I had some time today so I went to the old part of town to look for presents for the family. I had thought I had this pretty much handled when I was walking and found a guitar shop near my hotel. All my kids play guitar so I thought some nice French straps or picks or something. No chance, there was not a single thing in that store that was French. There was not even a pick that had French writing on it. So down town I headed.
I had similar problems shopping down town. There are really very few “French” things. Oh, there is wine and cheese but I was surprised that there are so few French products. I finally settled on some local soap made with lavender and some local chocolate made with olive oil.
Shopping done it was time for a look around. I am kind of nut about old buildings, so I walked to every old fort and church I could find. There was a lot of beautiful Romanesque architecture down around the old harbor, but there was a big cathedral way up on the hill called “Notre Dame de la Garde” that I had to get to. The long bus ride to a church that already looked big should have been a clue to how really really huge this church was. This place was awesome. It was built like a fortress. The church proper was on a rock about 40 feet tall. To get in there was a staircase to a drawbridge, a thick studded door, a portcullis, and another door. If they say they are closed, they are closed! There were paintings of local ships lost at sea, paintings of WWI and WWII planes down nearby. There were other paintings of these pilots being helped and hidden by the nuns and priests. The painted vaulted ceilings were incredible, and the church is topped by a truly huge statue of Mary. The stone work was beautiful, colored stone and incredible workmanship. I’m an engineer and am impressed by such things so I could go on for ever, but I won’t. But if you go, it’s worth the trip. Outside there were shell marks earned in the liberation of Marseille and you could see the countryside for miles around. As I walked back to the bus stop I had an excellent view of the Chateau d’if, the lodging of the Alexander Dumas’s Count of Monte-Cristo. I promised myself I would try to get out there.
I sat down at the bus stop that I shared with about 10 other people, old people, families, just regular people. I was on the end next to the curb, and a young guy and girl sat down there just outside the bus stop. I sat looking out over the city and saw them take out a couple of cigarettes. She lit hers but he took his apart. This caught my attention. He set the tobacco aside and took out a small bit of what looked like a bullion cube, but it wasn’t a bullion cube. He started heating it up with his lighter and crumbling bits of it into his hand. I thought, “he’s going to smoke some hash right here in front of all these people.” Nobody but me seemed to notice but I was fascinated by his audacity. He mixed the hash in with the tobacco and was about to re-roll the cigarette when the bus came. Not to worry, he just moved about 10 feet down the curb and finished up and got on the bus with the rest of us.
A 900 year old church and hash at a bus stop, this is definitely not America.