Marseilles

I took the train to Marseilles (pronounced “Mar-sey”) yesterday for the biometrics appointment I told you about few days ago. The process took about an hour, and with my returning train not due in another 5 hours, I took the opportunity to explore a bit of the city.

I’ve been to Marseilles loads of time in the past, but I always find it a very vibrant place, always alive with its mix of different cultures, most of them originating from North Africa, particularly from Algeria, which France has occupied in the 19th century.

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Marseilles is the most populated city after Paris, and the oldest city in France

A must-visit is the 19th century Notre Dame de la Garde, seen at the far distance
 

Catch the morning fish market, it’s one of the highlights of the city.
The world-renowned Bouillabaisse, a fish stew. originated from Marseilles.

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There was a rally going on, held by education lecturers and civil servants, to protest against the continued slashing of teaching jobs in the country.

Travel TIP # 1……When exploring a city on a very limited time (say, for few hours), the best thing to do is to take the tourist bus/train/ferry. These forms of transport will take you to most, if not all, highlights of the city in a very short time, in the comfort of your seat.

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I took this little tourist train, at 5euros, to climb up the Notre Dame de la Garde. The view on the way is fantastic and the train moves slow enough to be able to take good photographs.

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We were climbing almost at 40deg incline! The train was slowly turning to the right so I had the chance to take a pic of the last car (right)
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“always dreaming to be an actress”..written on this graffiti

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Didn’t I tell you before that 1 in every 2 cars in France has beeps and bumps!

Travel TIP #2….Avail of the “day pass”, which means unlimited rides to the metro/bus combined, in one day (or 2, 3 days).

The ordinary one-way metro ticket is 1,70euros, but with a day pass, you only pay for 4,50euros and that’s a great way to hop in and out to go to more places in a day (until midnight)!

   

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The view from the Basilica

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The towering Cathedrale de la Majore in the center, one of Europe’s largest cathedrals built in the 19th century

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Seen off the harbour are 4 islands, the smallest one in the middle is the location of Chateau d’If, made famous by Alexandre Dumas in his novel, “The Count of Monte Cristo”

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A famous landmark, The Grand Escalier (The Great Staircase) leading up to the train station.

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The Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde

Notre Dame de la Gard

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It’s the time of year..

Where you from?

You just stepped foot in Sri Lanka and a man approaches you and asks “where you from?”. Beware! He may be a TOUT!

What is a tout? 
Wikipedia offers these examples:

Ex. 1….A person who frequents heavily touristed areas and presents himself as a tour guide (particularly towards those who do not speak the local language).

But I saw these same kind of people in Dumaguete and Bohol..

Ex. 2: ..Someone who, acting upon his own initiative, loads or unloads the baggage from a bus, then demands payment for his services from the passengers. 

NAIA used to be hounded by them..

Ex. 3…Some touts operate in holiday areas on behalf of local bars, restaurant or hotels, being paid to direct tourists towards certain establishments. 

I see some of them in Europe too…

Ex. 4…Touts ride on minivans that serve as the primary form of public transportation, collecting the fare and soliciting passengers.

Huh! Most buses and jeepneys in the Philippines are run by boys like these..

Wikipedia can give all the examples it wants but I just want to give my own declaration:

Sri Lanka is the tout capital of the universe!

H and I have been there several years ago, we have been victims. And now that H is back there, alone, touts are still alive and kicking! 

Oh I haven’t mentioned to you. H is in Colombo, Sri Lanka at the moment. He’s been there for 10 days now, on business, but 3 days to his arrival, he already feels like a prisoner, and yet he’s staying in a 5-star hotel with ten international restaurants to choose from, with the breathtaking Indian Ocean at his feet, verdant gardens with ponds, waterfalls, and hotel service is tops..in fact, a bit over the top! 

Don’t get me wrong. We adore Sri Lanka. It’s a wonderful country – unbelievably beautiful scenery, close encounters with wildlife, incredibly lush tropical island, beautiful trees, even more beautiful than in the Philippines (H says), wild rivers and lagoons, friendly people….except for the touts.

“I cannot even go exploring by the beach without getting approached by ten men.”

– Where you from?

– You want to visit the crocodile farm? Do you need a guide? You want to go to a seafood restaurant? 
 

“No, thank you. I just want to walk alone.. “


But they won’t go away. They kept following him. They obviously won’t take no for an answer. That exactly happened yesterday, so he immediately turned his back and took marathon-like strides towards the hotel.

“Every time I went for a walk alone someone would approach me. “


He went walking around the hotel grounds. He saw the main road just past the fence, got curious and inched closer. He was nearly a couple of meters to the fence then out of nowhere, a group of touts was calling him from outside. 


– Where you from? I work from the hotel. I saw you at the lobby yesterday. Where’s your wife? I can take you to Kelaniya Temple..You want to see Kandy? 


Good grief! I just want to be left alone….”
But they are insistent, really trying his patience. So he raced back to the hotel.

Now he feels like a prisoner. He can only dream of going to the town, explore the markets, enjoy the scenery, but it’s nearly impossible. As soon as he goes out into the open, touts would be out running after him. They see him as a dollar sign, you see. Especially that he’s white. Touts see white people as milking cows.

