Viva La Revolución!

Trip Start Mar 31, 2011
Trip End Jul 05, 2011

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Monday, June 6, 2011

We arrived in Marseille in the evening and got in line to try to figure out how to get to Barcelona in the coming days. Chris luckily got to witness another French surrender-- the woman immediately told us that it was "impossible." We finally figured out that she did not have access to the regional Spanish trains with her computer system, so we decided to come back the next day after some internet research. We took the metro to the stop closest to our hostel. When we walked up from the metro station, we were surrounded by people marching and chanting in protest with tons of signs. Good start to Marseille! We had heard that the city was a bit rough, so this welcome did nothing to calm our nerves. Thankfully, all of the hype about Marseille being dangerous turned out to not affect us in the slightest-- we had a lovely visit.
The hostel was really nice and we were in a 4 bed dorm room, which was very handy since there were three of us. We locked up our packs and headed to the port to take pictures of the sunset. Then we wandered around a little pedestrian street right by the hostel to grab a quick dinner. We already had plans to eat a giant French feast for Adrienne's birthday the next evening, so we got some pho at a little Vietnamese place. It was delicious, just like every other meal we've eaten in France. The restaurant gave us fortune cookies that were really funny-- they were obviously translated from French to English using an online translation service, because they were grammatically ridiculous. Nearly impossible to decipher, funny! After dinner we headed back to the hostel and tried to go to sleep. Unfortunately, our only dorm buddy snored in an unbelievable way, so we had to pull out the earplugs. 

The next morning, we took full advantage of the delicious French baguettes provided for breakfast then went back to the port to check out the fish market. I got a ton of sweet fish photos-- I'll post them all on the bottom of the blog.  We walked around the port to Old Town, which was basically the same as the buildings around the port but with more narrow streets. We visited a giant cathedral that was really cool inside.  The French churches are very different from everything we've seen so far-- definitely more flags. 

We had lunch at a little sandwich shop and met the most delightful French man. He picked three sandwiches for us-- butter and ham, ratatouille and chicken, and tomato/mozzarella/pesto.  And he suggested a Grand Marnier crepe, prepared by pouring booze on a crepe and setting it on fire! He made fun of our French pronunciation relentlessly, then reverted to speaking entirely like Al Pacino (facial expressions and all). Charming! We took a ferry across the port to walk to the train station for round two of the attempted ticket-buying to Barcelona. We met a lovely woman who helped us book from Marseille to Montpellier, then Montpellier to Port Bou (in Spain). Past this point, we figured we would just hope that the Spanish train system is easier to use than the French. We walked from the train station back past the port to a viewpoint next to a chateau on a hill. The views of the port were totally spectacular and we spent a while just sitting and enjoying watching the boats.We had lunch at a little sandwich shop and met the most delightful French man. He picked three sandwiches for us-- butter and ham, ratatouille and chicken, and tomato/mozzarella/pesto.  
The three of us returning to the hostel to freshen up, we went to a nice little French restaurant near the place we ate the night before. There were three almost identical restaurants all on the same corner, so we picked the one with the chandelier... haha! The meal was totally epic and very hard to order. They had an English menu that proved to not be very helpful because it was also obviously translated by a machine. The waiter was totally hilarious but only moderately helpful. He did, at one point, bring out a giant (whole) raw fish on a plate to show us what the meal was-- probably because he did not know the words in English. 
After a very long time studying the menus in French and English, we figured out what to have. We had local white wine from the Province region, then oysters on the half shell fresh from the ocean. Then we had prawns with their heads on that took FOREVER to shell and eat, salad, and mussels soaked in butter and wine. For our actual meal, we had paella with little octopus in it, sol fillet drowned in butter, and a whole grilled sea bass. The sea bass was especially hilarious-- it came out whole and we had NO idea what to do with it, so the waiter took the plate from Chris and prepare the entire thing using a spoon without even touching it! He beheaded, de-tailed/finned, filleted, and deboned the thing all with a SPOON! It was unbelievable. Then he figured out that it was Adrienne's birthday, so he brought out a ton of desserts, complete with a French pastry with a sparkler in it! The other desserts were a pear tart, a lemon tart, and a chocolate/coffee cake. Phenomenal. 
We went back to the hostel to go to bed, then woke up early to head to Barcelona. There was a little bakery right by the hostel, so we picked up a few baguettes to eat on our massive train journey. Luckily, we still had a ton of food from the villa to help hold us over until dinner. We made it from Marseille to Montpellier to Port Bou just fine, then booked our train to Barcelona effortlessly. Upon arrival in Barcelona, we waited in a surprisingly short line to book reservations of the AVE high speed train to Madrid. By some miracle, the tickets only required a 10 Euro reservation fee with the Eurail pass, and we were able to get on the train leaving in about 30 minutes. Mind you, the fact that we only had to pay 10 Euros for this train is astonishing-- the full price is 140 Euros! The train was spectacular. It went 150 miles per hour and covered the huge distance in 2.5 hours. So, we successfully arrived in Madrid and will post about it in a few days. Adios!
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Mom on

OMG, the food looks so fantastic! And now I'm very hungry and need to "swim" something in butter to satisfy my craving! I love this blog.... the adventure of getting the tickets, the food, the birthday event, the personal photos and all the awesome scenery,and the grand finale on the supersonic train to Spain. Thanks so much for sharing.

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