Hiking the Calanques in Marseille

Earlier this year, I managed to snag really cheap return flight tickets to Marseille, France which only costed £19.98! Right after two of my most important and difficult examination papers in early May, I embarked on my first solo trip outside of the U.K. to Marseille – the second biggest city in France.

I enjoy outdoor activities and hiking, so when I read about the Parc National des Calanques, I knew I had to go there to see the beautiful coves and crystal-clear waters for myself. There are a number of calanques (map here) in the south of Marseille, but many are not accessible by public transport.

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Sugiton.

After doing some research, I decided to start my hike at Calanque de Sugiton, as it seemed the easiest to get to by public transport. I used Google Maps to plan my route – I took the Metro to Rond-Point du Prado, then bus 921 to Luminy. The journey took around 40 minutes in total! Luminy is a university town. There is a trail to Sugiton which starts from Luminy and the paths are well-marked.

The weather was incredibly sunny that day, so I hiked from Sugiton, to Morgiou, then to Sormiou. I ended the hike at Sormiou because I knew that there was public transport from Sormiou back to Marseille’s city centre. (But do take note that the nearest bus station is an hour of uphill hike from Sormiou.) It was one of the most beautiful hikes that I have done! The view is truly spectacular, with the steep cliffs and limestone valleys, and blue waters. When you visit Marseille, I would highly recommend that you take a short trip out of the bustling port city centre, and visit the beautiful calanques to see a different side of Marseille!

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Tips:

  • The hike from Luminy to Sugiton is rather manageable. The paths are well-marked and easy to walk on.
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Even doggo could handle the Luminy – Sugiton walk.

  • The hikes from Sugiton to Morgiou, and Morgiou to Sormiou are more challenging. The trails can be steep and rocky, so a certain level of fitness would be required. I personally would not recommend doing the complete Sugiton – Morgiou – Sormiou trail in one go because it was exhausting, even for me, especially when the weather got very hot. Covering all three calanques meant hiking down to sea level, then back up to the top three times. At some points, I had to scramble up and down 80 degree ascends and descends, which was fun!
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This steep and rocky wall was a part of the trail.

  • I hiked alone, but I would recommend hiking with a buddy. Some parts of the trail were completely deserted, perhaps because it was not peak season when I was there. The Sugiton to Morgiou and Morgiou to Sormiou trails are not as well-marked, some areas had edges with sharp drops and the wind can be very strong, so it’s always safer if you have someone else with you.
  • Bring lots of water and enough food.
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Eating my canelé at Sugiton.

  • Bring sun protection – hats, sunglasses, sunscreen. For some reason, I thought that it wouldn’t be that hot in early May, so I didn’t bring a hat or sunglasses, and barely had any sunscreen on. It was horribly foolish of me and I ended up being so sun burnt. There is barely any shade at all, especially when you reach the top of the trails. With the scorching sun shining down on me, I felt like I was in the middle of a dessert by the sea.
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No shade at the top.

  • Access to the calanques is restricted in summer due to the risk of fire, so do check before heading there.

With that being said, I am so happy that I was crazy enough to hike Sugiton – Morgiou – Sormiou alone. The breathtaking views made it all worth it and the adventure made this trip like no other. After all, as Hellen Keller said, ‘life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all’. (;

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Easy and manageable paths to Sugiton.

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Morgiou.

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Sormiou from afar. 

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Crystal clear waters.

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I’m already craving for another adventure.

Until next time, stay hungry and keep exploring!

My Favourite Food in Paris

I absolutely love French pastries. Every time I head to France, the thing that I am most excited for is stuffing myself silly with French pastries. My favourite carb is bread, and there is nothing like crusty, rustic, fresh French bread. I used to buy a baguette before leaving the country, and finish the whole stick in one or two sittings. I know, I’m crazy.

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Golden, buttery, flaky, crispy palmier as big as the size of my face.

Paris is the city that I visited the most number of times when I was studying in the U.K. I have been there four times now, and I have taken a photo with the Eiffel tower in almost every season. Food in Paris can be a hit or a miss. Based on my experience, popping into random, unknown restaurants more often than not yielded bad meals for me. Nevertheless, I have tasted some amazing food in Paris, so this post is about my favourite places to eat at in the City of Love. In fact, I visited my first Michelin-starred restaurant there, which started my journey of becoming a full-fledged food lover!

Fine Dining

Restaurant David Toutain (1 Michelin Star)

DSC_6173DSC_6190DSC_6201DSC_6212The food presentation was unique and beautiful. For example, I really liked the amuse bouche, which is the smoked/roasted salsify shown in the first photo above. I also found the course shown in the third photo to be very interesting! It looked like pappardelle, but it was actually a type of vegetable (unfortunately, I no longer remember the ingredient) made to look like pasta. Everything was cooked well and the flavour combinations were great. If you could only pick one fine dining restaurant from this list, I would definitely recommend this restaurant!

Restaurant Frenchie

DSC_5742DSC_5748DSC_5767DSC_5778There is only a single option of the 5-course tasting menu. We opted for the ‘surprise menu’, which basically meant that we would only know what we would be served when the dish arrived at our table. It was so exciting! Overall, the food tasted delicious, except for the scallop course which was sadly overcooked. The lemon dessert (fourth photo) was one of the best desserts that I have ever had. It tasted like the most amazing frozen cheesecake, with the perfect balance of sweet and sour, and it was so delightfully fresh! I would go back to the restaurant just to have that dessert again.

