El eterno milagro

Fort mucem wheel sea

Having seen opening times listed as 9am (Google), 10am (city website), and nothing (official webpage), we gambled that the gate to the closed-Tuesday fort might be open at 10:45am. Not. And it was overcast and windy. We took sanctuary behind one wall of the church, where the wind was more indirect. Note: no sun, windy, cold. Our destinations for touristing became the fort (beige, left) and the Mucem/MuCEM (black, central).

Fort to fort view CAS

We didn’t spend long in the fort (windy, cold), but the view was terrific—harbor entrance is below me.

Picasso costumes

An exhibition area in the fort was touted as Picasso. Turned out Picasso kinda art-decorated some theater productions, including costumes and backdrops. Kinda like “George Washington slept here.”

Mucem platelets

On to the Mucem, which is covered with this platelet web made of concrete. We went down hallways of nothing, and found a gallery labeled Roman-photo.

Roman photo love

Me, not knowing French and thinking I can sort out obvious words thought some kind of Italian whatever-art. We were there ten minutes before I figured out it means “photo novel.” This is an everyday publication type somewhere between harlequin romance and comic book, which was popular everywhere, including France, Italy, and, here, Spain.

Roman photo panel

At some point, the production involved high-end cameras, and well-known actors, from Sophia Lauren to Brad Pitt (or maybe Pitt’s face was used, but he didn’t pose, kinda like People?)

Roman photo face

The stories seem to have been heavy on human-human interactions, and adult subjects. Some were scary.

Roman photo movie

Others used character-types we’d recognize from other forms of theater.

Movie car

The exhibit included this half-car used for two-shots. Love the receding palm trees. No turns if you want to sustain the driving effect.

DeGaulle documentary

Down another hallway, we found a bunch of de Gaulle documentaries. That’s the big guy speaking. And he was tall, and had a world-class schnozz. The Guru says when he was a kid he got de Gaulle and Jimmy Durante confused.

Bull pottery Crete Greece

On a lower level, we found what seems to have been the permanent display on general Mediterranean history…accent on the people of wine, olives, and cereal agriculture. And bulls…well, more cows, I’d bet.

Jug saddle

Love this wine-jug saddle. Gotta move that product to market, no?

Ottoman Genoa something

Another gallery got into Ottoman-Genoese history. Love all the little scenarios in this painting.

Kheir ed Din Barberousse

In the museum, this guy was nicknamed Barberousse (he died in 1546). The label named him formally Kheir ed-Din. WikiPee in French calls him Khizir Khayr ad-Dîn and Khayr ad-Din. English WikiPee calls him Hayreddin Barbarossa and Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha, and says his Turkish name was Hızır Hayreddin (Hayrettin) Paşa (among others). Easier to stick to Barberousse/Barbarossa. He was a famous pirate, navy-man, and, along with his brothers, took control of Algiers, then opted to ally with Turkey/the Ottoman empire against the threat of Spain. Confused? Yeah, it’s one of those mixed, complex stories typical of Mediterranean folk for millennia.

As we left the museum, we could feel fine precip. Wet, though, not the snow that nearby areas got today. We walked back to our neighborhood and I sampled a family restaurant’s version of marmite, the fish stew I had two days ago. No garlic-mustard or cheese, so simpler flavors. Except for the two langoustines, no shells. Same dried baguette slices. In this case the soup/broth was served separate from the bowl of mixed seafood species, except for a bit in the seafood bowl; this meant the soup stayed hotter, perfect for ladling at will into the seafood. The flavor of the soup was along the same lines, and I still don’t know exactly what it was/is.

Precip was a bit more intense as we skedaddled down to the bakery to get a quiche snack for later and pain au chocolat for tomorrow with our coffee. Tomorrow is a travel day, and we understand that today’s snow flurries/wintery mix in Aix will become rain for our visit. Oh, yay.

Closed Tuesday

N fort walkway harbor mouth

That’s the headline. As we got to the gate to the bridge to the “north fort” and also the MuCEM (pronounced museum), we saw it was closed and locked. Plan B time.

Plan B was walk down to the harbor front, then go right or north around the base of the fort on this narrow walkway, then work our way north. We started at the place we began to harbor-walk yesterday, but went the opposite direction.

Harbor entrance

We had a good view of the mouth of the harbor and a pedestrian ferry entering, along with a sailboat motoring out.

Ferry exiting

Further along, we could see a large shipping/people/vehicle ferry leaving the port headed across the Mediterranean; crossing is about 20 hours.

Wheel church mucem

We looped around the MuCEM building to a big terrace suitable for water-views; below it is a parking garage. MuCEM is short for Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée. Yup, closed. That brought us around to a land-view through the Ferris Wheel. The MuCEM is the black building, far right.

Corsica ferry leaving

Another ferry leaving. The Corsica route also crosses to Algiers, but takes 23 hours.

Ferris wheel up

Walked under the wheel. Did not feel compelled to take a ride. Nor did many other people, although we did see two young girls dragging probably grandma and grandpa toward the ticket office. Let’s get high!

