Sunday, May 4, 2008


Marseille is a gritty city. Vibrant, but rough around the edges. Expensive, and yes, the French are not overly friendly or helpful unless you are French or speak French. I have to admit that I was disappointed about that as I had always felt that if you only smiled, acted humble and friendly, you'd be greeted the same way in return. Not so. If you speak English, they look at you as if your neck just sprouted a second head. However, if you make an attempt at French, even if it is crappy, barely understandable high school French, they at least try to work with you, but still refuse to speak English.

Also, traveling alone now is no fun. Yesterday, after walking around all afternoon, I was starving. Decided I would splurge and order myself an Entrecote avec roquefort et pommes frites. Yum! I sat down at the restaurant I had chosen to bring me this French feast. It was 6:30 p.m. Nope, no dinner menu yet, too early. Ok, can I please have a glass of red wine then? Just this simple conversation made me feel as if I was a visiting Martian, unable to communicate with the earthling in front of me. But, eventually, the waitress clunked down an ice cold glass of red wine on the table. Hmm...wasn't aware that red wine should be served ice cold. Aren't the French red wine experts? In addition to being ice cold, it was also the worst glass of red I've ever had. Didn't think I'd have that experience in France, but, oh well. I'm in Marseille, the sun is shining, the bright blue Mediterranean is spread out below, I have a great book to read. I'll just enjoy the moment, which I did.

After finishing my glass of wine, I was still hungry, actually starving at this point, plus loopy from the red wine on an empty stomach, so desperately seeking the next restaurant in my path able to serve up a juicy entrecote. Restaurants here are not far and few in between down by the touristy harbor area, so I quickly found one, sat down at a table and waited for the waitress to appear, which she did, and looked at me quizzically. I asked if I could please see a menu, which did not seem like an odd or out of the ordinary request to me, being that I was at a restaurant and all. However, from the look she gave me, you would have thought that I had just asked her to shampoo my hair or something equally bizarre . I repeated my request with a renewed smile and finally she got it and brought me a menu only to never return. I probably sat there for 30 minutes and waited before I left. It is as if you're invisible when you are by yourself.

So, needless to say, my first day in Marseille wasn't great. But, then I gave up on the idea of a good meal and found a little hole in the wall fast food place and got myself a huge slice of yummy greasy pizza, delicious fries, and a soda for 4 euros. That made me feel a whole lot better.

Today, I've been out hiking all day, visiting Notre Dame De La Garde, a beautiful cathedral high up on a hill and visible from all over Marseille. The view from up there was absolutely stunning, a vista of the beautiful sea as well as the stretched out city and the harbor below. Afterward, I meandered about, found a few pretty parks where the Birdsey brothers, Thomas and Dominick kept me company throughout the day. They are the main characters in the excellent book I'm reading: "I Know This Much Is True" by Wally Lamb (She's Come Undone). If you're in the market for a great read, I can highly recommend it!

After wandering around all day and seeing the city from so many different angles and elevations, I feel like I got what I came here for and am ready to move onto my new destination: Porto. I know I said in an earlier post that Lisbon was next, but I messed up. It's a long story, or rather, it's an embarrassing story, so I'll save it for later. My flight for Porto leaves at the crack of dawn, and rather than risking missing my flight again, which I cannot afford to do on more time, I'm heading out to the airport tonight for another fun night at the airport. I'm a little worried though, because one of my roommates last night said that she wasn't sure the airport would be open overnight as it is so small. So, we'll see what happens...

No comments: