Marseille is not the prettiest city in the French Riviera.
Not by a long shot.
Our impressions of it are from when we rode through it a couple of years ago, on our way to spend the winter in Barcelona. Although we tried to visit and see the nicer parts of the city, on the whole, I remember it being very grey and industrial.
Yes, I chose the crappiest, blurriest pic of us riding into Marseille to prove my point...
We find some parking on a street island cluttered with motos and scooters, all chained to posts provided by the city. On the ground was a piece of a link of security chain (inset above), presumably cut by thieves.
I'm still pissed off that somebody stole my motorcycle badges yesterday. That broken chain link on the ground next to our parked bikes did not make me feel any happier that we were in Marseille.
Really, we are in town for a couple of reasons:
Yaw and Hélène from Seattle are now Yaw and Hélène, Nomadic Citizens of the World!
Although we last saw them when we rode down the west coast of the US in Sept 2012, we've kept in close touch online. So many things have happened since then. 1) They're married now! and 2) They've sold their home and all their belongings and become full-time nomads! All the cool kids are going Nomadic!
Next month, they'll be celebrating two years on the road!
We were originally only going to stay a couple of nights here, just to catch up with them. They invited us to stay with them in their cool loft apartment, but shortly after arriving, the travel fatigue hit us in such a big way that I think we're going to find a longer-term apartment in town to relax. After all, we can't mooch *that* much off of Y&H, despite their protestations for us to stay with them a bit longer.
It was amazing to see them in person again. We almost got a chance to meet up with them last winter in Thailand. Unfortunately, we were in Chiang Mai and they had a stopover in Bangkok, so it didn't quite work out. We've kept up with their travels on social media and because they're not overlanding, they use this magical device called an aeroplane that teleports them from place to place, so they've gone out further and faster into the world than we have.
Then again, you don't need an aeroplane to travel faster than us. Two feet and a pair of comfortable shoes will do just fine.
We've actually chosen some of our restinations (rest+destination) purely on their reviews and recommendations. We've found that they have very similar tastes to us. They loved Medellin. We loved it too! They loved Chiang Mai. We loved it too. They love Marseille. Um...
We love *most* of the same places.
Marseille is not a pretty town.
We found a place nearby! Checking out of Casa Yaw+Hélène. Picture by Yaw.
So glad nobody's stolen our motorcycles.
We've booked an AirBnB for an extra week to try to get over this travel fatigue. Any longer and the cold weather would catch up to us. At this point, we're just trying to stay a few steps ahead of Winter.
Unlike us, Yaw and Hélène remained productive members of society, working while they are on the road. They're this new breed of location-independent workers called digital nomads, able to balance travel and work online at the same time. Oh, to be young, hip and smart.
Fortunately, they find the time in their schedule to hang out with us. Unfortunately, it's to go hiking...
We are hiking the Massif des Calanques, about a 45 minute bus ride outside of Marseille
We actually did a very shortened version of this hike almost two years ago. It was a couple of months later in the season and back then, it was bitterly cold and windy. It's sunny and warm now. What a difference two months makes!
Some people go for a hike. Others are more hardcore.
This hike was organized by the women. I discovered that Yaw and I have very similar views concerning hiking - neither of us likes it very much and we only tolerate it for our wives' sakes.
I also discovered that Yaw and I similarly enjoy complaining about hiking. We like complaining about hiking before the hike (on the bus ride to the the Calanque) *and* during the hike. After this hike is over, I am looking forward to complaining with him about the hike we just did. It was like listening to myself! We reveled in complaining about hiking in stereo. It was glorious! Yaw's like my brother from another mother. And father...
Picture by Yaw's camera, which was sitting on a rock with the timer on
The weather was beautiful, but so was the scenery, and the waters were so breathtakingly blue!
Don't get me wrong. I still don't like hiking.
The hiking got a bit strenuous. I found that to conserve my energy, I had to stop complaining about hiking and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Fortunately, when I stopped complaining about hiking, Yaw took over. So there was always one of us complaining about hiking. Just so the women knew that we were not enjoying all of this hiking. This tag-team complaining about hiking was really working out quite well.
Come sail away, come sail away, come SAAAAIL AWAY WITH ME!
Europeans are so casual about nudity. That's very cool. I'd be casual about it too if I wasn't coming off a two-month diet of Fish'n Chips and Cornish Pasties. Yeah, that's the *only* reason why I'm not walking around butt-nekkid.
Hélène organized the hiking route. She's telling Yaw and I, "We're almost finished the hike!"
Then we find out that "almost finished" actually means another 2kms. WHATHE! That's not "almost finished" at all. That's nowhere close to "almost finished"!!!"
Yaw and I crank up the complaining about hiking to 11.
I am in love with how deep turquoise the sea is
You know, Marseille is still not a pretty place. But we're warming up to it a little bit.
I've realized that it's not just the buildings and parks, the activities, food and the culture that determine whether a place is nice to visit or live in. It's the people you experience it with that make a place enjoyable.
Also no hiking makes a place the best.