Mall old facade

Working our way north past a ferry dock and passenger and car entrance/exit, looking inland the buildings are not new, and it seems preservationists are making developers preserve the façades. This orange-ish building with the white outlined windows is one end of a large, busy mall in the gutted interior. Can’t tell that from here.

Apple store w view

We did go in a mall on the water side. Also busy, and not just people off the ferries. Went up two levels and presto, an Apple store! With a fantastic view of the Mediterranean!

Terrace view

Little cool for sitting today….

Corsica being loaded

We walked through the store and onto the terrace. The north end was near a Corsica ferry being loaded. We saw semis rolling on.

Cathedral viewSW

Headed inland and passed on the land side of the cathedral. This is the route “home.”

We’re taking it easier today, probably just fine that we didn’t make it a museum day and need to apply our brain cells to thoughtfulness. Teehee!

Harbor day

Harbor church

We went to bed early last night, thoroughly pooped. My eyes were closed by 8pm after a longlonglong travel day. We slept and slept. We finally got up just before 11am. [Have I slept that long since I was an infant?] We were thoroughly rejuvenated (no surprise!), especially after the pot of coffee the Guru made…coffee and milk thoughtfully stocked in our apartment!

We set off to explore the harbor. Marseille’s harbor is a rectangular U with the opening to the west. We live in the old town, on the north side. There’s a fort on each side of the harbor opening. This photo is from the north fort toward the south fort. Also, the southern skyline is dominated by the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, high on a rocky outcrop. Although it looks older, it was built in the late mid-1800s. If you get closer or have a big lens, you can see the glinting, gilded statue of the Virgin atop the belltower.

Nets cart

Down at the harbor, you can see that what was once a working harbor used by fisherman, traders, and pirates navies, there’s still a bit of evidence of fishing, but mostly the harbor is full of moored pleasure boats, both sailing and motoring.

Work station

I was quite interested in these boat supports/jacks, for the endlessly necessary work on hull cleaning and maintenance.

Dock locks

The many docks radiating out from the wide apron around the water are all protected by gates; this one even had barbed wire. As near as we could tell, each dock was controlled by a different group, usually named a Society of Somethingorother.

Phone checking

Tourists did the usual lots of phone checking, pictures, music, whatever….

Tourists photoing

Oddly, I noticed no selfie-sticks. Wha? Bring a friend instead?

Reflective roof

The base of the U has an artistic high reflective…roof(?), creating probably highly appreciated shade in the summer heat. Today, not so much. Note winter coats.


We took the obligatory close-up shots. Here’s a fine one showing complex anchor engineering.

Mast reflections

We also took, uhem, I took many mast-reflection shots. Here’s only one, Lucky You.

N fort

We finally got around to the south end of the U, and looked back across the harbor mouth at the northern harbor-protecting fort.

Fishermans stew

Along the way, we stopped for a big seafood lunch. Big. Mine was a bowl of mixed species. I could not identify the flavors in the broth, quite tasty, but I’m pretty sure it was thickened with bread crumbs. It was served with a small bowl of grated hard cheese, and a small bowl of mustard with garlic and I don’t know what else. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so after I’d gotten some of the shells out of the way (mmmmm), I stirred them both in. The broth was good both before and after the additions.

The Guru had moules frites, which is mussels with a side of fries. The mussels had marsala (pretty sure) and garlic (definitely) in the steaming/boiling liquid/broth; also yummmmm.

Narrow streets

After our lovely, sun-drenched walking tour of the harbor (we missed the cross-harbor pedestrian ferry (1€ for two people), and so walked around the east end of the harbor, then cut north and west finally getting into the narrow streets of our neighborhood. There’s plenty of elevation change, and some sections are all steps.

We had such fun, and took hundreds of photos; I only include the merest sample, chosen to include the highlights—boats, buildings, sunlight. Also, see the moon!? Time to head to the bakery for some take-home quiche for tonight and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Our world is pretty darned fine.

Kitchen window barbie

Oops. I almost forgot to add that out our kitchen window I can see this headless Barbie on the tile roof across the street. Abandoned art, or art by abandonment?

New old world

Industrial architecture dawn

We landed in Paris’s airport, and, while taxiing, the pilot welcomed us with the info that it was 28°F out. Brrr! We walked through the terminal for the usual miles of corridors to Customs and baggage claim (no snags either place), finally reaching the area we sought. We watched the dawn light reach the train station just as we did. Handy to be able to switch from airplane to train under the same (extended) roof.

Spring flooded fields

We saw that the fields were still flooded from winter/spring rains. Some bits of ice-glazing among the migratory waterfowl…brrr.

Hopping tree

As always, with fast-train photography, trees hopped in front of the lens at the moment of capture.

Limestone bluff

We saw this bluff for some miles, seeming like it was urging us southward. We crossed many rivers, and this is before we began crossing the Rhône.


Thanks to geolocation by the Guru, we now know this was Éguilles. That accented e means say “eh,” and usually indicates that at some time long ago, there was a consonant following it that is now “gone.” Gone consonant. Language evolution.

Train cut

Of course, trains must run along near-level routes, so we saw bridges and cuts.

