceans in her dish.

The Ninja Turtle went with a gambas curry for her main course, and was delighted with the size of the crustaceans in her dish.

While GodzillaPin went with a fish curry that was salty, spicy and citrusy all at once.

While GodzillaPin went with a fish curry that was salty, spicy and citrusy all at once.

The curries were served with kidney beans, rice and a token dish of vegetables.

For dessert, a flambéed banana split with coconut ice cream, and of course, flambéed with generous slugs of rum.

For dessert, a banana split with coconut ice cream chantilly cream, and of course,  generous slugs of rum.

They could hardly finish their meal, there was just so much food. Although it was not as impressive as the food at Les Akolytes, the duo found this meal to be the best dining experience, between the friendliness and generosity of the owner, and the novelty of trying a completely new cuisine.

And there you have it, the round up on the duo’s eating adventures in Marseille, and a couple of recommendations based on their favourite experiences.

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Travel

Merry Christmas!

To all our readers and followers, thank you very much for all the support you’ve shown by reading and liking our silly little posts on The  of our L’Art de Vivre. The Ninja Turtle and Mother Turtle (as a proxy for GodzillaPin this year) wish you all a very Merry Christmas with family and friends, filled with peace and joy, love and laughter, and many happy memories.

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Arts and Culture, Travel

Scenes from the Southern Ridges

This weekend, the Ninja Turtle got to mix more family and fitness time, with a walk along the Southern Ridges trail with her relatives. The Southern Ridges trail consists of several sections, and is one of the more popular running routes in Singapore.

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Some of the interesting sights captured on the walk included:

The hothouse nursery at Hort Park. Shhhh.... baby plants resting!

The hothouse nursery at Hort Park. Shhhh…. baby plants resting!

Students from local schools contributing to the national body of public art

Students from local schools contributing to the national body of public art.

Beautiful garden-scaping and resting areas through Hort Park

Beautiful garden-scaping and resting areas through Hort Park.

Cousin of the Ninja Turtle, the Power Ranger explores the vegetable gardens.

Cousin of the Ninja Turtle, the Power Ranger explores the vegetable gardens.

Singa the Lion, a childhood memory for the Ninja Turtle from Singapore's National Courtesy Campaign. He used to teach us how to give up seats on the trains to pregnant women, etc etc.

Singa the Lion, a childhood memory for the Ninja Turtle from Singapore’s National Courtesy Campaign. Thanks to him, an entire generation of Singaporeans learnt how to give up seats on the trains to pregnant women, the elderly, etc etc.

Along the trail, you might encounter exotic fauna. No fear - here is your friendly PSA action plan In Case of Monkeys.

Along the trail, you might encounter exotic fauna. No fear – here is your friendly PSA action plan In Case of Monkeys.

A black-and-white house (that's what they are really called), a 19th century remnant from Singapore's colonial past. These government properties can be leased in 2-year blocks (POA).

A black-and-white house (that’s what they are really called), a 19th century remnant from Singapore’s colonial past. These government properties can be leased in 2-year blocks (POA).

Reflections at Keppel Bay, one of the several architectural peculiarities that have popped up on the island in the last several years.

Reflections at Keppel Bay, one of the several architectural peculiarities that have popped up on the island in the last several years.

Finishing the walk at a cafe, where milkshakes and a bite were very much welcome

Finishing the walk at a cafe, where milkshakes and a bite were very much welcome.

Sans doute, in a year or two, the Power Ranger is going to outgrow the Ninja Turtle *sob*

Sans doute, in a year or two, the Power Ranger is going to outgrow the Ninja Turtle *sob*

GodzillaPin, this one's for you.

GodzillaPin, this one’s for you.

After completing the longest walk in her life thus far, the Power Ranger has earned her rights to ring the Bell of Happiness.

After completing the longest walk in her life thus far, the Power Ranger has earned her rights to ring the Bell of Happiness.

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Food, Running

The Importance of Proper Nutrition

This is not a post on pre-party dieting. Sorry. It won’t help you drop 5lbs, fit into that LBD, or score you that kiss on 25th Dec. It will, however, hopefully shift the way you think just a little bit, so you don’t find yourself frantically scribbling a list of New Year’s Resolution on 31st Dec at the stroke of midnight, with LOSE WEIGHT as the #1 priority of 2015.

In the week leading up to Christmas, there is a chance that now, more than ever, you are ever surrounded by a surfeit of food. Some of it, like I’ll-only-eat-log-cake-at-Christmas-so-get-out-of-my-way, or when-else-will-I-drink-mulled-wine?, you’ll actually want to indulge in. In that case, go ahead, live a little!

However, it’s probably highly likely that for the rest of the time, you don’t want to (really, glazed ham and the works for the 8th time in two months?). In these situations, it helps to pause and reflect on why you are eating something you’re not actually interested in.

Is it because someone offered it to you? Politely say no to food-pushers.

Is it because you’re tired? Understand that a sugar hit may help you through a little slump, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get some rest.

