The Glasgow of France

This week’s adventure was in beautiful Marseille, which fittingly enough has been described as “the Glasgow of France”. A home away from home, if you will. It looks like this….


But when you say “Marseille” to people, here’s a mental image that often pops up….

Incidentally, the black and blue hoody the shy gentleman (I presume he’s shy due to him hiding his face, unlike his photogenic companion) on the left is wearing can be bought atany market in France and comes in a variety of (neon) colours, with trousers to match. Go ahead, test it out. They’re everywhere.

Anyway, now that I’ve ruined the suspense I’d built up with my contrasting images, let me get back to them. Marseille: Thug Life Paradise or Soap-and-Lavender-Producing Quaintfest? Well, a bit of both actually.

I arrived a bit earlier than Daniel, my travelling companion. Since I’d had to get up at 5am, I assumed I arrived earlier than everyone, everywhere. Had a wander about to get my bearings while I waited and was literally unable to walk down one street because it was so full of cardboard and rubbish piled up on the pavements. I seriously wonder what the shops can have had delivered to generate this amount of rubbish, it was actually impressive. Thug Life Paradise – 1, Soap-and-Lavender Producing Quaintfest – 0.

Once I’d met Danny Boy, we went for a drink, headed to the hotel and then grabbed some lunch. The hotel was in the Cours Julien area which is really bohemian and filled with vintage shops and street art. Like this…

That night we went for yummy Lebanese food and went for big-sleeps since I’d been up since the crack of stupid o’clock.

The next day we took a stroll round the Vieux Port and went to the historic district, Le Panier. I could tell you about the how-the-fuck-did-they-build-this-back-in-the-day-when-they-didn’t-even-have-apps-to-do-stuff-for-us churches, the modern buildings on the harbour’s edge or the street art lining the roads but instead I’m going to tell you about A Mental. The observant amongst you will notice that I attract mentals, it’s a talent I’ve come to accept. Said mental appeared on my radar when he walked far too near to Daniel for comfort and I assumed he was trying to pickpocket him. My Mental Alarm sounded further when, despite the 25c heat, he was wearing a thick black hoody…hood up, no less. He walked ahead of us then turned and looked and me and said “What, you think I’m a poof just because I’m from Marseille?” (I’d like to point out that this is in no way a stereotype of Marseille…there is no cultural grounding that explains this question) and when I didn’t answer he looked me up and down and said “filthy whore…roman sandals….you’ll get yourself raped by Arabs”. Yes, my demure Dorothy Perkins sandals are so sexy they will bring out animal lust in any Arab men I may cross. They will not be able to control themselves at the sight of the tan leather before them. At this point I realised his brand of mental. The Try-And-Get-In-A-Fight Mental. To be avoided at all costs. Hung back for a while until he found new fun by trying to trip some poor runner up by sticking his foot out as she passed. Luckily she just jogged over his foot without even realising anything was happening.

Our last day was spent on a boat trip to the Château d’If and Frioul. The château is essentially a French Alcatraz (although if you happened to refer to it as the French Azkaban you would also be correct and people laughing at you would be the real fools. So there.) which was stunning and was impressive to see but wasn’t actually that interesting. The cells were all just empty and had no real information BUT we did find a bit of the building that had a great echo that made you sound like you had a microphone, so swings and roundabouts.

I much preferred Frioul, a lovely, picturesque island. For one, it had a free library that you could just donate books to and take what you wanted….and it was in the shape of a rhino. Seriously. (this woman stood there for an unfathomably long time so the rhino is not too clear)

It was also filled with tiny beaches scattered round the coast so we had a good walk round the island.

When we were leaving we went to queue up for the boat and it was here that the French’s queuing skills (or lack thereof) came into play. Firstly, people have no concept of not skipping people, they’ll walk up next to you, past 40 folk waiting in the queue and that’s apparently acceptable. Secondly, they have no sense of priorities. The staff shouted out that island residents got to board first (not sure why, but there was about 5 of them so it didn’t really change anything) and also handicapped travellers. I had at least 5 people round about me shouting about how it wasn’t fair and plenty of ”maiissss non, mais vous êtes sérieux, monsieur?? on attend la!! ahhh fait chier” (are you actually serious? We’re waiting here, goddamit!”). God forbid handicapped children get anything in this life. Perhaps they weren’t grumpy French tourists who’d sat out in the sun too long but actually staunch advocates of Darwinism who were irked to see anyone with a genetic problem being helped in some way.

We went for dinner that night to the hippest restaurant in town. I know this because the guys were all dressed like they were on a break from building the titanic and discussing bands I’ll never be cool enough to listen to. After our hipster dinner we headed along to a rum bar. I thought, well, when in rum, do as the rummans do. No? Any giggles? I’m trying to say we ordered rum. God, you just don’t get me. I’m ahead of my time. Yes, ordered rum. Both went for poofy fruity ones that, as it happens, still taste like rum but terrible, and which I casually threw over my shoulder into the drain behind me lest I offend whoever had homebrewed that horror. A couple of hours later it was 4am and therefore another ridiculously early flight awaited!

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