Survival tips for navigating the streets in Marseille. These notes may be applicable to other cities, however, given my brief time in a metropolis setting, I do not feel qualified to make such a generalization — so — this only applies to Marseille:
- Navigating streets – Have a goal in mind, whether the goal is 10 feet or 100 feet – focus and walk. Retract shoulder to allow others to pass by, no need for eye contact.
- Navigating less traveled “rue’s”(streets) – Keep above in mind, however, to glance down frequently, because dog excrement is prevalent and owners DO NOT remove waste from public areas AT ALL.
- Street lights – May be ignored, but do so with great diligence. Electric trains are very quiet, so they are unsuspecting missiles……………………..splat.
- Shop hours – Totally dependent upon the owner or shopkeeper of the day, w/the exception of larger endeavors. Typically, shops are open from 10:00 – 2:00 & 4:00 – 7:00pm, give or take 30 minutes or hours.
On the home stretch for the French lessons. Brief scene(no accents in text because it is a too much of a hassle to insert them).
Teacher: “Ecoutes bien(listen well)(Lisa thinks: I AM) “Tu-u”
Lisa: ” Too-ooooo!”
Teacher: “Alors(common word that means “OK” basically). Make your tongue like a boat, purse your lips with an O and soften TOO-OO – to –TU.” (Lisa thinks “s**t” – but smiles) says “OK.”
Lisa: Minutes pass while trying to figure out how to make tongue into a boat (rowboat or Q.E. F*&^&G II , BUT purses lips into an O and rowboat at the same time. Teacher looking on with an expression of “oh, you poor idiot”. But, finally, out comes “TU-oo”. Oops, Lisa knows she is in trouble.
Teacher: “Alors, Lisa.” (Ah-ha – patience level is leaving, first name is added to correction!) “Encore (again)……..Tu-u. ”
Lisa: Patience level is g-o-n-e – and thinks, I will say it if you can say LISA and not LIZA! After 1 minute of tongue forming a small rowboat sorta, lips pursed in a “ROUND O”, not “OVAL O, LIZA” (oh-h-h-h yeah THAT makes all the difference) — out comes “TU”
Church bell rings, fingers unclench, legs uncross & Lisa expects deserving praise and gets….
Teacher: “Repetez — Tu as une voiture.”
Lisa: That’s IT? After all that, just “repeat after me..”….!@#…. OK, no praise, just move along, accept people the way they are, this is not America where we praise people for EVERYTHING.. move on, move on, move on = “Tu as une voiture.”
…..and so it goes…4 hours a day for a total of 10 days…but, I can survive in France, understand most things if spoken slowllllly, read most things w/a basic understanding, and buy pasteries from the shops. WHEW!
The public sector workers in France are on a major strike. I am learning that strikes in France are so common that nobody pays much attention to them. Workers take vacation days, bands play in the street, professional JUGGLERS(!!) provide entertainment, some private sector employees go on vacation, and store sales go up. Flares are lit by the strikers to provide various colors of smoke for a more emphatic demonstration. It is a party! Take a look at my photos in The Album which I took from my balcony. It was a massive party on the street below. People went about their day — just w/out public transportation! Banks and the post office were open. I think the only people who weren’t working were the drivers of public transport which also translates to no garbage pick up.
I did not think it was that big of a deal, until today. The garbage is starting to pile up on the streets and alleys. Most of the food stores are small little stands with fresh veggies and fruit, so you can well imagine the odor that is starting to emanate when one is walking down the streets with 6 and 7 story buildings on either side, holding in the smell. Oh, and let’s not forget the slime on the streets from all the mini compost piles. Navigating the streets is a challenge.
Train and bus tickets are only being sold for that day only and for only the few trains that are running. This has resulted in higher gas prices, rental car agencies are sold out, and tourism has stopped. So it goes….
Prior to the above, I took a 45 minute train ride to Arles(of Van Gogh fame), pop. 14,000, a great little town, albeit lots of tourists. (FYI for future reference: Rick Steve’s Guides have taken over from Lonely Planet Guides. Michelin Green Guide is great for driving tours/hotel recommendations and place descriptions.) Lots of Roman ruins pulled out of the Rhone – one forgets that the Romans were here in 1 a.d.(I guess +/- a few years!!)..anyway, ruins in the center of town, trendy shops, Rhone River goes thru the town, and calm and friendly people. I rented a car, drove to the Camargue and finally saw the white horses of the Camargue marsh region that I have known about since the 80’s. A movie was made about these horses, “The White Mane (1953).
Easy driving, and I never thought I would thank Taos for putting in the roundabouts, but I did, because they were everywhere. Definitely helped in the navigation factor of how to get on, off and not keep going around in circles! Saw lots of little towns, and renewed my faith that not all of Provence is inundated with tourists.
I am on my way to Flers, Normandy this Sunday, October 17, that is, if the train is running. I signed up with WORKAWAYERS.COM, a UK website. On this site, people whom need help with various things, advertise, and, provide accommodations and food for the workers. If an ad interests you, send an email and go from there – basically, a modern-day indentured servant!
I did respond to one ad and received a positive response. My hostess had a knee replacement 8 weeks ago, and still needs some help on her little farm feeding her Shetland ponies, goats, chickens, and winterizing her garden. WIFI and my own apt. is provided, so, I will be there for a couple of weeks. She is a retired English woman who has lived in Normandy off and on for years, and my final correspondence from her was this:
“I will be in yellow plastic raincoat with a hood, and my dog will be with me. We will be on the station platform waiting for you. ”
A bientot……(see you later!)I hope this picture changes on Sunday at 07h45….
5 thoughts on “Marseille and Arles”
I also took French lessons — except in Aix-en-Provence. I spent 6 hours a day plus an hour or two of homework every night. However, I can pronounce “Tu” quite well. Unfortunately, it’s the familiar and it is not nice to “tutoyer” strangers! The dog poop was a huge problem — I’ve forgotten what they called it. And the strikes (graves?) were everywhere and sometimes pretty funny. Enjoy Normandy. If you can, take the all day tour of the battlefields — we were in a Mercedes van — only 8 people and it was a powerful experience.
Try to get to the Loire valley and enjoy the chateaux and the wine…..
Bonne vacance, bonne chance et a bientot!
Sounds like fun. I do have some vague concerns when you add together three themes in your future plans: English person + Modern indentured servitude + Shetland pony = shanghaied as a pony driver in British coal mine. Be wary, look for soot when you meet this woman.
Great to hear from you. Election Circus is warming up things in AZ. Travel seem to be fulfilling you. Keep safe.
I love hearing about your adventures. I’m LOL as I read about your French lessons …. and the dog poop. Bob and I arrived in Kauai today. Went to the grocery store and got sticker shock. Most things are double the prices I am used to in Taos. Anyway, plan to do some hiking, visit beaches, and ??? – just enjoy!!! Daughter, Bethany and Claire left Taos to return to Charleston yesterday. Had a wonderful time with them. Claire is now 15 months old. Be safe, have fun, and keep writing about your travels.
I couldn’t get that $%^&* “tu” either. You might stick your tongue out and say, “I thot you meant an aircraft carrier.” lm