Is it because it’s time for a meal? You ought to be hungry at mealtimes – if you’re not, have you been snacking between meals? Learn to live with a little bit of hunger, it’s a sensation that will not kill you, no matter how mildly unpleasant.

Is it because the food is just there? Move it out of sight; if you have to stand up, walk into another room, climb onto a chair and reach into the back of the shelf to get at it, you’ll probably lose interest.

Is it because the food is free? Don’t feel obliged to taste every sample, or bring home leftovers from every single party. Keeping all this extra food around is only going to encourage overeating.

Also a word on sports and nutrition. Some people seem to believe that runners have a license to eat whatever they want. You know how the saying goes: garbage in, garbage out. “You only get out what you put in” applies to all aspects of training – the running, the nutrition, and the recovery. Like a three-legged stool, if one of them is shorter than it ought to be, you’re going to be looking at wobbly performances.

The Ninja Turtle is saying this because she’s had the pleasure of meeting up frequently with old friends and family recently. Unsurprisingly, most of the socialising revolves around food. A lot of well-meaning comments have been made about food and sports. Some of it is sound, some others, slightly misguided. Back when she was younger, more sensitive and a people-pleaser, she’d freak out and just eat to keep others happy, while feeling miserable on the inside.

Today, she’s older, wiser, and knows her body well enough to say “those nachos, salsa, sour cream and guacamole look delicious but when I run tomorrow, it’s going to make me wheeze”. People use food as an expression of love. They will understand if you simply and politely explain that it is in your best interest to avoid certain things.

That said, proper nutrition is of utmost importance. This post isn’t about going on a last-ditch pre-party diet. This post is about feeding yourself well, especially if you have commenced your training cycle for the spring racing season. Undereating can hurt as much as overeating – injuries, fatigue, compromised performances…

No one is talking about deprivation and self-loathing, we’re talking about nourishing and self-loving.

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Healthy eating is not only completely do-able, it is also enjoyable. So this festive season, change the mindset and switch off the guilt. Put down those retarded magazines touting detoxes, diets and deprivation. By simply choosing to look at each meal as a chance to treat your body with TLC, you have nothing to be afraid of. Eat, drink, and above all, enjoy the company!

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Food, Travel

A Visit to the Black Forest

What comes to mind when someone mentions Black Forest? Is it the cake? Is it the clocks? Is it the ham?

Is it the bobble hats worn as a traditional costume in the area?

Is it the bobble hats worn as a traditional costume in the area?

GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle found themselves in the Black Forest this weekend, while popping across the border for a visit to a friend from their Australia days, Batman.

In they hopped into the Batmobile and off they went into the Black Forest.

In they hopped into the Batmobile and off they went into the Black Forest.

Once upon a time, the Black Forest was such a forbidding place that even the Romans were scared of it. Fortunately, centuries have passed, much have developed, and today, it’s a family-friendly, tourist destination with 0% chances of being eaten by a wolf.

First stop: the Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof (Black Forest Open Air Museum)

First stop: the Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof (Black Forest Open Air Museum)

This open air museum is quite unlike anything they’ve ever seen on their travels. It’s a collection of houses or farm house buildings typical to the Black Forest area, built from various points in history. The buildings in the Black Forest, as evident in the photo, are 80% roof. They are built of wood and straw, and in many of them, the ceilings are very low and they lacked a chimney. This was mostly for heat conservation, as it gets very cold, and there weren’t gas heaters back then.

GodzillaPin having fun in the children's room.

GodzillaPin having fun in the children’s room.

The open air museum also had a collection of animals, herb and vegetable gardens and watermills to show how people lived in the past.

The open air museum also had a collection of animals, herb and vegetable gardens and watermills to show how people lived in the past.

After a quick lunch, it was off to the next stop: Sommerrodelbahn Gutach!

Batman and GodzillaPin gearing up

Batman and GodzillaPin gearing up

It costs 2,50 euros a ride, and the queues weren't too long, but they skipped the multiple ride pass, since they didn't want to throw up their recent lunch.

It costs 2,50 euros a ride, and the queues weren’t too long, but they skipped the multiple ride pass, since they didn’t want to throw up their recent lunch.

This is the world's biggest cuckoo clock. The whole darn building is a clock.

This is the world’s biggest cuckoo clock. The whole darn building is a clock.

And finally, the highlight of the day: Triberger Waterfall.

And finally, the highlight of the day: Triberger Waterfall.

With three different walking trails (varying lengths and level of difficulty), this attraction became popular in the latish 1800s when the rich and famous (Ernest Hemingway being one of them) came flocking here for some R&R. Doctors, take note, there is no better cure than fresh air and exercise.

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Finally, a Black Forest dinner before they headed back into the city for some Saturday night clubbing (but that’s another story, and one that the Ninja Turtle doesn’t particularly want to relate, considering the size of her headache this morning).

Meat, meat, meat, onion, meat, gherkin, meat. And cider.

Meat, meat, meat, onion, meat, gherkin, meat. And cider.

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Arts and Culture, Travel

Driving through Les Pyrénées

There are certain times in a relationship when one looks at the other all starry-eyed, thinking the world of their partner, who could clearly do no wrong. Yesterday was NOT one of those moments. In fact, yesterday was three-point-five-plus-two hours of headbanging why-am-I-here-God? driving through the Pyrenees.