Marseille sign

Aha! Welcome to Marseille. No “s” at the end as in the Midwest. Another case of missing consonants? Perhaps, no, ADDED consonants. The breaks in the letters are deliberate, to look like marble, perhaps?

Arch of reborn

We walked west from the train station, and by this major architectural feature. In western architecture history, whence comes the arch? The Romans surely loved them. Didn’t the much earlier Sumerians use them, too?

Our balcony

See that corner balcony? That’s off our main living floor. Yes, our apartment has two living floors, the main one, and a sleeping loft. AND above that is a terrace, surrounded by potted plants and incredibly lovely. Let me say that the stairs and ladders are interesting terrain for a recovering foot. [Yes, I holler down to the Guru, I am being VERY careful!

Cathedral sunset

Settled in our apartment, we head out to enjoy the final light of the day, highlighting the facade of the cathedral…

Wheel sunset

…and backlighting the Giant Ferris Wheel so many cities consider de rigour these days. Curious cultural juxtaposition to have the cathedral and wheel face each other (as it were).


A final stop at our neighborhood bakery for quiche and several dough (dough and cheese—like pizza, tasty sauce; dough and veg and sardine bits—surprisingly salty and yummy) combos. This one is for with coffee tomorrow.

About tomorrow, late post because we have been up since ATL, except for short train naps. My fitness device shows steps for all hours since midnight, except for one on the plane when I was watching “Three Billboards…,” and one when I napped on the train. At days’ end, we managed to download the photos and quickly flip through them, but no dice on the brain-power to get them posted and compose words. So, these words come from tomorrow….

Spring florals

Pink hyacinth

On today’s errand run, we saw clouds of white blossoms on pears and maybe apples, the larger pink-white blooms of the deciduous magnolias, multicolored tulips, daffodils, several other kinds of bulbs in bloom including hyacinths, and redbuds…love redbuds.

Thanks for the ride, B.!

Cleanup transition

Mini shrooms

I became a tornado today, that is, to the extent that I can as a gimp. My goal was to remove dust bunnies, and to remove a bunch of…stuff…that made the house work for gimpy-me, and was still hanging around.

In a tiny and personal way, it’s a new world!

Mystery data gathering

Signs in window

I saw a construction crew working in a hole in the sidewalk just outside the salon where I was getting chemistry to work in my favor. I found it curious and humorous that the workers stood their signs in the window as shown. Sometime later I got a more complete dataset on this. Turns out, the fellas (and they were all male) were “digging” down to the sewage pipes in this small commercial district.

The digging action was from a pressure-washer-type water stream, with a second pipe sucking the sludge it created from the work area. It wasn’t until I left the work area that I wondered what they’d use for fill since the clay (and it was a clay matrix) was removed and gone and in no fit state to be returned to the hole. (Or so I imagined.)

Anyway, the orange signs were to block splatter on the glass, and after the “digging,” the fellas carefully power-washed the window-glass, but they were old windows, and poorly sealed, so the water poured in around the glass. Sooooo, the sewer-fixit guys came inside with piles of clean rags, and energetically cleaned the glass and all the water that leaked inside. Kudos to the digging-crew!

Tiny mushroom forest

On a more organic front, the teeny mushrooms (I saw last year, and maybe in previous years?) are thriving during this phase of the spring-springing, but, geeze, what happened to their caps? How did they get tipped off?

Numbers science/game

Quince blossom cloud

Without planning to do so, I presently have three active activity trackers. Two kindof agree, and one reports wildly lower counts. The only category all three report is steps. My ancient Fitbit One and my iPhone report similar step-counts, but, providing I remember to carry it all the time, the iPhone will have a higher step-count than the Fitbit (attached to my underwear). The Nokia Steel HR always reports a much lower value each day, like around 20% lower than the other two.

I noticed this variation, and began to watch more closely. I’m pretty sure that if you consider footfalls “steps,” which I think the devices do, the most accurate of the three trackers is the iPhone, the one that consistently gives the highest count.

Your counts may vary.

I can wear the Nokia in the shower, and it gives me a chunk of steps for that (which does’t “fix” the discrepancy, BTW), and sometimes enquires if that time was an “activity.” It’s those rapid little steps to soap, rotate, and bend to get clean?

Interstate views

Fog I 75

We coffee’d up and got going, finding this local fog-bank somewhere inland—it’s not a marine layer!

Spanish moss festooning

After several hours, we left the Spanish Moss State (or so it seemed)…

Peanut statue

…and entered the Peanut State.

Sandhills almost in V

Then, closer to home, we saw several almost-Vs of sandhill cranes (pretty sure about that ID).

Bittersweet ultimate

Causeway bridge

Today we left causeway-world. But not before we did important things.

Macro shellface

Like playing with the macro lens.

Macro sanddollar

Including looking at an eroded sand dollar, complete with sand grains.

Four pelicans

We watched birds, including the cruising small-packs of pelicans.

There was of course lots of laughing and some tale-telling. We read, we relaxed. Life was darned pleasant.

Partial rainbow

Just as we were organizing ourselves in the parking lot to depart, a rainbow section emerged.

Sigh. And now the salt-water coast is behind us.