Day 92 - Marseille

Trip Start Aug 07, 2007
Trip End Nov 07, 2007

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Flag of France  ,
Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hair: The French Call it Bouffant And It Is Chic
Beard:  Allowing Me Plenty of Breathing Space On Public Transport
Distance Driven: 12,550km
Frame of Mind: Dazed

The ferry trip was actually very pleasant.  I don't know why I was expecting a battered old rust bucket but it was a giant posh one with a cinema (had to watch Shark Tale in French but didn't make it through The Pursuit of Happyness - there is onyl so much French Will Smith a boy can cope with.), a posh restuarant (idiots, they had an all you can eat cheese board) and a disotheque (cheesy-listening and europop).  I got a remarkably good night's sleep on the floor of the lounge with  my broken-zipped sleeping bag despite the hackings and spittings of my less-economially-endowed lounge mates (I had decided that after 500USD for the ticket I wasn't forking out another 100 for a cabin).  I'll miss them all.

I had decided to go to Marseille as it is big and I'd be able to get parts easily for Charlotte.  It unfortunately meant missing all of Italy, Monaco, Nice and Cannes.  Next time gadget.  Next time.

So a little after 11am, some 20h hours after we left Africa, I rolled off the ramp in Marseille, France.  The customs and immigration were remarkably quick.  Ridiculously quick some might say.  They comprised the customs/immigration guy asking:

"Vous etes Francais?"

Me replying:

"Non, je suis Anglais"

and him waving me through.  No passport was checked, no carte gris or carte jaune or carnet de passage or insurance or driving licence or anything!  Potential terrorists please disregard what you have just read.

"Bienvenue en France!"

Stop complaining Clark.

Marseille is beautuiful.  A fantastic place: posh, pretty, sunny, clean, organised, lots of delicious smells, cafe filled cafes, seafood restaurants, and lots of French women trotting about with their short hair and chic pouts...that sexy look of indescribable Frenchness.  

With Charlotte behaving very badly and feeling very sorry for herself I needed to find some parts.  I was directed towards a road I like to call 'rue de motor heaven', as it is a full kilometre of motorbike parts shops.  Including an official Honda shop!  If I couldn't get what I wanted here I couldn't get it anywhere.

Except perhaps Belgium.  Which is where all the parts I needed were.  In fact not all the parts, as apparently Honda stopped selling 250cc bikes years ago in Europe.  The guy at the shop seemed very African in attitude towards fixing the problem.  Replace the chain and sprockets and eveything will be ok.  But what about the buckled wheel, don't you think that could be a problem?  Will you take a closer look?  Nope, just replace the parts.  Be reet. 

The other thing is he tried to convince me that all the parts were so specialised that they had to be ordered from Belgium and no other model's parts would suffice.  The sprockets I agree, the chain I'm a bit dubious, but the lightbulb for the indicator!?  So 400 Euros and a two day wait to see if he's right.

In the mean time I've had my helmet stolen.  Nice one Clark.  So I buy another one.  Another 120 Euros that is pretty unecessary.  And it's a less-than-hard-man scooter one.  The full face I'm-the-man ones were 250plus.  I'm willing to sacrifice my masculinity for money. 

I have also decided that my French isn't as hot as I thought it was.  In Tunisia I could understand 90% of what I heard.  I knew there was something wrong.  It turns out that Tunisians speak French very slowly, with a very small vocabulary and basic grammar.  They may have learned it from Tricolore too, as their favourite band is Vox Populi and they know a ludicrous amount about La Rochelle.

It is also very cold.  And this is the hottest part of France.  I went for a run yesterday and my little fingers were nearly frozen off.  But the air is crisp and dry and very exciting.  I'm not sure why it's exciting, perhaps I recognise it as the build up to christmas or the promise of sledging on War Hill (Lower Earley, Reading).  Although I'm not sure I still find those things exciting I guess the weather change still promotes the same feelings.  Ding ding...why am I salivating now?  

Whatever the temperature I'll just have to suffer it.  It's going to be a lot worse at speed on my pikipiki.  I'll just put on all the clothes I own and brave it.  I'm not going the most direct route, as that means going through mountains, which I assume will be a lot colder, and into areas that on the weather map seem to have permanent black clouds.  Instead I am skirting along the Med coast and then up north where I hope to avoid most of the rain and the worst of the November chill.

I've decided not to bother with any tourist stuff and instead just to enjoy the drive home as much as possible.  So I'm taking the backroads, the scenic routes on the Michelin map and stopping where I feel like.  I've not got much choice actually...I've got a road map and no guide book.  Hopefully this will bring me in contact with lots of country grandmere housewives with steaming bowls of soup, pate de campagne and pain rustique.  Not to mention lashings of custard.  Calm it Enid.

The food is better than in Britain.  Hands down.  Have to admit it.  No wonder the Frenchies are so snotty about it.  It's not so much the top end stuff, it's the basic eateries.  They all CARE about how their food tastes.  The quality of the produce is high and it's fresh and a little bit of love and thought goes into the recipes and the preparation.  A simple cheese sandwich is transformed. 

In fact, although I'll have to keep up the pretence of dislike for the cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys, I do love this country.  The food, the lifestyle, the attitude.  Everything.  They even seem to have reduced the amount of dog poo since I was last here, which is nice.  There are still some xenophobic, miserable, sulky, bulldog-faced wankers (ran into one last night who was a complete arse, but I won't go into that whilst I'm waxing lyrical) but aren't there everywhere.  Well done France.  Feather in your tricorn. Another happy customer.

I'm still only going to stay here for another two days though.
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walkertg on

Un passport monsyewer? Je ne need one pas.
Who needs a passport? I'm sure sure the border guard recognised the dodgy French accent as one that can only be possessed by a native English speaker. And a Reading-ite at that.

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