The fact that GodzillaPin’s car comes fully pimped out with a built-in GPS is no barrier to GodzillaPin’s insistence on getting lost. The GPS calculated x hours for y kilometres to destination, and most people would just leave it be. Not GodzillaPin, no. Heaven forbid he doesn’t outsmart this piece of technology.

GodzillaPin: It’s gonna take us about 2 hours to get there.
Turtle: That’s OK, we better hurry then, it’s already past noon.
GodzillaPin: What if I take out the highway?
(fiddles with GPS while driving)
GodzillaPin: Hey it takes 10mins less if we take the small roads!

So off they merrily went, oblivious to what "small roads" meant in this area of the country

So off they merrily went, oblivious to what “small roads” meant in this area of the country

Occasionally, they'd come across a peculiar detail in the landscape

Occasionally, they’d come across a peculiar detail in the landscape

Marvel the signs written in both French and the Basque language (Euskara)

Marvel the signs written in both French and the Basque language (Euskara)

But it was mostly winding roads, less-than-gentle slopes...

But it was mostly winding roads, less-than-gentle slopes…

And breathtaking views

And breathtaking views

After about 45 minutes, they approached a village with signs saying the road ahead was closed, and a deviation was offered. Nobody said a word, and in retrospect, the Ninja Turtle realised that her brain did do a short-circuit at that moment when GodzillaPin decided to continue merrily as the GPS indicated. As if the roadblock would magically evaporate upon their arrival or something. Unsurprisingly, they came upon the roadblock 7km later.

GodzillaPin: Shit. The road’s closed.
Turtle: Yeah, there were a couple of signs two villages ago saying so.
GodzillaPin: What do you think we should do?
Turtle: (sighs) My honest opinion? Just head back and take the deviation.

GodzillaPin proceeds to coolly ignore this piece of advice, and did what he does best – pretend he was mastering the situation.

Turtle: Where are you going?
GodzillaPin: I think if I take this road, it’ll hopefully bring me somewhere on the other side of the roadblock. I hope it won’t make us drive around a mountain though.
Turtle: You don’t know where you’re going. This looks like private property. We should go back.
GodzillaPin: No no, let me see.

They roll on in awkward silence.

Turtle: I really think we should turn back.
GodzillaPin: Just let me see… (continues to drive without a clue, while fiddling with the GPS, that kept instructing to do a U-turn)
Turtle: The GPS says to go back.
GodzillaPin: Babe, I’ve already gone 3km, I can’t go back now.
Turtle: You’re going to ruin your tyres on this gravel… Watch out! Don’t hit those chickens!

At some stage, GodzillaPin decided to cut his losses and head back. The Ninja Turtle may or may not have gloated about being right yet again. Then, on that already-too-narrow gravel path, a giant tractor comes rolling towards them…

The tractor driver stared suspiciously at GodzillaPin. No doubt they don’t get many visitors in the area. GodzillaPin said good day, and informed the tractor driver of the road block. She replied slowly “yes…” GodzillaPin explained that he was trying to find a way around it, and a look of incredulity clouded the tractor driver’s face. A look that said something like “no one takes shortcuts through my backyard, mate”. Instead, she replied “you’ve got to take the deviation.”

So that was 45 minutes lost, as once again, GodzillaPin versus GPS yielded an unsurprising outcome. They managed to get to their destination in one piece, however, so that’s all that matters. The only thing to note about driving through the Pyrenees is to expect the unexpected. The drive back took longer than expected too, mostly because:

It's only normal rush hour traffic, no?

It’s only normal rush hour traffic, no?

And then of course, if your driver decides to jump out the car to start chasing around the sheep on the hillside, what can the passengers do but wait?

And then of course, if your driver decides to jump out the car to start chasing around the sheep on the hillside, what can the passengers do but wait?

There, he caught his sheep. Now they could continue driving.

There, he caught his sheep. Now they could continue driving.

But wait! There's more! You won't believe where we found this Bessy...

But wait! There’s more! You won’t believe where we found this Bessy…

At 1060m above sea level. Having her dinner. It's actually a pretty good argument against vegetarianism, since a lot of the land would be hard to cultivate crops on. Plus, free-range grass-fed cattle that went hiking? It's quite a happy life for these animals.

At 1060m above sea level. Having her dinner. It’s actually a pretty good argument against vegetarianism, since a lot of the land would be hard to cultivate crops on. Plus, free-range grass-fed cattle that went hiking? It’s quite a happy life for these animals.

The final traffic jam

The final traffic jam

With one straggler overtaken, as it was too busy enjoying the grass and got left behind

With one straggler overtaken, as it was too busy enjoying the grass and got left behind

So that was the adventure of getting lost in the Pyrenees...

So that was the adventure of getting lost in the Pyrenees…

If good for nothing else, at least it brought to our readers this crazy story, and all these photos.

If good for nothing else, at least it brought to our readers this crazy story, and all these photos.

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