As promised, here is the first of what I hope will be many future guest posts, or maybe I’ll just call them, interested contributors to our Travel section. Gretchen was kind enough to suggest, and I followed her suggestion, that I post them in the same format as her other articles from Seen World.
When I went to Marseille, for some reason I expected it to be a lot like the way I imagine Saint-Tropez. Never having been to Saint-Tropez, though, this association may not mean very much. So let me put it another way: I expected smooth, overly populated beaches of white sand sloping gently to almost unbelievably turquoise water. I expected bikini-clad female tourists and their male suitors (if one can pretend that’s the right word) everywhere, sipping from semi-exotic drinks that they’re probably too drunk to properly taste. And, most of all, I expected vibrant (or rowdy) nightlife.
Now, let me be clear before I go on: none of these things holds any particular appeal for me. So it wasn’t that I went to Marseille with these expectations of a fun-filled, nightlife-based weekend—only that somehow, that’s what I had gotten into my head as a picture of the city.
Imagine my surprise upon finding the focus of the tourism was on manmade structures: the Marseille Cathedral, the Palais Longchamp, the Notre-Dame de la Garde.
I was in Marseille for a particular purpose rather than general tourism, but it was fascinating to notice how my free time morphed from expectations to reality. My plan had been to try out the whole drinking-on-the-beach-in-a-bikini thing to see whether any part of me could fill that role. Instead, I found myself wandering through the city, marveling in particular at the Marseille Cathedral, or the Cathédrale de la Major.
In other words, I had expected a French seaside town of partying kids and too much alcohol. I found a more generally European city, with all the depth of culture and rich history that entails.