Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dear France

Dear France, I owe you a huge apology.  I have had a bad opinion of you for years...and it was totally undeserved.  You are beautiful and your people (most of them) are lovely.

Of course, the rumors of rude, mean people came via friends and relatives visiting Paris...and that may be a very different thing.  I know that someone visiting, say...New York would get a whole different opinion about how people in the US act than someone visiting the South. (I'm sure there are some very nice people in NY...but they aren't as openly friendly to strangers...I'm just sayin!)
And I was a leetle underwhelmed when we first made port.  The main cruise ship port at Marseille was shared with your regular shipping facilities.

But then, oh then...we took a smaller boat to Vieux Port...

And ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh!  I fell in love.

This is Fort St. Jean at the mouth of the Villeux Port.  This picture does not do it justice.

So the night before, Mom and I had out our little map of the area where we were making port and plotting out what we wanted to see.  We decided we'd check out the cathedral right there at the port and then go see the Basilique Notre Dame.  Looking at the map, we were actually thinking (since we had the whole day)...why, we'll probably just stroll around and make our way on foot...I mean, how far can it be, right?  A kilometer is a little over half a we should be able to do that. 

First things first, the Cahedrale de la Major:

Gorgeous, isn't it?  Sadly, it was closed until September 21st... the day after we returned to the US.  We got some nice pictures of the exterior and then decided we'd head in the direction of the Notre Dame.

So. What was not readily apparent on a map is this...Notre Dame de la Garde?  Was at a very, very different elevation than the port.  Prolly why the Germans occupied it during WWII as lookout.  I did not know that.
Fortunately, the bus system for Marseille is incredibly simple and can be understood by non-French-speaking bumbling American tourists.  The bus driver was SO patient and friendly.  He was trying to convey something to us...and did we really want to go up there?  And of course we did, and he was like, "Okay,'s your Euro"

And it was worth the trip:

That's Marseille, way, way down below us.

I think this angel is picking his nose.

There was lots to see on the outside and a good many other tourists had come up as well.  Sadly, the Cathedral itself (and gift stores, and resturant) was closed on Mondays.  Dude, don't ask me...I don't even know.

After we saw and did what we could even though it was Monday (again, what's with that, France?) we caught a cab with another couple from the ship to go back down to "Old Port" where there were supposed to be lovely resturants.

The cab driver(s) up at the cathedral who were SUPPOSEDLY there to make money by taking people places in their cabs were the only rude people I met in France.

Us: Can the four of us get a cab to take us back down?

Spokesperson (I guess) for the cab drivers gathered around: Yes, yes.  You wait over there.

We went "over there" and waited.  We could see the group of 10-12 cabbies still clustered together, talking and smoking.  No one was looking at us.  I wandered over.

Me: Um, you did say one of you could take us back down?

Spokesperson: I say wait over there!

Me: I know.  But someone is interested in taking us back down the hill? Right?  For money.

Spokesperson: We have fares. We wait on them. Someone take you soon.  Wait over there.

I go back to Mom and the British couple.  We wait another 10 minutes until a cab comes up the hill and lets some people out. Before he can drive over to the cluster of others...who are STILL standing together, smoking and not looking at us, I go to his window with money out and ask if he can take the four of us down.

Spokesman cabbie LOSES. HIS. SHIT. :Wait!  I get cab for you when it is time!  I tell you to wait over there!  Not get your own cab!

We just bundled into the newly arrived cab and zoomed away...spokesman cabbie gesturing rudely and sputtering with rage left behind us.

For the life of me I don't know what all of that was about.

Five minutes and approx. 500 vertical feet later, we at Old Port, where we get out and go in search of sustenance.

We settled on this cute little outdoor restaurant:

Where we had this cute little outdoor waitress:

She was funny and attentive and helpful and completely restored my faith in the people of Marseilles. 
We had this for lunch:

Yes, it was as delicious as it looks. 
Afterwards, we did some shopping.  Every shop keeper, every cashier, every other patron we saw was friendly...very smiling and helpful.  Apparently, the only assholes are cab drivers.  I bought some trinkets and something called Pastis that I haven't tried yet, but was supposedly a local favorite liquor.  Then we headed back to the ship for some relaxation by the pool before dinner.

One (of the very few) downsides to a cruise in Europe.  There are A LOT of speedos out there.  Way, way too many speedos.
Say what you will about Americans. At least our men understand the rules for wearing a Speedo.
And they are as follows:

1. Open your wallet.

 2. Take out your driver's license.

 3. Does it say "Daniel Craig"? - if so, maybe you can wear the speedo. Proceed to step 4.

 4. Check your wallet again. Is there an actors guild card also reading "Daniel Craig"?...

 5. If yes, wear that banana sling! If no...then no, you may not wear a speedo

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