Have you ever been in Marseille? No? Oh, that is sad, because you missed something very – – – what is the right word? – – – enchanting! Ever since I fell in love with The Count of Monte Christo 50 years ago I wanted to go there … and yesterday I finally did. Accompanied by two wonderful friends who were willing to show me around, I went to follow in the footsteps of Edmond and Mercedes.
Don’t tell me they are fictional characters! I am sure many Edmonds and Mercedesses have lived here over the centuries. Maybe they went by other names, but they will have laughed and cried, loved and suffered, while the Chateau d’If four kilometres out at sea will have reminded them of one of the most read love stories ever written.
Standing in the shadows of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde gives us a beautiful panoramic view of Marseille all the way west to the Corniche. Maybe our two lovers met there in a secluded cove under the protection of a moonless night, melted into each other’s arms, made sweet, passionate love, whispered terms of endearment, and promised undying devotion.
Or maybe like us, they walked closely holding each other, the small streets of Le Panier, now home to artists, and artisans, and lots and lots of little bars and eateries. Sampling a sacristain (yummy sweet sort of cake) or navettes (cooky like speciality in Marseille) or sipping a hot coffee. Yes, they would have done something like that – ever now and then glancing around to make sure their tete-a-tete remained a secret.
I am fascinated by the disorderly patterns of streets criss-crossing up the hill. They are lined with 4 or 5 story houses proudly showing besides beautiful, colourful window shutters, intricate iron balconies or clotheslines with this morning’s washing wafting to and fro in the Mistral.
We walked along, climbed up one of the many stairs to suddenly find the street opened up to a little area where people gathered. It’s delightful to see how many of these little unexpected places are hidden in the folds of the city, around a tree, a fountain, or as a court yard of several houses. Ideal places for clandestine rendezvous. This was where people met, where community became a verb, actively practiced. Where Marseilles met in doorways of shops and discussed politics or the weather. Some may have met to catch up, some just to sit down for a coffee or a drink, while others were there to a read book or the newspaper, or bathed in the sun. You could easily see who lived here and who was a tourist.
Rather than sitting back and surrendering to the slow pace of the Mediterranean , tourists, like I were busy capturing these images of ‘laisser faire’, of the sleepiness of hot midday sun, on camera. Longing to be part of it but driven onwards by the thirst for seeing more. Hoping to go over the photos later and be inspired to practice some of that wonderful ‘living’ in our every day life back home.