On the 21st of December I left my lovely friend Olive , her husband Florino and their friends Maria & Cornelia in Ferney Voltaire. As I listened to them sweetly singing and jamming away on their Charangos (a beautiful Andean lute instrument), I felt that I was already in South America.
Given the recent terrorist activity in Paris and other cities around the world, both I and my ‘Tango mobile’ received a very thorough check at the Swiss border, however after a broken 6 hour journey I finally arrived at the outskirts of the grand old port of Marseilles which lies between the mountains and the Mediterranean sea; a city which has been coveted and occupied by many tribes including the Greeks, the Romans and the Moors.
From miles away I could see the city as the myriads of bright lights which shone like stars, lined up my approach. I was listening to my Tango cd in the background and it reminded me of a scene in a film by one of my favourite directors, Pedro Almodovar called ‘Tutto su mia madre (All about my mother). If you’ve seen the film, you will know the one I mean and if you haven’t then you definitely should !
Given my limited budget and the fact that I didn’t know any of the locals, I decided to book a room via the Airbnb website for the first time. I have to confess that I was a little anxious and not quite sure what to expect, but from the moment I arrived, my host, Jean-Cyrille (JC), made me feel at ease . JC, who is of Italian origin, not only happens to be an expert who assists companies to meet regulatory standards on their products and writes papers for the French government on Social & Economic policy, but also turns out to be a very friendly, gentle and caring individual who provides a personal touch by going that extra mile to get to know his guests.
I also met some of the other guests including a group of students from China, who study in France and a couple from Indonesia who were visiting from Amiens. Occasionally JC asked me to act as translator to his other English speaking guests, as although he spoke basic English it turned out that mine was better, well perhaps just a little 😉 ??!! Of course I took it as a compliment, as it clearly suggested that my French was good enough to translate 😉
After having sent off an email to the organisers of a milonga I’d found about, I decided to spend the day wandering around the old streets on foot, exploring the residential area and checking out the famous ‘Vieux Port’ and Notre-Dame de la Garde , as recommended by JC, because of the spectacular views of the city.
On Christmas eve not much was open in Marseille, apart from a local Irish pub and The Hard Rock Cafe, where I listened to a great little band called ‘The 66’ , who had a really great energy and sang a mixture of mainly English/ American tracks, which was kind of nostalgic on Christmas eve. The cocktails were pretty nice too !
In contrast to the warnings about the risks of visiting Marseille, I found the city to be enchanting and the diverse population of locals to be friendly and hospitable, such as my friend Nabil, a local Algerian resident rapper at Mojo, my favourite little take-away, who used to make everyone, both young & old , laugh with his exaggerated comic French rapping. I don’t think I understood a single word of his ‘rap’ but it was the combination of his exaggerated actions, the intonation in his voice, as well as his contagious chuckle which had us all in hysterics.
Unfortunately, on the morning after the milonga (see milonga no. 8: Carrément Tango)I silently said goodbye to this captivating city and set off on the next leg of my journey as I headed South West towards Spain on a very beautiful sunny Christmas morning, feeling very excited by the prospect of experiencing ‘off grid living’ within the Natural park of Las Sierras de Cazorla at an altitude of 1500 m.
Next destination: Spain !
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