The Nunnerys Go To Europe, Part II: Marseilles, France

More from Europe on the blog today! I could talk about Europe forever, so I apologize in advance.

We flew straight from Amsterdam to Barcelona on Sunday morning, but unfortunately we didn't have the time or the money to spend getting to know the city. So even though we can officially say we've been to Barcelona, we didn't actually do very much of anything. Except pay too much for a taxi, which then took us to the wrong terminal at the port (even after we told him in Spanish (!) which terminal it was). There were some pretty incredible views on that 12-minute drive, though.

I don't want to boggle up too much of this space with tips on how to travel. After all, no matter how much you read on how to be a great tourist (or how to successfully pretend to be a local), there's nothing like experiencing it for yourself. But I do want to say this: a cruise is the best option if you're on a tight budget and want to get the most for your money. With that being said: Don't go on Royal Caribbean.

I've been on a total of four cruises in my life: two with Disney, one with Carnival, and one with Royal Caribbean. Disney is the shiz, I don't care who you are. Young or old, married or single, empty nesters or bright-eyed youngins with a brand new infant in tow. The service is top-notch, the ships are floating palaces, and the food is fantastic. They really protect their brand. And there is so much to do, whether you have children or not. Carnival is a great deal and can be somewhat cheesy, but, again, good service and decent food. Royal Caribbean was not a bad cruise. I will clarify that now. But we were on Splendour of the Seas, which is a much older ship in comparison (built in 1996), much smaller than most, and really didn't have anything to offer us by way of entertainment. We spent a lot of time playing mini-golf, I'll tell you that. There is a casino and bars and a number of lounges, but we're not really into those things. We like to either be adventurous and silly, or relax and pass out by the pool (when it's not so windy even Italy feels like England). The service was great, but the food was so-so. The ports were very far from our actual destinations (for example, the port they tell you is Rome is actually Civitavecchia, which is close to 90 miles away from Rome...meaning you must either pay for a ridiculously expensive cruise excursion to get there or risk doing the local thing and hope you don't get lost in an Italian train station). I would say if you take Royal Caribbean, go for one of the brand new ships which offer simulated surfing pools, ice skating, and all sorts of other fun things. Splendour was just your basic, run-of-the-mill cruise. And you really do spend a whole lot more time on the ship than you think, so make it worth the money (and that $12 per person, per day tax they secretly add onto your bill!).

I'll be taking questions after the lecture.

{The Chateu D'if, from Alexandre Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo!}

Now...back to the good stuff!

Our first port of call was Marseilles, France. And let me be the first to admit I am terrified of the French. I've heard so many horror stories about how cruel they can be when Americans show up not knowing how to speak a word of their language (and let's be honest here: Americans are not much better with foreigners). 

But for the first part of our afternoon in Marseilles, we didn't have to worry about speaking at all. We took a ferry from the ship to the port and promptly made our way through the busiest part of the city and up towards the Notre Dame de La Garde...although promptly is probably not the best word to use. It was more like we heaved and huffed and wore out our hamstrings on the way up to the highest point of the city, where this beautiful cathedral offered stunning panoramic views of Marseilles. It was pretty much exhausting. But baby got some cardio! He was probably enjoying every minute of it, so that made me feel a teensy bit better as I hunched over with my head between my knees. 

The Notre Dame de La Garde is not the Notre Dame, even though this poor woman at our dinner table seemed to think otherwise. That one's in Paris. But it was a spectacular place, as most buildings in Europe seem to be, and the views were quite impressive. Plus, there was a gaggle of little French schoolchildren on a field trip and just hearing them speak made the whole hike worthwhile. My child will absolutely learn to speak another language. It's just too cute for words!

The path back down to the port was much easier, so we enjoyed the nice breeze and the sounds of the busy streets. We passed cafe after cafe, but struggled to decide if we would go in, simply because we were so intimidated by the fact that we had no idea what to say. Asking was not an option. We were afraid of being yelled at.


At one point we passed a creperie, and said to ourselves "Well, gosh, we can't visit France and not eat some crepes." 


So we braved our fear of rejection and thrown plates and sat down at a wrought iron table in the square. It was lovely. A street musician was playing his violin, and all around us were the sounds of people in conversation, sipping coffee, laughing. It was exactly the kind of experience you want to have while you're in France.

Until our waiter walked over to us.

He was a middle-aged man with a sort of pinched face, and he muttered something to us in French that, obviously, we couldn't understand. Before I could barely open my mouth to ask him (in French!) if he spoke English, he turned his head toward me and said, with a tiny glower, " do not speak French." It wasn't a question. It was a statement of fact. I still don't know how Europeans can pick us out of a crowd, you guys. I like to think that Pierce and I are fairly cultured, stylish individuals. In fact, I passed an Italian girl in Pisa wearing the exact same outfit as me...and I felt appropriately justified in my wardrobe choice. I mean, we are sensitive to what happens around us. We don't wear fanny packs or speak in obnoxiously loud voices. But, somehow, they always know. I'll admit we played "Spot the American" a couple of times, too, but that was because so many of us are really quite stereotypical. 

But, in this case, so were the French.

A split second after our waiter looked down his nose at us, he knocked over a glass and it shattered on the cobblestones. Karma! And then he proceeded to mutter "Shit, shit, shit" and ignored us from that moment on. It was a gift from God, I'm telling you, because not a minute later a second waiter approached us and he was much more polite.

I asked him (again, in French) if he spoke English, to which he enthusiastically stated, "Oui! Yes, I do." We breathed a sigh of relief and placed our orders. We kept the talking to a minimum and said "Merci" a bunch, so I think we did alright. By the time our food came we didn't even care because what with Pierce's Nutella crepe, my glass bottled Coca-Cola, and the most exquisite coffee we'd ever tasted, our lunch shifted into the ideal picture we'd had in our heads. I almost wanted to order a second Nutella crepe to go, but I was afraid of what the word "doggy bag" might do to that poor man's constitution.

And the next time we go back to France, I will have learned how to speak the language. I just can't handle the stress.

Next up: Pisa! Thanks for reading and following along on our little European adventure.

Happy Friday!


C.Curley said...

ha! you should have tried Monarch of the Seas. It was their oldest ship (until they retired it this year) and really didn't have much to do other than eat or sit by the pool. But that didn't stop us for going on the exact same cruise with them...twice! ha! What can I say? It was the cheapest, and still worth it to me. But mini golf sounds super fun! :) One day we'll go on a fancy cruise!

meme-and-he said...

so beautiful! I have been loving living vicariously through your travels. can't wait for pisa!!

Melissa said...

I know enough French to get you by for about 24 hours... I'll tutor you next time. OR I can just go with you to translate!! ;-)