I had never really thought about the South of France. When I did, luxury cars, bright seas and modern ultra-white cabanas came to mind.
We took the train out of Gernoble, carrying our backpacks, luggage and a precious bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups that Aaron’s Canadian friend thought was perfect for Americans. Let’s face it…he was right. The train passed hills covered with grass and shrubs. Petite trees lined up between them and let the sun peek through. It was beautiful but after a while, my head and ears began to hurt from the enclosed space. After what seemed like a while, we landed in the train station where we had to switch to another line. We sat eating our Reese’s and avoiding the over-priced, crowded little cafe where good scents of butter and sugar lived. After a very long time of pacing on the sidelines of the track, our train arrived and off we went to Marseilles. The surroundings became brighter and sunnier. The large mountains and foggy air gave way. Located at the top of a steep hill, the train station in Marseilles was gorgeous and intricate with white statues and red bricks.I struggled to take a good picture in the sunshine.
The town was lively. And a little gorgeous. And a lot dirty. Marseilles spilled down a steep hill, running eagerly through the harbors that put this exotic city on the map. There was a much greater diversity here with a strong Middle Eastern and African vibe. Piles of trash at every divert and dirty water in the veins of the cobblestones. We walked around. As we squeezed our way between citizens, vendors and carts, Aaron stepped in some gutter water. We were searching for bouillabaisse, that famous French seafood soup, as we were after all in a harbor city. Unfortunately we could never find out.
But it was very different from Grenoble or Lyon or anywhere else we had been so far. Trash and grey water accumulated in almost every intersection. The streets were tiny and vendors crowded on each side of the streets, speaking in French as well as Middle Eastern languages. It was a more casual city, the type that comes with a slight smell and lots of eccentric people dashing down to the boardwalk. It reminded me slightly of Jerusaleum with cobbled streets and dense clumps of people. We walked around, looking at the buildings……and in the process, Aaron stepped through gross gutter water. In sandals. After we managed to find a bottle of water to wash off his feet, we found the marina. It was blindingly sunny. The expensive restaurants around the harbor were mostly empty – but the little harbor was filled with boats and people. We walked past a man performing for a crowd dressed in red and white stripes juggling. We walked underneath a mirrored roof and stopped to take a selfie in Southern France. And after we wandered around lots of little streets, carefully sidestepping the trash and tables lined with produce as well as cheap souvenirs, we decided on tunisian food. One word: amazing.
Each of us got a steaming pot of broth and vegetables and a bowl of perfectly cooked couscous. Before this there was some hummus like concoction, bread and a chili paste. Aaron got some sort of chicken and I got Marquez sausage, a typical spicy local French sausage. It was so filling, so cheap and so delicious. The host/waiter treated us very nicely, and gave us free hot sweet tea.
After we walked back to the odd industrial apartment complex building we were staying in and, stomachs full and happy, went to sleep.