Time is flying by, I can’t believe it’s already the middle of October! We have midsems next week, so best of luck to everyone currently making it through hell week at Grinnell ❤ I’m really looking forward to fall break and a chance to journey outside of France!
The past couple of weeks have been extremely busy, as per usual, particularly because I was out of town for the last two weekends in a row. Nonetheless, we’ve had a few Marseille-related adventures and exploration. One of the highlights was le Château d’If, the setting of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. The castle was originally used a fortress and later a prison (it really did hold prisoners, although Dumas’ work fictionalized it and made it famous). It was lovely to take the ferry to the island and we definitely want to visit the others in the Frioul archipelago sometime soon. We also recently dined in the Vallon des Auffes, a small fishing port further down the Corniche (the coast that Marseille follows), with an adorable view of the colorful homes, tiny boats, and light reflecting off the water right next to our restaurant. The larger ports are always spectacular, but the smaller, older inlet made an awesome, quieter dinner spot!
During the past two weeks in my urbanism class, we discussed the evolution of Marseille in relation to its ports and its development over time, both economically and socially. Last week was one of the courses during which we walk through the quarters that we’ve studied and it was extremely interesting to see all of the construction. The government is attempting to turn one of the ports into a commercial area with modern buildings filled with businesses, banks, and an enormous mall. This process has been facilitated by the fact that Marseille was named the European capital of culture in 2013, which has brought a lot of tourism and awareness. I found very fascinating to see the physical evidence of gentrification in the city, particularly considering the debate currently happening in Madison over development.
Two weekends ago, I went to a hat tournament with the team in Beaumont de Pertuis, a tiny village in the Luberon area. I was dumbstruck by the fact that we were playing in a rural, picturesque village filled with vineyards, as opposed to a suburban soccer complex. Most of our team stayed at the house of my teammate’s grandmother, who casually had her own vineyards right outside the door. We played in 6 randomly assigned teams of 10 and it was incredible to play real games on actual grass! French tournaments are largely the same as American ones, with several huge differences, principally all of the food!! For breakfast, there were baguettes with a million different spreads, coffee, tea, and grapes (locally grown in the region of course).
At lunchtime, everyone had an hour to eat and most teams also had a bye before or after. There was so much food; more baguettes, cheeses, meats, vegetables, more grapes, many different beverages. I also tried ratatouille and pastis, a Provençal alcohol flavored with licorice. We played 5v5, so the games were shorter, and I also learned that certain rules (such as picks) are slightly different in Europe. There were also many spirit games, including between the teams and challenges for each team specifically throughout the weekend. I’m so so glad I went and got a chance to play, but it made me miss Grinnell women’s ultimate at the same time (can’t wait to chase discs with all of you lovelies in a few months <3)!
On Friday, several of us decided on short notice to go to Arles for the day on Saturday. It was only a 45 minute train ride, so we got up at the crack of dawn (like 7:30am) to adventure to the setting of several of Van Gogh’s paintings (including the Starry Night over the Rhône, Café Terrace at Night, and Garden of the Hospital). We arrived without a plan, but were given instructions by a lovely patisserie owner on how to find the outdoor market to start our day. It was incredible to see all of the local products, ranging from fruits and vegetables, pastries, and seafood to clothing and shoes. I ate the largest pain au chocolat I have ever seen, fruit, and later some delicious falafel, freshly deep-fried.
Afterward, we found the tourism office and a map with marked with walking tours of the city’s largest monuments. Highlights included two ancient Roman amphitheaters, the Van Gogh Foundation (containing modern art and a single Van Gogh painting), and numerous ancient churches. The day and evening were essentially filled with eating, but it was of course worth it. We managed to pass a lovely, relaxed 10/10 and I’m really glad we were able to see Arles on our own in such short notice!
The weather here has sadly remained homogeneously sunny and a bit too warm for my taste, please enjoy the fall colors and sweater weather without me! À la prochaine (: