Saturday, October 3, 2009

A day in Marseille

A day and a half, really. I can't tell you about all of it, because there's only so many interesting things that can be said about paperwork, and they've already been said.

I had to go in Friday morning for a medical visit at the immigration office, so they could be sure I don't pose a risk to France. I don't, but now that I'm getting a taste of my first government health plan, I may pose a risk to the US.

It took barely an hour to go through the waiting, the tests, the waiting, and the paperwork, and then I was set loose on Marseille. Marseille is a grungy, strange port city that I love. The buildings, which are simple or run-down to begin with, are painted pale colors that don't hide the dirt. There are touristy things to do and buy, but other than that, it doesn't seem as if the city has dressed itself up for visitors. There are plenty of magnificent buildings, but they grow in a shabby soil. When I first visited Marseille, discovering the cathedral and so forth was all the more incredible given the setting.

Despite the human efforts, the natural setting of Marseille is amazing. It's surrounded by cliffs and sea and blue sky. The buildings are low and the light constant; the city is dirty but not shadowed. My experience of Marseille is not so much what there is to do there but how I feel there. Marseille feels good.

Eating well feels good too. As a certain comrade in ice-cream connoisseurship promised me, there are tons of bars that serve ice-cream -- or ice-cream parlors that have a night life. It's true that the Vieux Port (the center of the city) is lined with restaurants that say both "glacier" (glace = ice-cream) and "bar" on the awning. Ice-cream is wonderful. Today I tried lavender-honey ice-cream (la glace lavande-miel), which was as exquisite as you could imagine. Plenty of other places to eat, too -- a creperie where the crepes (ratatouille-egg-cheese and orange marmalade-chocolate) were too big for even me to finish -- and, of course, a falafel place -- definitely a high point in my falafel-eating career.

I've been pondering -- agonizing -- about what I want to get out of this year, and what will make it feel like a success or a failure. It may not be worthwhile to decide that sort of thing this early, or it may have been something I was supposed to consider when I was applying for the job. But all I really want to do is sit in the sun on the beach with my ice-cream. Is that so wrong?

1 comment:

  1. Going there and experiencing all that you are IS your success. Savor the ice cream, ocean, curious students, and timeless awkward moments. There's no winning or losing, and you shouldn't feel guilty about enjoying yourself. In fact, I challenge you do an activity at least once a week that you can completely "selfishly" indulge in. Give yourself some space and time to ponder your experiences, and let me know if you need any copies of the New Yorker! <3