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Day A14 - Reaching the big city
March 11, 2013                            Cassis to Marseille                                    15 miles
Highway to Marseille (courtesy Google maps)
Marseille city view
Marseille artsy facade
Marseille residents
Haze spoiled today for photography. The rural highway shot is courtesy of Google maps; the others are mine

Yesterday evening, I got a reminder of how much my backpack slows me down. Leaving it in my hotel, the Cassiden, I effortlessly trotted around Cassis, taking photographs. I singled out one familiar and prominent place, the Hôtel Liautaud.

This morning, I breakfasted at the Liautaud, which has occupied pride of place close to the port for eighty years. And it hasn't much changed, a fact I know from pictures. This morning, its streetside bistro was as open for business as I bet it's been, uninterruptedly, for all that time.

Today, I had some sentimental business to attend to at the Liautaud, and for simplicity I'll report it in English. "Is a Mr. Liautaud still in charge?" I asked. Of course I suspected that only a grandson could possibly still own the place. The staff duly pointed out grandson Liautaud, a young man of 25 to 30 years old, whom I approached.

"Monsieur Liautaud," I started, "your grandfather and my parents were friends." I paused. "My parents honeymooned here between the wars, and visited again after WW2."

Grandson Liautaud smiled benignly. But I still had to pay for my breakfast.

Incidentally, as a nice language touch, "honeymoon" translates to the French lune de miel [moon of honey], the same odd expression.

I left Cassis in perfect weather, thinking of my parents and life generally. Birds chirped from the trees, a small but wonderful sound. A man was methodically trimming his hedge ("clip, clip"). Two dogs barked up on the hill, where smoke from burning brush rose lazily, contributing to the haze.

The road to Marseille was similar in topography to yesterday's road to Cassis, though it was a better, almost manicured highway with gentler grades. On both days, it was a case of a steep climb from sea-level to 1000 ft, and later a steep descent down to sea-level again.  Haze made for poor photography, and got worse once inside the city, but here I snapped away to try to capture the city's ethnicity and some of its atmosphere. It's said that Miami isn't part of the United States, Barcelona isn't part of Spain, and Naples isn't part of Italy. So it seems with Marseille and France.  After a scenic route through the country, arrival in the city was an abrupt transition from grass to graffiti.

Today's hike ended at Gare Saint-Charles after 15 miles and eight hours. The hike in the city along avenue du Prado, and on narrower streets beyond that, reminded me that I look like an aging American tourist carrying a backpack full of valuables ready for plucking. I simply stuck out like a sore thumb, and got a lot of looks. As my friend, Dan McP, and the internet, authoritatively report, Marseille is a city with plenty of crime, and some of it is political. I was glad it was daytime.

Marseille city street
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© 2013 Daryl May