Saturday, April 16, 2011

Marseille - at least the inside of the hostel and a bar!

some important Marseille building
I headed to Marseille for a couple of nights to see the sea again and to visit what is by all accounts an amazing city. I arrived after a an amazing but tiring week in Switzerland, and a really long day travelling - I was up early to catch a 7am train to Bern, a connecting train to Geneva, a bus back to Lyon in France, and then finally another train down to Marseille that got in around 5pm. By the time I caught the metro and then dragged my bags to my hostel, and then up three flights of stairs to the floor it was on, I was shattered and only the need for food and my new-found addiction to the Millenium trilogy dragged me out again!

Marseille harbour
I generally stear clear of new best-sellers, I'm not sure why but I guess I've never really been attracted by mainstream things that everyone else is into, but over here I've read anything in English I could get my hands on and in Nantes I borrowed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo from Camille and somehow managed to devour it within a couple of days, in between all of the sightseeing and nights out. In Zurich I had picked up the third in the trilogy and again, finished it within a day or so, and now I was desperate to find the second one. If you haven't read these yet then you should! I asked the girl on the reception desk where the bookstores with english sections were and headed out to have a look around. The city here reminds me slightly of a french version of Wellington in that it has hills and a harbour, things I miss after three months of flat, landlocked places. I didn't see too much though, I just walked around the main shopping streets looking in bookstores, but by the time things closed at 8pm and it became dark, I had to admit defeat as all of the stores had books one and three, but not number two, so I just grabbed another crime novel by a different Swedish author (I've since developed a real addiction to swedish crime novels, I never realised there were so many out there!picked up some food (ie a loaf of bread to accompany my speculoos) and headed back to the hostel. I walked in and was greated by the same girl, who asked if I managed to find a book - when I told her no, I was looking specificially for that one and couldn't, she laughed and told me it was sitting on the hostel bookshelf!

Just like Wellington, but with more Graffiti!

I curled up with that book until 3am, and awoke to a horrible rainy day. I convinced myself that the rain justified me staying inside to finish the book, with the hope that it would finish raining while I read, allowing me to head out and enjoy the rest of the day, but when I closed it around lunchtime it was still pouring. Nothing at all could motivate me to head outside, I could imagine mum's voice reminding me I had paid all that money to get here only to stay inside the hostel the whole time, but I think that months of travelling finally caught up with me, and I just couldn't be bothered anymore, moping around the hostel drinking coffee and talking to the other travellers seemed much more attractive than heading out into the rain to see yet another view of a European city from yet another church. Its funny to compare this "once you've seen a few you've seen them all" attitude to the wide-eyed wonder I displayed three months ago.

Ivan's friends watching the football
Finally, I did manage to force myself out into the rain to meet a friend to watch the soccer. Ivan (not surprizingly an AFS returnee from Tunisia) is over here as an english teaching assistant, same programme as Brett was doing in Mulhouse. I got harassed by a crazy man on my way there, normally I am used to annoying men calling out as you walk past, I learnt that pretty fast living in Costa Rica, and got reminded of it back in France, but Marseille has a reputation for being particularly bad, and this guy really followed me for a long way, rather than just drunkenly calling out when I was near. We watched Man U beat Marseille 2-1 with a bunch of his friends in a crowded Irish Pub, I ended up cheering for Man U just because the reactions of everyone else in the place were so funny. They say that the whole nation mourns when the All Blacks lose, but men really do cry into their drinks here!

Marseille - minus the rats running across the street!
I know there isn't much point trying to share a long running inside joke with everyone, so I guess this is more for my own record than anyone else. One of Ivan's friends is a German guy from a city called Hannover, really close to Emil's town of Celle. I had to laugh when I told him a had a friend from nearby, from Celle, and he said he had no idea where that was, because Celle was the butt of many jokes when Emil was living in NZ. Hauke loved to recount the story of how after WWII, Celle was offered the money to build either a university or a prision, with the town leaders foolishly deciding to build a prision (funnier coming from Hauke, whose hometown university boasts the most nobel prize winners in the world). When I explained to this german that I was laughing because we constantly poked fun at Celle and here was a guy from a city only 40k away that couldn't place it, he replied, "ohhhh, Celle with the prision" - Sorry Emil, one of the funniest moments in a long time!

My walk home was much more uneventful than my walk there so I took a bunch of photos of the deserted streets. The one thing that amazed me though was the rats! Marseille also has a reputation for being filthy, and I wouldn't disagree, while I was walking home I saw a huge rat every couple of blocks running between the overflowing rubbish bins everywhere. I left Marseille for Avignon the next morning, feeling a little guilty that I hadn't seen anything I came to see, but satisfied with myself for having a day off! Photo album on facebook is here.

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