Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marseille and Provence

We spent four days in Marseille, taking day trips to Avignon, Menerbes, Aix-en-Provence,Arles.

Marseille was much more intimate than Paris. The hotel was right on the Quai de Rive Neuve,on the bay, overseeing boat ramps and many water activities including cruise ships and private yachts. The street was full full of shops, restaurants, museums, threaters. Everywhere, people from all over the world. Most were polite and curious. There were a few beggars who approached us on the street. I heard many languages and always, English was the most predominant among the tourists.

We had great pizza and a true Marseillaise specialty: mulles-et-frites,steamed mussels and french fries. I felt as though I was in Italy.

The day trips took us out of Marseille for a good portion of the day; but the evenings were ours,to walk to the local shops or take a free ferry across the bay to get to the opposite side of town. We visited an electronic store looking for a charger for a digital camera. This kind of store was the only one where many people did not know English and kept sending us somewhere else.

In the back alleys, I stopped at a fish-monger's shop, whole fish being sold, too small to appear in our supermarkets: anchovies, sardines, dories,mussels and shellfish, lined up on ice, brought in just a couple of hours before.

We sat at sidewalk cafes, ordered espressos and sat undisturbed. They do not give you the bill until you ask for it. Imagine, nobody rushing you. And the tip is included!

The weather was wonderful; and all people seemed to be dressed casually, looking the same, actually. Until people opened their mouths, I couldn't tell who was native, and who was a tourist.

When the bill is brought to the table, the credit card is passed through a device that spits out the paperwork right in front of you. Everything is efficient and easy.

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