Despite the tourist office telling me things would be open Sunday, but not Monday (Easter weekend), many things were closed Sunday morning. I did find a bakery for breakfast and, for the first time ever, thought I might be happy that McDonald’s is everywhere (and open all the time). Fortunately, when lunch rolled around, I didn’t have to resort to McDonald’s (although it’s fresher and tastes better here).
I started my day by heading to Palais Longchamp, which conveniently hosts the Natural History Museum – when a city with over 300 days of sunshine dishes up a rainy day, it’s clearly a sign to hit up the museums! It also hosts a museum with paintings, which I saw due to having a free pass, but for some reason, paintings aren’t my thing. I did spend some time this trip admiring the work that would have went into achieving the right shading and getting some of the features just right though.
Ok, and back to Natural History and the “hall of taxidermied horrors.” I will say the kids seemed to like it, but it creeped me out! I did enjoy the fossils a bit more.
The special exhibit on human evolution was really fascinating and I was surprised how complete many of the skulls were and how little they were actually guessing at – meet your ancestor Homo Ergaster!
One of my favorite things here was seeing the old palace design still intact in many areas:
I decided it was time for another historic building and went to the Vieille Charité, which had housed orphans and vagrants in the 17th century. As it turned out, it ALSO houses museums that can be entered on one ticket. Frankly, if you don’t have the historical items to fill out the interior and make for an interesting history tour, using the spaces as museums is better than letting them deteriorate. I actually only went inside originally because there was an open cafe (not knowing about the museums) – we need strawberry juice in the US by the way!
The first exhibit of Egyptian artifacts was a bit underwhelming after what I’ve seen in Egypt, but they did have a good selection of items categorized based on their usage. I didn’t get any pictures of the Greek exhibit, but the special exhibit was on women in Greece and I could actually understand enough of the French to get the gist of what it was saying. I still find understanding the speech incredibly difficult though!
Strangely for being Europe (or perhaps not, given the colonial past), some of my favorite and the most unique art came from Oceania and Africa. First, this cool sugar skull, except it’s an actual skull!
Then, the Vanuatu, who have an impressive display of war-related items. I particularly liked the end display – you can almost imagine them marching towards you.
The intricacy of the African wooden masks was really impressive as well.
As I headed for the Major Cathedral, this guy was making art of his own – hard to say if it was authorized as some businesses here seem to have actual artwork on their doors, not just graffiti.
While the Cathedral is under construction, my favorite view was this side showing that the 19th Century Cathedral was built into the 12th Century Roman remnants. The front doors of the “new” Cathedral were very ornate and stunning too.
I began a desperate search for coffee at this point, which is when I discovered that asking a French man where you can get coffee (since many things were closed) is apparently an invitation and, when you barely speak any of the same language, it’s incredibly difficult to explain you weren’t exactly looking for company, although he did manage to convey that the word, “Jolie” (sounds like Juli) apparently means I have a pretty face and that my refusal to hold his hand made him want to cry. I finally decided it was a good time to catch the boat, even if Castle d’If was closed for the weather. The fact that you can’t actually have a conversation at all is no obstacle to a determined French guy, but getting on a boat does the trick. A view from the boat and Castle d’If as we passed!
This French guy thing repeated itself twice after, although one spoke more English and one was actually very polite and gave up a little more quickly when realizing we couldn’t actually communicate. It appears French Mediterranean men think I’m “jolie,” which I might have had fun with at one point, but I’m simply not interested at this time. It also seems that anything is an invitation – where can I get coffee? Can you take my picture? Or even replying with “Bonjour” when it is said to you first. Only one was overly aggressive, but they certainly need very little encouragement!
So, onto the island! I think most of us who ended up here had intended to go to Castle d’If as people got off the boat and sort of wandered aimlessly. I saw a sign for a historical hospital and, upon realizing the next boat wasn’t for 90 minutes, set off in search of it. When in use in the 1800s, it housed sailors ill with yellow fever. I thought I’d found it and took these photos before turning back. I later learned this wasn’t it and I didn’t go far enough! Considering I walked over 25 miles between catching my train in Poitiers and Sunday night, my feet definitely felt like I went far enough!
While I’m not much for urban photography, I’m looking forward to my DSLR pics of this place as I like pics of “what we leave behind.” On my way back to the boat, I figured I should finally learn what a “Calanque” is since they’re a big deal here. I wandered down a path and learned it’s a inlet apparently. I also admired this flower growing in a place known for its dry, harsh weather and out of rock no less!
And that largely wraps up my trip to Marseille as I leave Monday around noon.