Friday, August 14, 2015

Day 4: Marseille and Chateau d'If

My last day in Marseille. Time to squeeze in all the things I had been meaning to do but had put off in order to explore the rest of Provence.

I had booked a late flight so I had enough time to finally do the self-guided walking tour that I had picked up on day one. In theory, this should have been easy enough, since the city had been thoughtful enough to draw color-coded lines on the sidewalks to match the tour route. For the most part, this worked like a charm.  The problem was that the particular tour I had must not have the only version available and certain intersections had multi-colored lines vectoring off in each and every different direction. I was never fully able to ascertain which color I was supposed to be following.  By default, I ended up doing my own hybrid version of multiple tours.  As a result, I got a great overview of the old part of town.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 3: In the land of fountains, Cezanne and calissons

With the hopes of seeing fields of purple now dashed and having followed in Van Gogh's footsteps as far as I could, day three brought new challenges. What to do?  I had heard of Aix-en-Provence.  I knew Cezanne was from there.  I was now privy to the zone tickets allowing you to traverse southern France for next to nothing.  I could almost pronounce Aix.  The decision was made.

Had I done a bit more research and found out just how proud they were of their fountains, I might have rethought this.  I would have known that the principal thoroughfare is a shopping street with ornamental spouts gurgling every couple of blocks. Not in a Bellagio, choreographed along with lights, pretty, just regular fountains. Some were made of stone, others were mossy blobs kind of dribbling away...none of them particularly remarkable but there they were, the pride of the town.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Day 2: Doing the Van Go-Go

It was day 2 in Marseille and the word around the hostel was that the lavender fields were no more. It was towards the end of the season and some fields had already been plucked of their little purple bounty. I could not find anything online to confirm or deny this and the hostel staff was exceptionally useless so I figured I would head in the general direction of the fields and investigate.

I was planning on going that way anyways. After at least a dozen visits to Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum, I wanted to go to Arles and see the city that (along with a healthy dose of absinthe) inspired such frenzied creativity.  If I could pair the visit with a ride out to the scenery found on every single Provence postcard, that much the better.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Day 1: Kicking off Plan B in Marseille

My plan at the beginning of the summer was simple enough. I would be based out of Amsterdam for two months, therfore I'd have the opportunity to knock off two more countries from my dwindling European list. July, I would hit Lithuania (#98) and August, I would spend some time in Barcelona and use it as a base to get to Andorra (#99).

As you may have noticed from my last post, the first part of this plan went off quite well. I loved Lithuania and the very cool people I met there. The problem arose when I began to research things to do in Andorra. Had it been winter, I could have watched people skiing (note: Cubans raised in tropical climates are not genetically engineered to put planks on their feet and careen headlong down snowy surfaces. To paraphrase Lucille Bluth: I don't understand this and I will not respond it. But I will hang out in a lodge like nobody's business). But this was August and all I could find were suggestions for duty free shops. I envisioned Guam (aka Asia's duty free mall and gun range) all over again. Not even for my 99th country was I willing to subject myself to this.

I needed a Plan B. The few European countries I haven't been to were all too expensive or time consuming to get to. I looked towards cities I had not been to. At some point, Marseille popped into my head. I envisioned beautiful beaches, lavender fields and mouth-watering cuisine. The flights were both short and cheap. Marseille, it was.