Category Archives: France

Travel Day: Marseille — Barcelona

Today was a pretty uneventful day. This was the first time the entire trip we took an airplane to our next city, so that was a new experience. Jon’s dad was kind enough to drive us to the airport in the morning to save us a pretty expensive cab ride. When we got to the airport, we grabbed a quick bite, and checked in. We flew Vueling; it was cheap and good! We had heard horror stories about Ryan Air charging 80 Euros if your suitcase had a broken wheel, or forcing you to pay for an extra carryon if you were holding a sweatshirt/camera/etc. Vueling had none of that! They took our bags without trouble, the plane was as good or better than most jet blue planes (minus the TV though), and the staff was polite and helpful. Great experience.

Upon landing in Barcelona, we hopped in a cab and headed to the hotel. The fare was cheaper than we expected, so our our last stop was already going well.

Once we got settled at the hotel we met up with Lucia’s mom (Lorena) and then Ari later on. We did some shopping (one of our suit cases is in rough shape), but didn’t end up buying anything. A nice all-you-can-eat sushi (shout out to Matt Leach!) dinner topped off a relaxing travel day, and we were off to sleep!

There aren’t many pictures (read “any”) of our first couple days in Barcelona…I kept forgetting the camera =(

Marseille Day 4: Aix marks the spot

On our last full day in Marseille we decided to, well — leave Marseille. We took a bus a bit north to Aix-en-provence. Aix is pronounced “ex” if you’re wondering about the title. If you weren’t, now it’s just weird because I’m explaining my joke. Anyway, the bus ride was quick, uneventful, and had AC (yea — it was still extremely hot).

Once we got there I was a little disappointed at first. We had read that Aix is a magical little town with tree lined streets, and fountains, and fairy tails etc etc. The bus dropped us off at a local bus stop, and I saw nothing of the sort. It looked like any minor city, but with more students sitting on the side walk hugging their luggage. But we walked up the street a bit, rounded a corner, and there we had a beautiful fountain with tree lined streets jutting out like the spokes of a wheel.

We stopped quickly in the tourism office to get a map and some tickets to the Cezanne and Matisse exhibit, and set off en route to the museum. It was nice, but not one of my favorites. They really only had a handful of paintings by Matisse, and the temporary exhibit for Cezanne also only had four or five (though they had a bunch more hiding in the basement floor…weird).

From there we set off to find Cezanne’s studio which is in Aix, and is marked with a number “1” on the map! It was a short walk, so we were off! On the way, we stopped for a nice sushi lunch, and took some photos of the moss covered fountains we had heard so much about. When we arrived at Cezanne’s studio, we found a small supermarket instead. Strange…

This is when we found out there were more than one “1”s on the map…So off we were to the other “1.” The walk was about 15 minutes in pea-soup like humidity.

We finally arrived and…Nope — that’s not it either. That was the yellow apple “1” — we want the yellow circle “1.”

We never did end up getting to Cezanne’s studio, but we had a blast trying. We ultimately did find it on the map, but it was far too long of a walk. Instead we headed back to the bus a bit early because we had a big night ahead of us.

Back in Marseille, we showered, changed, and headed out to Ari’s boyfriend’s, Jon’s, house. (for those of you who don’t know, Ari is Lucia’s younger sister). We were greeted by Jon’s dad’s (Lucien’s), girlfriend (Helene). That’s a lot of names and relationships…sorry. But as confusing as it may be to you, take solace in the fact that it’s only because I’m a terrible writer. Anyway, Helene was a fantastic host while we waited for Jon and Lucien to arrive. Once everyone was there we enjoyed a great evening talking about Jon, Ari, and our trip! We got to taste some Pastis, and ate some really delicious guacamole that Jon had made (not to mention some killer greek snacks too — thanks Helene!).

After our tragically short visit, we were off to the grande finale of the trip to Marseille: Wayne Shorter in concert at the Marseille Jazz Festival! The concert was held at the parc du longchamps which was absolutely spectacular. The concert was exactly as we had hoped, except for a few people who decided to stand up front blocking everyone’s view, but what can you do?

We left the concert a bit early to beat the rush and grab a taxi. When we left the park we were kind of sad/nervous to find that the entire area was basically a ghost town. No taxis, no cars, not even any people really; perhaps we should have planned our exit strategy a bit better. So at around midnight in a city we don’t know, we decided to trek down what looked to us like a major road in search of a taxi. After passing several sketchy alleys containing several sketchy people, we got to a major square and, yes, a taxi stand!

The taxi took us back to our hotel safe and sound. And so ended a great adventure in Marseille.

