Friday, July 8, 2011

Marseilles - It seemed like SUCH a good idea, Part II

We're on route from Barga to Barcelona. This is a haul and a half. I'm starting to wonder about our sanity-what we were smoking when we decided that a road trip was the thing to do with three kids, and 4 adults and all our gear? I'm excited for Jordan though-- she has worked Very Hard this year studying Spanish and is looking forward to this next phase of the trip where she gets to try out her "Mad Skills" in the restaurants and shops. But the getting there- LONG.

We stopped for the night in Marseilles. It was past the half way point, and not so crazy expensive as Cannes. We stayed at a Holiday Inn, which is pretty generic, but you can usually count on it being okay. And the hotel was okay. The neighborhood--- sketchy.  We were right across the street from the train station and fairly near the waterfront. I asked for a map at the desk, and said we wanted to go out for dinner.  I asked if the neighborhood was okay. Usually when I ask this question, people at the desk reassure me that the neighborhood is "fine". Here- not so much. The woman at the desk got out the map and circled a big chunk of real estate directly adjacent to the hotel on one side and another chunk on the other side. She said "Don't go here. Or here. This street is safe." she said, carefully marking the one street which bisected the unsafe areas that surrounded us. Um.... okay. She continued, "When you get to this street, where the McDonald's is, turn right. This street is safe too. It will bring you to the waterfront."

Well, being fatigued and figuring it couldn't be that bad, I didn't really heed her warnings. We were having trouble leaving the hotel room- Nate was watching the FIFA Women's World Cup, and didn't want to leave until it was over. Kent and Steve stayed with him. Kathy and I took Jordan and Jack, and we said we'd meet them at the waterfront. Kent said he wanted French food- something with a sauce, maybe some fish, since we were right on the water. W e said we'd check it out and call them.

Then we left the safety of the Holiday Inn and entered the Neighborhood. And I could see what the woman at the desk meant. The street we were on seemed "okay" but any of the cross street seemed much less so. There were a lot of people out on the street. There were a lot of restaurants in this area, mostly kabob shops, but not catering to tourists. Clearly they all knew each other; lots of men hanging out in groups, playing cards and smoking. There were some women with little kids and some pushing carriages, and so I felt like we were okay. We stopped to take a picture of some movie theatre having an international festival. I said "Kathy- this will be the picture we label 'Here's the last picture we took right before we got mugged.'" We laughed nervously, but we both knew we were serious.

 Then it got a little sketchier still.  People clearly high or psychotic, smelly and disheveled. One man asleep sitting up on the  curb. Kathy said "We should take a cab home." Uh huh-- you got that right!! I was wishing we were all together. I was wishing we had at least one man over the age of 7 with us. I was wishing Jordan's shorts weren't so short.

We made it to the waterfront and it was pretty, but the kind of restaurants where it would take a long time to eat. And we definitely didn't want to be finding our way back to the hotel in the dark. Okay. Plan B- we were going to eat quickly and head back to the hotel. We would try this Chinese place, right near the water front. But, even though it appeared open, we couldn't figure out how to get in. I tried to call Steve's phone- and -- nothing. My phone wouldn't work.

Okay Plan C-- we ate at McD's. Jordan renamed all our food so that it sounded much more fancy and "French"- we could tell Kent and Steve we had a lovely meal at the waterfront. We walked home  (we couldn't locate a taxi - none at all) and never crossed paths with the boys. At one point I said "We're still okay. There are still people out with their kids in carriages." And we did that "Whistle a Happy Tune" thing from "The King and I" in our heads. And then we saw this man, with his fly unzipped and his hands down his pants, and all his glory hanging out there, walking right by us...... Okay. Not fun anymore. We need to get back to the hotel. Right. Now.

We made it. All safe and sound. The guys didn't get back until after 11, with bags of kebabs and fries. They didn't think the neighborhood was good either, but they hadn't had the same experience we had. Marseilles is not on the "Must Return To" list. Not by a long shot.

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