Friday, April 23, 2010

"My life, my lover, my lady is the sea"

So, I just got finished with my 2 week vacation (les vacances scolaires) with my friend Anna. She came all the way from America to travel with me here in Europe. Our first stop was in Marseilles, France for 3 days. I must say that Marseilles was really unlike any other place in France in both good and bad ways. Knowing that Marseilles is competing with Lyon as the second largest city in France, I assumed there would be a lot going on in terms of nightlife. Yet, the city went to sleep fairly early. I also assumed there would be a lot of tourism, because it's the south of France, on the sea, yadayadayada. To my surprise I learned that this wasn't really true.  In fact, the family we stayed with said that there wasn't much tourism and many French people don't even like Marseilles because, well, it doesn't feel French. The family also told us that it is a very blue-collar town. Again, a surprise! I expected it to be ritzy and glamorous. 
Yet my expectations were not based on much knowledge. Previous to my trip, my idea of Marseilles was limited to The Count of Monte Cristo. (It was our Senior year assisgned summer reading. I liked it so much, I read the unabridged version inmy free time).
 Therefore, I knew of le Vieux Port (the old port). Yep! Saw that.
 And I knew of Chateau d'If where Edmund was imprisoned in the novel.Yep! Saw that one too.
 Actually, it was first a fortress, then a prison for religious and political detainees  (many French Protestants were sent there to die). On that note, here are Anna and I (two Protestants) smiling ear to ear in front of it.
Other than the knowledge from Count of Monte Cristo, I knew of Marseilles from products. Firstly, the soap. Marseilles is known all over the world for their soaps.Yep, saw that and bought some! I actually couldn't get enough of it. If I were able to carry it all on the airplane, I probably would've filled up a suitcase with it.

In addition, I knew of Marseilles from the french brand of shampoos and skin care, Le Petit Marseillais. Therefore, I've had an image in my mind of sailors, fisherman, blue and white, striped shirts, etc.

Yep, saw that too! It also helps that the whole horizontal stripes thing is really in style this season.
But that's pretty much the extent of my Marseilles knowledge. So, as you can see, there was A LOT to learn.
For instance, I learned that the scene in Love Actually where Colin Firth's character proposes to the Portuguese lady was actually filmed in a cafe in Marseilles (it was supposed to be in Portugal). Yep! Went there, and I had the worst Martini known to man. Yet, it was cheap, really charming, and the place was empty! (a football match was going on).

Another great thing I discovered were Les îles du Frioul. We took a boat ride there, and it was paradise.
This man above got it right. He's livin' the high life.
Anna (above), searching for sea glass.
Me, thinking how much I loved my life at that moment.
Next, I discovered  the Corniche. If you go, take a bus ride around La Corniche and stop at random parts of the pebble beach. That's what Anna and I did and it led to one lovely Sunday afternoon of sun bathing, cheap eats and flea market shopping.
 Lastly, I came across an artsy market where I found this handmade headband:

 Overall, I must say that my favorite part about Marseilles was it's maritime essence. I couldn't help but think of the song "Brandi" by Looking Glass:

Brandy, you're a fine girl 
What a good wife you would be
But my life, my lover, my lady
Is the sea
I loved the fish market on the Vieux Port.

Their church Notre Dame de la Garde on the hill was even dedicated to the protection of sea and to the sailors, as you can see by the decor.
In remembrance of this  martime experience, naturally, NATURALLY, I felt compelled to purchase this necklace in Topshop (nevermind that it was in London)...
...because, after all, "The cure for everything is salt water: sweat, tears and the sea." Isak Dinesen

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