Marseille Day 3: Calanques

Day three we woke up bright and early to take a boat to the Calanques (narrow coves with steep cliff walls) east of Marseille near Cassis. Along the way we passed a few interesting sites, and most importantly we were out on the water where we kept nice and cool.

The sites proved to be beautiful and when we arrived at our last Calanque, we got to do a little swimming which was quite refreshing.

When we got back to the old port, we decided to explore a bit to find a Mansion we had passed in the boat. The mansion turned out to be a “summer home” Napoleon had built for himself but never ended up using. Today it’s used as a venue for meetings and ??? — the translation was really really bad, so it’s hard to say exactly.

After a bit of walking, sweating, and pausing (it was still extremely hot), we finally got up to the mansion. It had stunning views of the Port, the islands off Marseille, and was itself a site to see up close.

Once we were satisfied that we’d seen enough, we set off to see another fort in the area. Unfortunately we followed some signs to a dead end, and on our way to continue our search we passed a bus stop that would have taken us, and subsequently did take us, directly to the beach…It seemed like a no brainer at the time, and we cooled off a bit in the water. Like I said before — forts are the worst tourist attraction.

Anyway the beach was the cherry on top of a great day.

Marseille Day 2: “Milk was a bad choice…”

As usual for Europe, it seems, our Internet access has been really terrible. I’ve been waiting to post because I thought it’d be better in Barcelona but it isn’t. So now I’m going to catch up in text, and then post the pictures when I get home.

Day two was pretty long for us. We woke up kinda early and went straight to the beach. On the map it looked like most of the coast near our hotel was “beach” — but that wasn’t the case. It ended up being a solid 45 min walk to a place we felt was worth stopping at (Prado Beach). This is in like 95 degree heat. Other than the heat, the walk was really nice. It was right on the water, the “sidewalk” was more of a walking path along the ocean, and the scenery was what you’d expect from a coastal town with the climate in Southern France. Parts of it actually looked just like California (which you’ll see in the photos when I upload them). Anyway, when we got there Lucia jumped in the water pretty much immediately, but I just wanted to lie down. And I did. And it was wonderful. Lucia got back, we did some reading, and we decided to head back to the Old Port for some more site seeing.

Aside: No beach pictures because who wants to be the creepy guy with a camera at the beach?

We decided to take the bus back to the Old Port because the weather was even hotter, and the walk to the port would be at least an hour or more. This turned out to be wonderful, easy, and convenient! We ended up using the busses quite a bit through our stay.

In the port we decided to start at a place called Pavilion “M.” Marseille is currently the European Cultural Capital — which means they’re having events all year, and beefing up their museums as well. Pavilion “M” is the sort of center of this activity. Within the pavilion, there were two exhibits: 1.) a tourism and technology exhibit showing how you can use mobile devices to assist with your visit, and 2.) a general overview of the culture and history of Marseille itself.

We skipped the technology exhibit (because we didn’t have a mobile phone to use), but the other one was very cool. It was mostly videos, and it was generally entertaining. There was also air conditioning — which kept us in there maybe a bit longer than we would have otherwise.

After the exhibits we stopped by the “help” desk to have the folks there help guide us through the rest of our visit. We booked tickets to the Jazz festival (Wayne Shorter!!!!), and the super helpful staff told us where to go next!

Our next stop was the Marseille Cathedral which was also a candy-cane looking building… Not sure why that was a theme. The inside was incredible, and later on we actually got to see a painting by Cezanne which capture the scene we saw almost exactly! It was nice to know that things haven’t changed too much in such a long time.

From there we walked a bit and took photos for Adri for her birthday before heading into one of the forts to take a look around. Usually forts are the worst attraction for me. You walk in expecting something really exciting, and you find out that it’s really just some walls, and some rooms. This one has been refurbished, and, as you’ll see in the pictures, some very modern amenities have been added. It was nice, we sat and had a beer. The views of the port were beautiful, and it ended up being a great place to sit and watch the boats go by.

After a bit more walking around in the heat, we decided to call it a day and head back to the Hotel for a dip in the pool. Since we wanted to take a break from having dinners at the hotel, but it was still too early to get dinner at a restaurant (places open at 7 or 7:30 for dinner), we ended up caving and getting McDonald’s — it was…good? At least it was cheap!

Happy Birthday, Adri!

Today’s a very important day! It’s my god-daughter’s birthday. Adri Hartman turns 14 years old today. I remember when I was in high school bragging to my friends that I was an uncle for the first time, and then that I was a god father. Now SHE’s in high school.

Today, Adri’s no longer a rookie teenager; she’s the real deal. Pretty cool stuff, Adri! Pretty cool stuff.

It’s a special day, and both Lucia and I are sorry we’re missing it.

Happy Birthday!

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