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Marseille

Bourdain’s Field Notes

MARSEILLE, October 2015—I don’t know if I learned anything while running around Marseille with my good friend, chef Eric Ripert. I knew already that I liked cheese. As it was the south of France we were shooting in, I had reasonable expectations that things would not suck.

Eric, though, definitely learned something. He learned that Marseille, France’s second-largest city, is awesome. He didn’t know this because he had never been there before, which is kind of incredible given that he grew up only a HUNDRED MILES AWAY in Antibes.

Why would that be? How could that be?

A fair number of French people will tell you in unguarded moments that “Marseille is not France,” and what they mean by that is that it’s too Arab, too Italian, too Corsican, too mixed up with foreignness to be truly and adequately French.

But anybody who knows me knows that’s exactly the kind of mixed-up gene pool I like to swim in and eat in. It is a glorious stew of a city, smelling of Middle Eastern spices, garlic, saffron, and the sea.

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“It is a glorious stew of a city, smelling of Middle Eastern spices, garlic, saffron, and the sea.”

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