On another one of their breaks from work, Y&H invite us out to the Motorcycle Museum of Marseille
Motorcycles are how we originally met. Yaw had stumbled upon our blog from years before our RTW trip and dropped me a line because both him and Hélène were fellow riders. And the rest is history!
It takes a lot of time for me to go through all the pictures we've taken, edit them and write up our motorcycle experiences. But it's a labour of love and we're thankful that we have this record for us to remember and reminisce later on, because otherwise all of these moments would be lost with the passing of too much time.
But the best thing I ever did was to make our blog public. We've met and befriended so many people through it. People from all over the world that off-handedly sign off their e-mails and PMs with, "... and if you're ever in the area..."
Because now, we're in all of the areas. And we're going to hold each and everyone of you to all of your invitations! :D
British motorcycle section... in France
There was a section for old French-manufactured motorcycles as well. Not that large, but I was surprised there were so many. Most of them are not around any more though.
Old motorcycles dials and gauges, dusty and yellowed with time
These tiny figurines remind me of a cartoon I used to read
When I first started riding, I couldn't get enough of motorcycles. I rode all the time. And when I wasn't riding, I'd visit motorcycle forums to chat about riding and bikes. And I also used to buy so many motorcycling magazines. I had person-high stacks of them in the closet. I bought all the North American ones, and then voracious for more reading material, I also got into the British sportbike magazines. One of them, "Super Bike" used to reprint a French cartoon called Joe Bar Team:
The French like to depict themselves with long protruding noses, like Gérard Depardieu...
We move onto the Italian motorcycle section. I *LOVE* Italian bikes. Especially the ones that look sexy and go fast...
and break down all the time while looking sexy and not going fast nor moving under their own power any longer
Please sir, I want some more Ducatis.
In the museum's courtyard there's a practice area for people learning how to ride motorcycles. They run a riding school here as well!
Neda and I used to be motorcycle instructors. But in our school, we had nothing close to this elaborate setup. Man, these guys had painted lines, stop and yield signs. So professional! We had cones and pylons that we had to quickly toss down on an old crumbling, rented parking lot: "Okay, pretend this large red pylon is a stop sign. And pretend this small orange cone is the dotted line. And this other small orange cone is a yield line. And this other small orange cone is..." :(
Despite that, teaching other people how to ride motorcycles was one of the best and most rewarding jobs we ever had.
Not the same outfit. Ferrari is a pretty popular name in Italy
One of the museum's curators gives us a little explanation of some of the bikes on the floor
It was entirely in French. Yaw and I nodded our heads pretending to understand. Neda didn't bother pretending at all. Hélène, who is French-Canadian, translated for us. But the curator would talk for two minutes and Hélène would summarize in just five words. Neda narrowed her eyes, suspicious that things were being omitted in the translation. But I've worked a lot in Quebec. The French are just very verbose. It's inherent in the language.
Ever read a magazine article that's printed in both French and English? The same French article translated is 1.5x longer! In Canada, our labels on all food stuffs are printed in both English and French. The French side seems like there's double the ingredients and triple the calories in the same can!
"Hey Neda! This French guy rode his motorcycle all over the world! We should totally do something like this!"
Ah, someday. Someday...
Speaking of which, we have an important decision to make: Where are we going to go now? Although we are in Marseille to visit Y&H, I've routed us to this port town at the very south of France because it's a hub for all the ferries heading out of Europe.
I want us to go to Tunisia! It's just directly south, across the Mediterranean Sea. Merely a brief ferry ride.
Normally, Neda and I are pretty much in sync about destinations. We've had virtually no disagreements about our future directions. Until now.
"I've read that there's been some terrorist activity lately in Tunisia. It might not be safe. We're both travel fatigued, and you remember how badly we did with all the hustlers in Morocco. Why on earth do you want to go Tunisia?" She asks me pointedly.
"Um, Star Wars was filmed there." My reasoning seemed a lot more sound when it was only in my head... "Tunisia is Tatooine!" I think by now everyone knows that I choose our travel destinations based on TV shows and movies that I watched as a kid...
"I don't know what a Tatooine is. Are you sure it's really worth it?"
And so began negotiations.
It is true that I am travel fatigued. It is true that there was a mass shooting on a tourist resort last summer. It is true that the UK government has banned all non-business travel to Tunisia (but we're in France!). It is true that I don't deal well with hustlers. All these things are true.
But... Star Wars!!!
Since Yaw is in town and he does a lot of business in Africa, we consult him on Tunisia. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much experience with that country.
"So where do *you* want to go now?" I ask.
"We've been on the road without a break for 8 months now. It's the longest stretch of travel we've undertaken since we started and frankly, I'm done. I want to go back to Thailand. We have motorcycles there. We know people there. I have activities to do there. It's warm there. I want to go back to Chiang Mai."
She was pretty adamant about this. And she made a more compelling argument than "Star Wars".
So... ferry to Tunisia or ride straight to Croatia to drop off the BMWs and fly to Thailand for the winter. Those were our options.
The next morning: preparing to leave Marseille