When my French cousin's we had met whilst in Calabria heard we we would be travelling through the south of France they insisted that we come down to visit them in their home town of Martigues. This was an offer I could not refuse. I was beyond thrilled to be able to be given another opportunity to share some family time and get to know my family roots further.
Along the coast, Martigue is a fantastic spot just a short drive out from Frances second largest city Marseille. The town centre is often referred to as the Venice of Provence with charming water canals all meeting up into one larger pool. The town is split up into three sections by each of the channels. It was so lovely to walk around a city and be greeted by countless French locals all of which were neighbours and friends of my family. Everybody knew everybody which gave it that special touch. Walking up to a basilica out on a high point gave spectacular panorama views that stretched out over the city and the ocean. It was a great way to see the way the canals all worked and corresponded with the flow of the ocean, and a great way to have a true feel for the city.
I love French living. The way their houses, streets and cars are all very practical in size making it economical. Nothing is over the top and unnecessary its all so simple which makes it so effective. When it came to food it was just as simple and honest. Giuseppe's wife Natalie was a fantastic cook using fresh ingredients picked straight from the tree's and vines in there backyard. There was always fresh bouquets and cheeses just thrown out on the table for everyone to just grab off as they felt necessary. The wine was always rose from a local producer and always kept endlessly flowing, which suited me fine. My cousin Mirella was also a sensational cook and made lunch time at my Nonna's house back home look like nothing more then a simple snack. Every cheese, dip and bread ever imaginable, fresh seafood, a traditional french rice and pastry dish, cupcakes, champagne peach cocktails and of course wine. By the end of the day I thought I was going to pass out on the table and explode everywhere. It was truly si magnifique.
One of the most important things for me in Martigues was having the opportunity to meet my Nonna's oldest brother Domenico and his children. James and I were both invited to there house for lunch. Like Vincenzo Domenico could not speak a word of English. After a week of being with Vincenzo in Italy a simple lunch with a language barrier would be a piece of cake. The family all roared laughing explaining to us that even if you speak French it is impossible to understand Domenico. They weren't joking, lunch was a circus. As we were somehow involved in an abrupt 'French' conversation which was just a lot of shouting and body movements. Endless amounts of food were shoved down our throats as Zia (Aunty) Maria would never want us to go home and tell my Nonna we left their house hungry. Every moment our glass was less then 2/3 full it was immediately topped up with Pastis which was a French liquor that makes Ouzo look like child's play. For an Italian French man Domenico certainly 'knew' how to how to pick his wine. We were told the type and the label of wine is completely irrelevant the only thing that matters when choosing a wine is the percentage of alcohol, anything under 13% is a horrible wine. It was the craziest lunch I have ever been apart of and I loved every second of it. It was so special for me to be welcomed in and have the opportunity to meet more of my Nonna's side of the family.
My cousin Giuseppe is a brilliant host. He has a fantastic knowledge and love for his country and wanted to show us as much of the provincial side of France as he possibly could. He took us out for a drive through the country side to the Pont Du Gard where an old Aqua Duct from the Roman times still stood. I learnt so much about the complex architecture behind this ancient water system and I got to enjoy listening to Giuseppe and James talk for hours about the engineering and the dynamics behind it all which I found really insightful. The Aqua Duct utilised the same thoughts I had in Rome, that so much Roman knowledge has been lost through out the times. The system behind it all was so incredible, inspired by everything we had just seen and learnt we decided to jump in the car and follow the same line of path of the Aqua Duct system all the way to the Roman city of Nimes where the water travelled all that way many years ago. Nimes is an enchanting old city filled with many ancient ruins including there very own Arena, a smaller version of Rome's Colosseum. It was the perfect end to the days adventure summing up our day of ancient water systems nicely.
I couldn't have asked for a better way to end our time in Southern France then with my family sitting out on the patio in the warm French night air drinking to much wine as per usual and over eating delectable pastries. Although we were all unsure when we would all be together again and which country it might be in we never said goodbye.
Until next time.
The Wanderer's Daughter xx