As I prepared to leave Marseille today and was headed towards the Castellane Metro, I knew I needed to search for deals and book as many weekends away as is reasonably affordable.  It feels like I’ve been gone for considerably longer than a weekend – like I fit a full week of experience into those days.  I also feel physically exhausted, but in a good way.  Vacation is certainly good for the soul!  One thing I failed to mention previously (and a good conversation recently reminded me of) is how surprised I was on my last trip to Paris, when I stayed in a slightly residential area, and the center median was a large grass and path area (similar to the Park blocks) with numerous people sleeping in tents there.  I was reminded of this due to the sheer number of homeless people begging in Marseille.  In a country with wicked high taxes to support a strong social safety net it’s really quite sad that they still have a significant homelessness issue.

The St-Charles train station was a pretty nice one as these things go.  It almost looked like a mall until you got right to the tracks.  Similarly to Paris, security was checking all boarding passes before allowing people on the train.  For those unaware, this is rather uncommon as typically someone comes through the train to scan your pass while onboard at some point.  There was also a highly visible armed presence at the station.

I was rather proud of myself, given droite is used both as part of indicating right (a droite) and straight (tous droite), that when asking where the toilets were, I correctly understood the man to say they were straight ahead until outside then to the left.  When learning a foreign language, it’s really the little things!  Speaking of, the word “brassiere” in French apparently means life jacket, so I’m sure that leads to some interesting misunderstandings when they come to the US.  Spanish really does help with French though, as there are many similarities.  Such as “por que” in Spanish and “por quoi” (sounds like poor qwah) both meaning “why?”  I doubt I’d be picking up French so quickly if I didn’t speak a decent amount of Spanish.

I was quite happy to find my 2nd class seats on the return train were the nicest ones so far, which kind of makes up for the crappy ones headed to Paris – especially since this was a 5 hour ride!  I was again surprised that certain areas had trash all along the sides of the rail road tracks like you’d see in an impoverished country.  The first time I rode the local train from the CDG airport to Paris I saw the same and it was indistinguishable from something you’d see in Guatemala or the Dominican.

On a more pleasant note, as I rode along I noticed an interesting pattern in that nearly every fertile valley with a hill overlooking it had a castle, fort or chateau on top.  A couple had an old church on the hill, but the remnants of a war-heavy history lives on in the fortifications on the high ground.  I wasn’t able to get a good shot of one as the trains are FLYING most of the time, but here is a good shot I managed as we moved more slowly through one area.

And that wraps up my trip to Marseille!  I will note that I am now back in the cottage, where I nearly managed to asphyxiate myself trying to build a fire, which generated a whole lot of smoke, but not nearly enough actual fire (and no, I didn’t not fail to open a flue).