We left Nice in the rain to continue our march across Southern France. This was going to be a wet ride and we knew it, so we headed back on the highway to try to make short work of today's journey. We're headed to Marseille, second-largest city in France.
It's only three hours away, but the rain did not let up for the entire ride. At a few points on the Autoroute, I could feel the bike hydroplaning on top of all the standing water collecting on the highway. We eschew road etiquette and ride in the middle lane, staying on the crown of the road where there was less water.
No pictures, obviously, as both hands were white-knuckling the grips the whole way! :(
Marseille was the French Empire's most important port city
We're staying a couple of days at an AirBnB, great place, but still not as cheap as we'd like it.
To help ourselves negotiate around here, I dust off my Français skills. In Ontario schools, it was a mandatory course up till Grade 9, at which time I promptly dropped it. It's times like these when I wish I had stuck with it longer because the French words feel rusty like nails crumbling out of my mouth - painful to watch and listen to.
Normally Neda is very outgoing when it comes to talking to strangers. However, because she doesn't speak any French at all, I found myself having to carry all the conversations at hotels, grocery stores and gas stations. It was so interesting watching her shirk away from having to talk to anyone. Whenever somebody approached her, she would immediately tap on the communicator or tap me on the shoulder, "Uhhh.... Gene!"
What a complete role reversal from Latin America! I got a little taste of what it was like having to take point for all communications and I respect Neda more for it.
Notre-Dame de la Garde church, built on a hill
can be seen from anywhere in the city
The first day in Marseille we got rained in, so we spent the day cooped up watching the water fall from the skies. The weather co-operated with us the second day and we took a stroll around the port area of Marseille to get a feel for the city.
Monument aux morts de l'armée d'Orient et aux héros des terres lointaines - what a mouthful!
Looks like our Arc-Friend from Nice, Bernar Venet, has been busy in Marseille as well. I still don't get it...
Right on the Bay of Marseille is a nice spot called Pharo Garden where you can see the harbour and most of the port. On the lawns of the garden sits another modern sculpture called Désordre (Disorder). I'm renaming it "The Graveyard of Giant Three-Ring Binders".
View of the harbour from Pharo Garden. Fort Saint Jean on the right, Bulbe à Clochers Church on the left
Walking through all the war monuments and forts, reminded me of just how influential the French Empire was. It had such a huge role in the colonization wars in which it raced against Spain and Britain to claim territory in the Americas and all around the world. It struck me that in all of our travels across Latin America, we marveled at the imprint of Spanish invaders on the land, when back at home, we could've seen that same imprint that France left on Acadia and French Canada.
Our journey across the ocean to Europe has been like coming back to the source of history in the Americas.
Monument aux héros et victimes de la mer (Monument to the heroes and victims of the sea)
Peugot's three-wheeler, the Metropolis, is France's answer to Piaggio's MP3
and is the most popular scooter in the French Riviera
Look! Up above! It's... us.
Seems like every city in the French Riviera has to put up a ferris wheel for Christmas!
Les Oiseaux en Colère!
Walking around the old part of Marseille - called Le Panier
We were walking around a part of the town called "The Sidecase". hehe. We visited the Givi Hotel, Hepco Becker Boulangerie...
We've seen a lot of people wearing hijabs and thobes in the French Riviera. About one third of the population is Muslim - the city was liberated from German occupation at the end of WWII by soldiers from Northern Africa. The last time we we were here, it was the summertime, so we stayed mainly on the beaches and back then we thought only pasty white (and lobster red) British people lived here! :)
Brown farms on the French Riviera. This must be so colourful in the summertime!
We found out that Trevor has settled into a little French villa in a small town called La Cadière-d'Azur on the coast between Toulon and Marseille and to return the favour, he's invited us to stay for a few days. So that means we're going to kick back and relax and not worry about hotels, AirBnB or Français for the next little while! Très bien!
We doubled back on the coastal road - D559. I've been staring at this road on Google Maps and my GPS with dread for quite some time now. Just an hour east on this exact same road from where we're staying is where I had a bad motorcycle crash 7 years ago that left us stranded in Côte d'Azur for a week... on this exact same bike I was riding now.
I could feel my bike underneath me taking the turns with just a hint of hesitation, a touch of tentativeness on the throttle...
Parking in Trevor's little French villa
View from our patio. Beautiful!
We've been very fortunate that we've had access to a kitchen for the last few days. Neda has been on a strict non-gluten, non-dairy menu for almost a week now and her gastrointestinal problems have abated somewhat. We're going to give it a full week to see if goes away completely.
"Hey Neda, you know what they say? No grain, no pain!"
She rolls her eyes and shoots me a distasteful look: "That's terrible."
Grocery run! Essentials like French wine and lots of gluten-free legumes and lentils for Neda.
While browsing the grocery stores we've noticed a lot of Rosé wine on the shelves. Seems that Rosé is the specialty wine in the French Riviera because of the ambient temperature and soil conditions. We also scour the shelves for food that will fit Neda's new diet.
"Hey Neda, I guess you're wheating out all the bad foods!"
"... you are the worst person that has ever lived!"
The new diet
This is what she makes pretty much everyday and since I'm so lazy, I end up just eating what she cooks instead of preparing my own meals. I've never eaten this healthy before in my life.
I don't like it.
"Hey Neda, looks like I'm a gluten for punishment!"
"I hate you."
I find D minor is the saddest of all keys
To undertake this trip, we've stripped ourselves of all our belongings besides what we can carry on our bikes. It's been two and a half years and we've carried no more than a weeks change of clothes suited more for hiking than entertaining. No cars, snowboards, dirtbikes. No house, no fridge, no drawers full of the bottles and jars of liquids and goop that make men smell manly and women look pretty.
We've realized we don't miss most of it. But during all this time, it becomes glaringly obvious which things (besides the people) we've left behind that leave a hole in your life. For me, it's music. I look forward to the day when I can have a room and fill it with guitars, a piano and a drumkit in the corner.
Neda wants a room too. She wants to fill it with shoes...