And so, after seemingly an endless time at school (in reality, about a month and a half), begins Spring Break! My friend and I decided that it would be a good idea to go to the south of France since they have sun and beaches and joy, which Lyon seems to be devoid of at the moment. We left Lyon at 6:03 AM on Friday morning with promises of fantastic weather and dreams of sandy white beaches. After I passed out for literally the entire length of the train ride and woke up after everyone else on my car had already gotten off, we were in Marseille! Hurray! It was sunny, people were friendly, and our hostel seemed nice and was in a good location. Nothing could ruin this day or trip………except the rain and extreme monsoon type winds which came about 30 minutes after checking into the hostel.
“But, the weather will get better!” we thought, as we walked to the Vieux Port in our sundresses with goosebumps on our legs. The Old Port was nothing that impressive, just a bunch of boats and a Tanzania festival happening right in the middle of it, but it is the center of town and has a lot of options to go from. We decided to trek up to Le Pharo, where Napoleon used to live when he hung out in Marseille (did Napoleon literally have a house in every city?! I guess so…), and even though it is a really beautiful building and magnificent, and has a view which overlooks the entire city, it was the windiest up there and it felt like it had dropped 10 degrees. So, as I shivered constantly, we found a bus to take us back to our hostel so we could change.
After we changed, we met up with our Marseillais ami who we had met in Madrid a few months earlier. He grew up in Marseille and is staying there for university so we were able to get all of the ~local secrets~ from him as he showed us around the city. And! We spoke French pretty much the entire time! What?! I can speak French???
He showed us an area of the city called Le Panier, which was mostly destroyed during world war 2, which has a really crazy huge church and a hospital which was built during the time of the Black Plague as a hospital specifically for that purpose. While we were at the hospital, we talked about Spring Breakers, an American movie out in theaters right now, and my American friend and I were very pleased that he knew most of the ridiculous lines that we had also memorized from the movie **cue James Franco creepily saying “Spring Break foreverrrrr”**. We also learned that Pee Wee Herman is someone who never made it over to France…but I’ll say that’s a good thing.
The first church he took us to was huge, and literally right next to the ocean. It was also built as a church for praying about the Black Plague (or something like that?). There are so many Black Plague things in Marseille, he said, because Marseille is a huge port city where a lot of people would be coming and going, and therefore, lots of people would be bringing the Plague into Marseille. Whomp whomp. Anyway, this church was really huge and was decorated in a style that I thought not mosques were decorated, with the stripes and rounded windows. The inside was pretty elaborate as well, and had flags of all of the French principalities and regions (Marseille’s is the blue flag with the white cross) as well as a nativity scene…without a Jesus (and it’s not Christmas, so why is it there?).
After this we attempted to combat the wind, but failed repeatedly, and then finally decided to give up fighting and go to a place where there would be a huge amount of wind: the Notre Dame on top of a huge hill overlooking the city. As we slowly (very, very slowly) mounted the hill, we learned some cool things from our French tour guide. For example, he confirmed that everyone from Lyon is really mean, even to other French people, that there are only three French cities which have arrondissements (Paris, Marseille and Lyon), and that there is only one area of Marseille which is completely full of rich people and that everywhere else in the city is an intermixing between the poor and rich and middle class. Marseille is really different than Lyon, or the rest of France for that matter, in regards to that aspect, and I think it really adds to the culture of the city. Speaking of which, Marseille was named the Capitale Européenne de la Culture (European Capitol of culture) for 2013, so they have a bunch of random little things around the city commemorating that and a bunch of modern sculptures and other such things that are interesting to look at.
Anyway, so then we reached the church where the winds were so strong that I could barely stand without almost being thrown over. Since the church is on a huge hill, it had really good views of the city, and so obviously I took a million pictures (the best of which you can see below). Our friend gave us some more info on different parts of the city, so by the end I felt like a real live local…kind of. Either way, it was cool to see all of the different parts of the city pretty much at once, but the church was closing almost as soon as we got there so we had to peace out pretty quickly. But not before we had our French friend take a photo of us in front of the ocean!
Then our French friend had to go home for dinner, so he showed us where to go back to our hostel and we headed home. But first we ran not the Palais de Justice which was really pretty and had cool fountains in front of it. All of the Palais de Justice buildings in France are randomly elaborate, and this one was no different.
We then decided it was time to have a real meal, so we went to a real restaurant and ate real food! It was delicious! We both had some sort of lasagna type thing, and a glass of red wine. It was a great way to end a great day.
Since we had gotten up so early, I passed out around 10pm that night, which was a good thing because then I could catch up on sleep and be ready for the remaining nine days of travel I still had before me.
We thought the next day would have better weather, but it rained the entire day. Although it wasn’t ridiculous like some of the rain we have had in Lyon, I literally packed no clothes that are appropriate for rainy weather since, yknow, we were going to the BEACH and not RUSSIA. But, I layered myself in the tank tops I had brought and a cardigan and went outside to face the rain.
Our first stop was a bakery near our house, where the woman working there looked terrifying, but turned out to be the nicest lady ever, I bought something called a vanilla and chocolate snail…and it was delicious.
We made our way to Le Palais Longchamp, which houses two big museums in Marseille, and also has a very cool fountain center. However, when we arrived after braving the rain, we were met with two closed museums. With dampened spirits, and even damper shoes, we made the best of it by admiring just how magnificent the exterior of the building was. The huge fountain had a bunch of sculptures and animals surrounding it (including two neon pink dolphins in the bottom pool. Can you find them?), and was very, very beautiful. Then, when you walk up behind it, they made the fountain look like the inside of a cave! And then the building parts were very classical with painted ceilings which were beautiful.
When we were standing at the top of the Palais, we looked out over the city and saw two tall steeples, and decided to go find the church which the steeples belonged to. When we reached the church, we found out that it was a Catholic Reformation church, and the inside had a bunch of profiles on different saints, or people that are on their way to being saints (like Mother Teresa). It gave my French a workout since there are a lot of religious words that I never learned in school, but I think I understood more than half of them so yay!
We spent a long time in that church because we were hiding from the cold and wet weather, and once we finally went back out, it was no longer raining! But instead, the wind had taken its place and continued to trow me around the streets whenever I walked anywhere. Having had just about enough of this day, we decided to find a cool arch which was on our map, get some lunch, buy groceries for dinner, and then go back to the hostel to turn in for an early night (again) (we are fun people to hang out with) (also we had an 8:30 am train to Aix-en-Provence the next morning).
We found the arch after about two seconds of walking, and then got some lunch at the McDonalds across the street because we were starving and experienced the slowest service I have ever seen at a McDonalds…c’mon Marseille.
We walked a little bit more around the city, until we finally ended up at a grocery store where we bought random groceries for dinner and then headed back to the hostel around 7:30 pm. Hanging out in Marseille was really cool, and I enjoyed our stay there quite a lot, even though there was not very good weather. It reminded me a lot of California, just with worse weather, because everyone was really nice, and they have both mountains and the ocean! I would love to come back to Marseille when it isn’t just 60 degrees and windy and hopefully with a lot more money (-:
And now it is off to Aix-en-Provence! Stay tuned for our jam packed day of hanging out in both Aix-en-Provence and Avignon all in one day~~