Monday, March 21, 2005


I have finally fallen in love with Marseille - just in time it seems, as my chauffeur to the station informed me smugly that they were 'clearing it up'. In addition to building a tramway (top marks), it seems they are also clearing out all the Algerians from the attractively scruffy centre.

What I love about Marseille is that you can be in a souk buying cinnamon one minute, a fish market buying luminous spiked oursins from a stroppy fisher-woman the next and in a gothic church listening to Bach after your apero sipped in the Vieux Port by evening; What I love about Marseille is that it is NOT Cannes, and that it brings - or brought? - some hope that we could all possibly hang out happily together someday sharing our rich and diverse cultures.

Yesterday I had a concert in the Eglise des Accoules. Since I was losing 200 euros by not playing with the mdl and I had to leave at seven from Grenoble, I was not pre-disposed to have fun. However, after my encounter with said oursins, plus glow-in-the-dark starfish, eels and other delicacies on the port, camera-snapping happily away to the smell of seaweed and the sound of people buying their sunday poisson feast, I was practically delirious.

My only disappointment was that for lunch, in an attempt not to have yet another sandwich, I ended up having the worst Salade Nicoise I have ever had in Cafe Ripoffsville in the Vieux Port. Slammed on the table by angry waiters practicing for the tourist onslaught, it consisted of a teaspoonful of tinned tuna and two tablespoons of tinned beans on three leaves in a vat of mayo. And I was pretty much told to bog off as soon as I had finished because I was a lone diner. When I noticed that the girls on the next table were equally unhappy with their shrunken moules and soggy frites, I told the proprieter his restaurant was "honteux".

In my disdainful flurry I left my beautiful new Nikon Cool (no more) pix on the restaurant table, and they surely will not report it to the police because I was such a stroppy cow. It had some wonderful pictures on it too which should have been here....(a flat ochre white-shuttered building with the shadow of a seagull flying across it and a starfish of the same hue) Perhaps that's karma for you.

(George is right. I am the customer from hell! He has insisted that if I ever come to his restaurant in Rhode Island he is going to fly from France for the experience.)

The concert in Marseille was half full and we were feeling rather despondent. It was also, despite soaring temperatures outside, glacial. How people think we are supposed to move our fingers at a hundred miles an hour when they are rigor-mortised with cold, I have no idea. However, we swung, and I noticed that the Madrid trip had crept under my skin as in the La Follia variations I found myself launching a bass-line taut with the clenched sexuality of a trocadero. I think the young Priest Ottonello had rather a crush on me as afterwards he gushed - admitting to not being able to take his eyes off me; claiming I had the face of the Virgin Mary looking at her child (shame about the ass, I say!); saying that listening to my bass line was like walking on a lagoon and that my husband the painter had "such a beautiful model!". (OOOh I love compliments! Especially from priests - the ultimate in unavailable.)

We were invited afterwards to dine on truffle omelette and Chateau Petrus at a couple's house on the (yes THE) Corniche. The hosts were attractive in that well travelled (friendship bracelet from Nepal, Namaste greeting) designer way and apparently their house is just like walking into my favourite magazine-Cote Sud. They had made a spread for fifteen but, since none of us knew about it in advance and were all stuck to train timetables, there was only the dreamy Ottonello and the recorder player.


Blogger L'Oiseau said...

See, here I was happy that I'm in Paris and the sun had been shining all weekend. Then I read your post and I just wanted to be somewhere else! I love Marseilles too. My frog studied there for a couple of years and took me there for the first time last summer. Sounds like a beautiful evening.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Katia said...

Marseille is so lovely - after your descriptions, I feel a real need to make a trip down south.
I hope you manage to recover your camera - what a dreadful loss!

7:19 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home