Le Chateaubriand (No. 93, World’s 50 Best Restaurants)

DSC_6121DSC_6130DSC_6134DSC_6147This restaurant also only serves a 5-course tasting menu. Once again, we chose to be surprised. It was really fun to wait in anticipation as the servers brought us our food. One of the highlights was the dish shown in the second photo, which looked unassuming and way too green to taste impressive. It was a fish course with lots of vegetables/herbs on top. Surprisingly, we really enjoyed the fresh, light and ‘green’ taste that the dish offered, and it tasted very pleasant on the palate. The star of the night was definitely the candied raw egg yolk on a meringue pictured in the last photo. We popped it into our mouths and the egg yolk burst to coat our tongues with sweet, creamy goodness. Some courses wow-ed more than others (we were baffled as to why they would end the meal with something as mediocre as a slice of nectarine with some liquorice sprinkles), but overall, this restaurant is still worth a visit.

Restaurant Itinéraires (1 Michelin Star)

IMG_0688.jpgThis is the first Michelin-starred restaurant that I have ever visited. Back then, precise food plating and interesting flavour combinations were all very new to me. Throughout this meal, I was so amazed by how much flavour a dish could have and this opened the doors to a whole new world of food for me. In fact, the course that I remember clearly until this day is actually…the amuse bouche. It was a small and simple cucumber starter, but a single bite of it packed sweet, sour, spicy and fresh flavours. I was mind-boggled by how something so small could provide such big flavour explosions. Since then, I discovered a love for a different genre of food and have travelled around the world in search of the best food experiences. (This photo collage was actually taken from my Instagram. The restaurant did not allow photos but I sneakily took some with my phone.)

Classic Parisian Bistros

La Petite Périgourdine

DSC_7445.jpgAs it was cold and rainy in Paris, we huddled away in this neighbourhood bistro for lunch. There is nothing as comforting as perfectly-seared medium rare steak on a bed of aligot (cheesy mashed potatoes) on a dreary day. You know a neighbourhood bistro is legit when they have a ceiling to floor pigeonhole shelf filled with special napkins for the regulars.

Philou

DSC_6357.jpgThis is another neighbourhood bistro with its menu handwritten on a chalkboard. As this quaint restaurant is a little away from the tourist attractions, it seemed to be filled with locals when we were there. If you want a reasonably-priced and classic French bistro experience in Paris, this place is a safe bet.

Modern French

Clown Bar

DSC_7846.jpgClown Bar is the little sister of Michelin-starred Saturne. The restaurant is quirkily decorated with clowns painted on ceramic tiles (don’t worry, they’re not the scary type like Pennywise from IT), and the food is exciting and adventurous (veal brain, anyone?). The pithivier (pictured above) consisted of medium-rare duck and foie gras housed in a thin flaky pastry. The date jam added a fragrant sweetness and the freshness from the yuzu cut through the heaviness of the dish. Even my mum, who is very difficult to be pleased with her Asian palate, agreed that this was a winner.

Bakeries and Desserts

To be honest, I have never had bad pastry or bread from any bakery in France. Even random bakeries had, at the very least, decent baked goods. The pastry that I will always get from boulangeries is éclair!

Du Pain des et Idées

DSC_5792.jpgThis bakery is most famous for their Pain des Amis and escargots. A charming traditional boulangerie, this place is worth crossing the town to get your dose of buttery delicious carbs.

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Liberté

DSC_7482.jpgThis bakery made it to the list because it is open in August, when most of the bakeries in Paris are closed for their annual summer vacation. You cannot imagine how sad I was when I discovered that boulangeries like Du Pain et des Idées, Blé Sucré and Aux Péchés Normands were all closed. So kudos to Liberté for staying open and satisfying my cravings with delicious sweet treats!

Eric Kayser

DSC_7452DSC_7465.jpgEric Kayser is a chain bakery that you can find all over Paris, but the quality of their products is actually pretty good!

L’éclair de Génie

IMG_9191.jpgThis place makes éclairs in various unique flavours. The éclairs almost look too beautiful to be eaten!

Jacques Genin

DSC_5825.jpgThis chocolatier makes the most luscious hot chocolate. It is not overpoweringly rich and has just the right balance of bittersweet fragrance from the chocolate and creaminess from the milk. As if this pot of hot chocolate is not chocolatey enough, we were also served four pieces of exquisite chocolate to go with it. I have tried the hot chocolate from the popular Café de Flore but this one wins hands down. Jacques Genin is also known for serving one of the best made-to-order millefeuille in Paris.

Pierre Hermé

DSC_5614.jpgDSC_5627.jpgI know you can get Pierre Hermé macarons outside of Paris but it just feels different when I munch on these while walking down the streets of Paris. I always buy a few of these sugary treats whenever I am in town.

Brunch Cafe

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DSC_7870.jpgWho would have thought that I would find a Melbourne-style cafe that I really liked in Paris? This hipster-ish cafe had nice brunch vibes and there was a long queue forming even though it was an early Sunday morning. The savoury stack was excellent! Fluffy pancakes topped with bacon and sunny side ups, drizzled with Bourbon butter and maple syrup – this is what makes waking up for brunch worth it.

Bonus tips:

If you are going to Paris for a food trip, try to avoid heading there during the French summer holiday period, which starts around the end of July until most of August. The majority of the restaurants and bakeries will be closed during this time.

IMG_9188.jpgI am obsessed with these dinosaur-shaped chocolate biscuits. I have only ever seen them in France, so I always bring boxes of these back to the U.K. with me.

Bonus photos:

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Chef Adeline Grattard’s famed Stilton Cheese and Amarena cherry bao at Boutique yam’Tcha.

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Look at those flaky layers.

DSC_7656Until next time, stay hungry and keep exploring!