phillycat: (Transformers)
phillycat ([personal profile] phillycat) wrote2009-05-06 01:14 pm
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Hello! *waves* Ah, a new journal. Feels like a crisp blank piece of white paper.

I want to use this journal mainly to showcase creative pursuits and also talk about my various traveling adventures. Since I just got back from Marseille yesterday, I thought I'd start there. What say you? Aye? Okay then!

Julian (my husband) owns a flat in Marseille, in an area called La Panier, "The Basket", which used to be a bit seedy. Now it's beautiful! They've poured money into the neighborhood and renovated many of the shops and residences. Part of the reason they are doing all this work is because Marseille has been designated the European City of Culture for 2013. (Read link for further info about what that is.) So the EU, France, and the city all contribute millions of Euros to revitalizing whole areas of the city, and La Panier is one of them.

The bad news is the neighborhood is just starting to lose its gritty urban appeal, and the cheap vegetable and fruit stands and tiny local shops are closing their doors as the slick chain shops take their places (H&M, Esprit, etc). The good news is, the flat is now worth almost 3 times what Julian paid for it, and the area is becoming much safer, too. Also, they cleaned all the buildings and built a tram (by far the most eco-friendly form of public transport) right through the middle of the neighborhood.

We went to see the flat on Saturday morning, and I loved it. It's pretty big, 2 good-sized bedrooms, in a fantastic old Art Deco building. Even though I know we'll be in London for at least another year, it's fun to fantasize about living in it. Since I loved Marseille so much, it's a very good possibility that it will be the next place we move. London was never supposed to be permanent; my husband's job offer was just too good to pass up. So it wouldn't be a bad deal to eventually move from cold, rainy London to the permanent sunshine!

The ostensible reason for the trip was that we had a wedding to attend near Aix-en-Provence, but actually we just used it as an excuse to explore the whole area together. My husband lived there for almost 8 years so he had a lot of things he wanted to show me, and since it was my first time, we wanted to see if I liked it enough to consider it as a possible place to live in future. I can confidently say the answer is YES.

The nicest thing about Marseille is that it's not a city that exists for tourists, like much of the South of France. It's a port town, a working town, populated by working class people. It's not prettied up. It's gritty. It reminds me a lot of Philadelphia, actually. Except Marseille IS IN PARADISE. On our 4th day there, when we awoke to another day of clear blue sky, sunshine, and 70 degrees with no humidity, I remarked that we'd gotten really lucky with the weather. My husband shook his head and said, "No, it's just like this pretty much every day here." They have over 200 sunny days a year, on average.

There are two distinct sections of Marseille - one the urban center, and one the pleasure beaches.

I would recommend a trip to Marseille to anyone who enjoys an urban setting combined with some of the nicest weather and scenery in the world. We had a fantastic time!

Flickr photos are up, friends-only. If we're not friends on Flickr, leave a comment here or there and I will add you so you can see them.

I didn't want to come home! :)