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Published: October 15th 2006
Visiting Marseilles was a dream come true for me. Just one of those places that held 'mystique', another reason because of my love for the book 'The Count of Monte Cristo.' I had visions of visiting the Chateau D'If. I had some trepidation though, going there since I had heard it was not 'tourist friendly'. I made the plunge though on my way from Barcelona to Aix en Province. Getting off the train in Marseilles, I took out of my back pack my essentials for spending one night somewhere, placed them in my little day pack, then stashed the larger backpack in a locker. I left the train station and found someone that could tell me (in broken English, at least) where Vieux Port (old port) was. He pointed... down the magnificent steps to the, the busy thoroughfare that makes its way down to the old port. Its name is derived from the Provencal word 'canebe' meaning hemp, and first appeared in 1667 when the works were ordered by Louis XIV. I walked like a prisoner that had just been set free.... down the Canebiere until I reached the end of it, at the Quai de Belges.
At times like this I become pretty predicable... it was time to eat. I had Bouillabaisse on the brain.... hey, this was Marseilles, and nothing else would do! Now I cannot say that all my restaurant experiences in France were good ones (more about that later!) but this one was awesome. The cook brought out a whole broiled or baked fish, as well as the soup base. then he disappeared back in the kitchen, and returned a few minutes later, with the fish filleted, and the entire thing in a huge tureen. Mmmmmmmm... awesome. Another predictable thing... I couldn't leave any in the tureen, but ended up eating too much. Afterwards, it was soooo late, and I was so tired I was deliriously full and tired that I decided to take a cab to the youth hostel I planned on staying at. Oh yeah, the hostel I had yet to make a reservation at. So I got a phone card, and finally made connection, yes, there was room (whew) I got the address, and hailed a cab. This was no time to take a hike, I was wiped out. The cab made its way through the streets of Marseilles.. up the hill that led to Blos Lusy. When it came into view, the driver pointed it out to me- sitting alone on a hill was a 3 story chateau. I was impressed. In a few moments the cab was in front of the chateau, I reached into my wallet and pulled out the 100 fr., paid the driver and said goodbye. The cab turned around and sped down the hill; I was left alone at the gate of the mansion. I looked up into the sky; the moon, shining translucent through the clouds, the wrought iron gate, the mansion in the distance, and skyline of Marseilles was a sight that was forever locked in time inside my mind and heart
Notwithstanding, it wasn't without its flaws. I did have a room to myself, from my bunk I could see the lights of the city down below. I remember thinking that the walls were 7' thick, wow. In the morning, I was the only one in having a petite dejeuner, sheeze, was it ever petite, a pitcher of hot water, packets of instant coffee, which you pour into a bowl and drink with bread and jam. Hmmm.
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