Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Hidden Gems from Back in the Day

I'm still learning about Aix and its countless hidden gems, but Marseille is an entirely different oyster!

In the 7 years since my arrival, most of my trips to Marseille centre ville were fairly traumatic: 

There was the saga of the carte de sejour to begin the process with innumerable goose chases hither and yon to hammer down all of the gophers and jump through all the hoops until I had that little card in my hand - at which time I could take a breather for a year before I had to plan to do it all over again.

After that came the working papers. This time Paris stuck her nose in things and gave me an official-looking list of things to do and an equally official-looking list of addresses at which I was to do them. 

I started out in good faith, but often upon arrival I was met by someone looking at my list and shaking their head and pointing in another direction while scribbling a new phone number on a scrap of paper with their free hand.  So would begin the next leg of the chase.  (On one such day, I figured I'd at least treat myself to lunch as long as I was in town but of course, it was two o'clock and there was not a crumb of lunch to be found.  Too late.  Some things are really organized here - like lunch time.  But the working papers process?  Not so much.)

It was unnerving to say the least.  On some days I wondered how it was that anyone actually ever received their bloody working papers as it takes months, literally, to figure out the first step...and a few more to figure out where to take it.

More than once I mused that it would have been easier had I been born knowing how to operate in a country that is clearly led by people who have all been trained by the Keystone Cops.  (Okay, admittedly, that's a bit harsh...but there were days, let me tell you!)

Aside from a feeble attempt to share this city (the oldest in France) with my sister while she was here  (a visit in which I may as well have tied a fashionable scarf around my eyes as I stepped off the bus and wandered around blindly with my arms outstretched and locked straight in front of me for all the good I was as a guide for my poor baby sis'!)  I just haven't set foot in the place for fun...until a few weeks ago.

A friend of mine, who now lives in Aix, lived in Marseille for many years and she knows it so well she actually could tie a fashionable scarf around her eyes to walk around the place.  I'm convinced she would never miss a step! 

I just loved turning the corner to see this magnificent structure against an evening sky.  (Okay, I admit. I may have been under the influence of just scoring that fabulous jacket and shirt...but still...)

This lovely 19th century gem still beams proudly with its original architecture.  The Spanish clothing store, Mango, now resides here - in what has become one of the hottest shopping areas in town.

I think I might just grow to like this place...as long as I don't have to do any official business there ever again...for a very.long.time.

Yours in discovering new corners and re-covering from old traumas,


Tamsie said...

You have been the best tour guide. I love our travels. remember New York and your new shoes? Xxo,

AL said...

I lived in Marseilles for almost a year and loved the city and it's idiosyncrasies, it's own unique flavour, the culture, the people and hope one day to revisit.

Your frustrations with bureaucracy made me smile Leslie. Hope the trauma is wearing off :)

donna said...

i hear you on this one...i am LA born and raised and i was hesitant to go to Marseilles...never made it....chose the Luberon instead.....i feel the same about LA....i know it well enough...the ins and outs...and where to stay away from....it has marvelous things to discover if you know where to go.....so you're going to be posting more Marseilles in the future?? would love it....

Anonymous said...

Your story of playing tour guide had me chuckling. I recall visiting Milan, Italy with my daughter and husband who was there on business several years ago.

Daughter and I took the hotel bus to the shopping district which was huge! To keep our bearings, we were dropped off at the Duomo Cathedral which was in the central part of the city. From there we could visit all the cool shops. It was getting close to when the bus was coming back to pick us up at the Cathedral when daughter suggested a short cut through some of the back side streets that would quickly get us to where we needed to me. Acting like she had done this a thousand times, we ended up in a very seedy part of the city (an industrial section) and had walked 16 of the L~O~N~G~E~S~T blocks out of our way. She was laughing (it seemed to be an adventure to her) but me...not so much. LOL LOL

Anonymous said...

Madame LER,

Regarding your troubles with the papers, perhaps you are just dyslexic ???? :)))))))))))))) If not, how could anyone who is not nearly as smart as you get their work papers?????? Just kidding.

la fourchette said...

ooops! My apologies to all for missing these as the days zoom by one after another!

Tams, merci...that is really *too* kind of you. I also love our travels and look forward to many more...and my appreciation for your patience is proportionate to my cluelessness during certain tours: like Marseille! ;}

donna, marseille will be popping up now and again...i've a few images left from that trip and certainly more trips ahead.

Kris, ahhh yes. That sounds familiar. I have a much better sense of humor when I'm cluelessly leading the adventure.

BP, kidding taken in good spirit...'cuz I'm very certain that unless one has actually been through the French process of gaining residential or working status, it's very easy to think it's a problem on the part of the applicant. Those working papers are a badge of honor of sorts...and I must begin anew in a month or so to re-up. I've been mentally preparing myself since the turn of the year and the place where I must do this is only open for 3 hours, 4 days a week...the last time I went in to take a number, the number I pulled was 169. The number being served was 63. The waiting room was full and there was only one hour left for their day's work schedule. See what I mean?! Unless you've been through it....

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