Marseille! It is wonderful! It is hilarious and full of residual trash! Even some that has been BURNED by the delinquent youth! No but seriously. It is absolutely beautiful, and I have the greatest host I could have asked for. Mara has been showing me the sights since I arrived yesterday afternoon, and here's a little of what we've done!
Shortly after my train got to Marseille Saint-Charles station, and I had dropped off my stuff in her super-cute apartment, Mara and I met her friend Vanessa and Vanessa's brother to boire un verre (have a drink; literally, "drink a glass") at a little place near the beach. (The beach!) Vanessa's brother Jonathan drove us in his car, and it was such a delight to experience the south by car. I just love riding in cars in general because, at least in places where I don't have access to cars (or the know-how to drive them, since in Europe everyone drives stick), being in a car makes me feel like a local. Mara and I helped Jonathan with his English because he has the oral exam part of his bar exam on Friday. So the four of us, plus the siblings' friend, chatted about France, law, Judaism (all of them are Jewish), diversity, and English for a few hours.
After that, we took the Marseille métro - which is significantly less extensive than the one in Paris; in Marseille there are only 2 lines, compared to the 14 or so in Paris - back to Mara's neighborhood. We explored the Vieux Port (old port) area and had an absolutely lovely seafood dinner at Chez Madie. I had a warm artichoke appetizer and then the filet du jour (I'm not sure what kind of fish it was haha), and then we shared desserts: crème brûlée and nougat glacé (frozen/iced nougat). We took a typically French long time to eat and talk, and by the end we were stuffed beyond recognition...
Then today, I started the day by scavenging for pain au chocolat (lit. bread with chocolate) at the nearby boulangerie (bakery) and gifts for my hosts (think I found a good one!). In the process, I stumbled upon a massive manifestation (protest). Today was a nationwide protest day, and it seemed that all of Marseille had taken to the streets. At first I thought it was a parade, but then I saw banners and union insignia and heard distinctly disgruntled but spirited chants, so I knew. Mara met up with me and we spent some time reveling in the spirit of the strike. I have some good pictures and even a video, AND Mara lent me her USB cable so I uploaded all my stuff to my computer, but... unfortunately I just can't be bothered to post any of it yet haha. I do want to catalog my adventures visually though, so there will be visuals here soon.
After the manif', we discovered a very modern, trendy-looking sushi place called Love Sushi (haha cute) near the Vieux Port where we had some lunch. Again, delightful! I love eating so much. Luckily for my fatty tendencies, we worked off some of the food by hiking up to Notre Dame de la Garde. Yeah, those reddish roofs in the picture? That's where we started from. It's no Mt. Fuji, but it was really steep ok?!
Anyway, the views were beautiful, the basilica was beautiful, the water was beautiful, and it was absolutely breathtaking. There are some good pictures of that too... watch this space.
We felt, perhaps too greedily, that we deserved a break after all that hiking, so the two of us shared a tropézienne pastry back down at sea level before heading home to rest. After that, we explored a small part of the Cours Julien neighborhood of Marseille, where we got Moroccan food for dinner. (This included tchatchouka [a kind of ratatouille], couscous with vegetables, and then vanilla/lemon/cassis [blackcurrant] ice cream. Yesss.)
So here we are! There are plans in the next few days to do more exploring, see The Social Network in a movie theater here (yes, it's playing overseas), eat more delicious food, and possibly go to a Halloween party on Saturday. Elles sont trooop bien les vacances...