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Friday, May 15, 2009

The Green Balloon - In Search Of Sea Urchin

I cried when I left Cassis, how I loved it so! I've never cried before when merely leaving a place; leaving people, family and friends, many times, yes, but I don't think ever leaving a place.

The hope that I might visit Cassis began some years ago when I read an article in The Saveur 100 about a journey to the little port town, where one may order a tray of sea urchin, the fantastic, prickly, plucky devils found at Le Bar de la Marine and have them delivered to the table, freshly plucked from the Mediterranean. The very idea of such a thing took hold of my soul and imagination and held on for close to ten years until I actually got to visit a few weeks ago, this May just past.

On a brilliantly sunny day, having finally ventured to Cassis, Baby and I made our way to Le Bar de la Marine, about a five minute walk from our hotel, and took our seats outside, overlooking the Sea and the great number of colorful sailboats resting in the harbor.

After our waiter delivered a round of Gin & Tonics, he informed us that sea urchin season had ended in April, as it does, legally imposed. We laughed first, of course. I had suspected they might already be out of season, but had never bothered to check (nor in fact did I know how I would go about it).

That my search for the sea's answer to peanut butter was thwarted hardly mattered, for the real treasure was Cassis itself: la brouille de la mer; La Goggia d'Olio that we found tucked away in a side street serving steamed artichokes and roasted zucchini blossoms, baked lasagna made with crispy crepes, lobster ravioli; the whistler making his daily crossings up and down the road in front of our hotel; from our balcony, the view of the Mediterranean and stretching out on our small section of beach there over a few gauzy mornings, revisiting its cool mastery at night; how cold the Sea was; how warm the afternoons in town.

Here is what we saw from our balcony at the Hotel Mahogany, the graceful blue, which we stared into much like the feeble or the young might, in the utter grip of it.

And so, au revoir, my heart! I'll be back!


  1. Oh how lovely Peter! My fiance and I went there last year during our vacation. We went to the nearby Calenques and did an amazing hike along the coast. I'll also never forget my raspberry sorbet and coconut ice cream i ate while watching a game of petanque. Next time i hope it's during sea urchin season! thanks for bringing back those beautiful memories.