Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What I Did This Summer - Part 3

Hi everyone,

Here are a few more stories about my experiences in Marseilles.

Street market
Where I am staying now, I have a short walk to the Metro, and there is a street market that is just in the process of getting set up on the street as I go to work in the morning. They sell inexpensive clothes and shoes, kitchen gadgets, cosmetics, and food.
I can’t really stop as I’m on my way to work, but I’ve spotted nail polish for one euro, summer sandals for 5 or 6 euros, and lacy bras for 7.

But the greatest part is the food section: as I walk, I get alternate whiffs of sparkling fresh fish, tangy spiced olives, the sweet perfume of ripe melons, strawberries, and peaches, and the unmistakable aroma of fresh-baked croissants and baguettes. What a start to the day!


I have figured out that the difference between speaking French like a tourist and sounding really fluent is: adverbs, and plenty of them.
French people use them liberally sprinkled throughout their conversation even when there seems to be no real reason for them. Here are a few of my favorites.

A priori – this is Latin, and it means “first of all”. It is used everywhere, the way many people say “basically” in every second sentence without it meaning anything.
Tellement – really
Vachement – very
En plus – in addition
Plutot – rather
Neanmoins – nevertheless
Tout a fait – exactly
Donc – therefore
Surtout – especially

I try to use as many of these as I can in every conversation, and I feel very sophisticated when I do. ;-)
French intellectuals are known for constructing sentences entirely composed of adverbs !

Bus strike

Since I’ve been here, there have 2 bus strikes that were publicized in advance. Apparently about one in three bus routes were running, and on sporadic schedules. The Metro ran less frequently than usual, but I was still able to get to work OK.

But the one that was the most interesting happened last Saturday. Note this was a weekend not a work day. You wouldn’t think they’d get much sympathy, by interfering with people’s weekend plans, but what do I know?

We were at the beach and wanted to take the bus a bit further along the coast away from town, to see some notable sights that we had heard about – cliffs and lagoons and a little village at the end of the road.
After a few blocks, the bus driver suddenly made a U turn, and announced that he was on strike, and everyone had to get off.

We were not too happy about this (to say the least) because it was a hot day and we would have to walk a good 3 or 4 miles to get back to the nearest Metro station. Some of the passengers did get off, but some protested, “You can’t leave us here, you have to at least take us back to the depot”, while another offered him a bribe of 10 euros to take us back.

He called his supervisor and asked “what do I do, the passengers are refusing to get off”. He eventually relented and took us back to within a short distance of the Metro. I have no idea what the point was.

We stopped off for a cold drink. We happened to be close to the sports stadium, and we soon saw that a big match was taking place that day. (I thought it was soccer, but it turned out to be rugby). This stadium holds 60,000 people, and fans dressed in their team colours (blue and yellow) streamed past us by the 1000’s. Some had faces painted in the team colours, too. I don’t think they were going to let a bus strike keep them away !!

We then took the Metro back to the center of town. We still had a nice time, and explored the “old city” with its winding narrow streets, colorfully painted old houses and caf├ęs, and shaded little squares with splashing fountains. Very picturesque.


The project in Marseille has run into some problems – some areas of the client management don’t agree that they need this project, and furthermore we’re going about it the wrong way, and what’s more they already did it last year…. Blah blah blah…

So the stuff I was supposed to work on, isn’t happening after all. They are shutting it down and I will be done as of June 27, instead of the planned date of July 31st. While I am losing out on a bunch of money, I do get to go on vacation sooner than planned, so I’m not all that heart broken. Hubby is here too, so we just have to decide where to go and how long to stay.

Really, now that I’ve been working 7 weeks straight, I need a vacation. ;-)

We were told of a website, , that has good last-minute deals for package travel, so we booked a one week trip to the Canary Islands.

Yeah, I barely knew where they were, too.
They are Spanish islands off the coast of Africa. Tenerife is an island you might have heard of.
This is an all inclusive thing, like a Club Med -- all meals, activities, transfers, flights, etc, are included in one price.

We leave on Sunday morning from Paris, so on Saturday we will get ourselves to Paris. When we return we are staying a few nights in a hotel in Normandy, then a quick stop in Paris, then home.
And that looks like it for my French adventure.
P.S. The sandy beach pic is of the Canary Islands, island of Fuerteventura.


  1. I don't know if I can safely follow this blog. It makes me turn green.

  2. I love this post. The pictures are beautiful. I love how the homes are built in the rock formations. It's lovely. What a great opportunity you had to work there. Yes and it makes me a bit green too. I've only got to travel to Cincinnati and Baltimore for work. Not too exciting!