Marseille was a tad more, shall we say, rugged than Nice, but in a charming way. North African and Mediterranean influences mix heavily with French ones, and the result is a beautiful port city with some rough-around-the-edges charm. Certainly not the place to sport an “I heart France” shirt with your camera strung around your neck, unless you wish to lose such items, but a lovely place to visit nevertheless – don’t be afraid of its surly reputation! Mysteriously, my camera enjoyed Marseille so much it decided to eat half my photos out of protest for leaving.
After reading Julia Child’s My Life in France, I became enchanted with the place and was excited to visit. We stayed in the Vieux-Port area, which was full of winding, narrow streets, enormous turkey-sized seagulls and the slight aroma of fresh fish wafting from the nearby market. Within a ten minute walk of our hostel there were ample choices for dining – yet not so much for vegetarians. I knew this going in, however, and I was just interested in seeing the menus and vicariously living through others (aka Megan).
We didn’t end up doing much in the way of sight-seeing, due to a combination of factors (mainly our scramble to figure out how to get to Paris after leaning there were no seats left on the train – more on that bonanza later), but we wandered a market, enjoyed leisurely dinners and local wines, and marvelled at the old architecture and sculptures that are all over the city, including this:
Europe has been a goldmine for seeing various works of art. I’m not a huge fan, but have enjoyed the challenge of certain pieces and the experience of standing in the presence of something that brings joy to others. However, sometimes certain works just leave me confused. Case in point, the one above. At first glance, I thought, “A lion attacking a man’s behind? Bit odd…” but have since learned it’s in fact a statue of Milo, a Greek athlete who as an old man, wished to test his strength by splitting a tree trunk that he had found (which was already split, but whatever boosts your ego, Milo). His hand got stuck in the stump and as legend has it, he was devoured by wolves. The artist, Pierre Puget, replaced the wolves with a lion. It was a bit of an odd experience standing in a tranquil square next to a pool of water gawking at a man’s behind being ripped off, but then I’ve had many odd experiences on this trip so perhaps it’s just par for the course at this point.