So H would rather stay at the hotel, to have peace. But it’s not fun..

the online questionnaire…

First, you now have to do it online.

Second, you have to answer 147 questions.

Third, before you even think of doing the first two above, have some panadol handy. Why? because half of the questions require immense concentration that when the whole process is over, your brain will be so numbed you won’t even have the strength to stand up and find where the First Aid box is.

Fourth, be ready to spend approximately half of your day (it was to me, anyway) staring on the screen wondering why the heck they are asking these questions!

Fifth, when the fiilling up of the (online) form is finally over, the next thing to do is to get an appointment (online) for a personal appearance to the consulate nearest you, for the purpose of presenting all your ten fingers for fingerscan, and your face, for identification. Above is the new procedure in renewing/applying for a British visa.

Background: For the last 8 years, I have renewed my British visa three times but have presented myself to the Embassy only ONCE. Because for renewals, we had the option of sending our application by mail and would subsequently receive our “visa-stamped” passport by registered delivery. Oh, I never paid any fee ever, being a family member of a British citizen.

Now, a posted or personally submitted application is no longer entertained. You have to do it online, and is obliged to present yourself to the consulate at a later date for the biometrics data (fingerscan, face ID). In addition, they don’t have anything to do with the application forms anymore. This job is now contracted – at least for us living in France, or probably for all EU member countries as well – to a 3rd party based in Budapest and I swear, the questions have become more complicated and even unnecessary! (But I still do not have to pay for any fee, thank goodness !)

How I wish, for spouses like me, they structure the questions sensibly and logically.

Here are some of them: Answers in italics were those I was tempted to type but couldn’t. Those without answers, I am still wondering why the heck they are asking those questions.

– how are you related to the EEA national? – spouse

– have you met the EEA national?

– when did you first meet the EEA national?

– where did you first meet?

– when did you last see the EEA national? – just a second ago, i just fed him lunch

– how often do you meet? – every single day of our lives except when he is away on business

– have you lived with the EEA national in a relationship like a marriage at any time? –

– when did your relationship begin?

– Have you kept in touch with the EEA national?

– you stated that you have kept in touch with the EEA national since you last saw each other, please explain how you have kept in touch and how often

– you stated that you and the EEA national have lived together in a relationship like marriage at some time, please give details include where, when and for how long –

– you stated your relationship with the EEA national, is/was this an arranged marriage? (this must be directed to Indian applicants ) – are you and the EEA national related outside marriage –

– do you intend to live with the EEA national permanently – supposed to be, unless he doesn’t behave himself

– have you lived with the EEA national in a relationship like a marriage at anytime – this question has been asked already!!!

Note: EEA stands for European Economic Area

The EEA National in this case, is my husband, a British

Jacques Brel

Everytime the word “Amsterdam” is mentioned, I am reminded of Jacques Brel’s passionate interpretation of the song, Amsterdam, which is a poetic account of sailors on shore leave in the city.

His songs, all in French, portray his insights on the dregs of society: the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the prostitutes, the cheap, working class men.  He is considered one of the best French-language composers of all time, and he was not even French nor Dutch – he was Belgian!

Another lovesong – Ne me quitte pas (If you go away) became so popular that it was interpreted in English by Frank Sinatra, Shirley Bassey, among others…

Jacques Brel is truly one of a kind. Hearing or seeing him singing (through video-clips as he died 30 years ago) takes me to a higher plane. He always sang so lyrically, so passionately, that it gives me goose bumps all the time.

Edith Piaf once said, “He goes to the limit of his strength because, through his singing, he expresses his reason for living and each line hits you in the face and leaves you dazed.”

Salernes

Salernes is the ceramic capital of the Var Region,
(as Vallauris is to the Alpes Maritimes)

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even an egg container is made of ceramic

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A ceramic entrance sign (left) to an elementary school. Also seen here is a 16-17th century stone fountain with its octagonal basin

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A ceramic accent to an old house.
Also seen (on the left) is a Judas tree, so-called because it is supposedly the tree Judas Iscariot hanged himself after betraying Christ.
This pink-flowered tree is a very common sight at Springtime.

The Sunday Market

If you want to make the most out of your visit to Salernes, choose a bright sunny Sunday morning. That is the day when the main square becomes a hive of activity, so overwhelming it can leave your jaw dropping and hearing yourself elicit the “oohs” and the “aahs”.
The sight and smell of the oozing cheeses, the saucissons (dried sausages), the spices, the colorful flowers, even the outdoor cafes where, for a cup of coffee, you can sit hours and hours watching all the movement…and I’m telling you, and don’t come back blaming me that I haven’t warned you, that this market is purely and simply assaulting to the senses!

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poppy seeds, great addition to baking bread!

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Saucisson of duck, or wild boar, or herbs or pepper
The seller, a 60-yr old man, was telling us that the EU has passed a law requiring all saucissons mixed with other flavors to maintain 60% pork content. Hence, if it’s a wild boar saucisson, it has to be 60% pork and 40% wild boar, and so on and so forth.

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and of course, the local patisserie:

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