I planned to go to Lyon today, but as I so well know flexibility is key when traveling. In France, as in some other countries, if you want to use your rail pass you have to make a seat reservation, but in France especially, it is important to make your reservation in advance as there are only a limited number of “Rail Pass” seats that can be reserved. Unfortunately when I arrived at the train station this morning all of the rail pass seats for trains to Lyon were occupied and I could not get on a train. Since Lyon wasn’t a must-go place on my list (I had just picked it randomly) I asked the attendant where else I could go.
He sent me to Marseilles, a little bit further than I had intended to go, but I’m up for an adventure right? : )
The trains in France gave me no trouble – a welcomed change from the Greek transportation system – but when I arrived in Marseilles there was not tourist information office. I asked and was told to go to the city center, “just out those doors.” That was a failure. I meandered around the train station asking individuals for help (with no success) for about 45 minutes before I found a map of the city posted in the train station. I took a picture with my camera (my latest trick to help remember things) and set off to find the little “I” in italics on the map.
I got a little lost, but eventually found my way. I was given a map and the attendant recommended a few places for me to see and I was off. As I examined my map outside of the tourist office a random guy came up to me and started speaking French. I was able to decipher if he was asking me if I was visiting Marseilles. I was so proud of myself I forgot to respond in French. Oops! Anyway, he didn’t speak much English and I don’t speak much French but he managed to point out a few areas on the map and give me my transportation options (bus, tram, car, etc.) and prices for each. I don’t know that he was really helpful but it was fun to speak French and feel like I actually learned something during those three years in high school.
The main “attraction” that I saw was the Basilique Notre Dame De La Garde. I took a bus up to the top and walked around about 20 minutes before catching the next bus back down to the center. I probably could have enjoyed wandering around at the top for a bit longer, but my bus pass expired after one hour and I had validated before I actually got on the bus (oops again!) so I had less time available to me unless I wanted to spend another 1.50 Euro – which I didn’t. I mostly just wandered around the old town and bought a few things. I visited some churches and took a number of pictures. All in all it was a good day.
I think my favorite thing was that I had several people compliment me (in a way) on my French. The man I bought a postcard from asked me where I was from and when I said America he was surprised. I was surprised he was surprised and joked about “giving myself away.” He said that my accent was good and he thought I was Scandinavian. I thanked him and continued on. The random guy who talked with me outside the tourist office also thought I was Swiss or Scandinavian as well.
Lastly, when I was at the train station I had two encounters. The first was with a woman who was handing out pamphlets for something and I said “Je suis une touriste” (I am a tourist) and she laughed and said something back which I am pretty sure meant “this doesn’t apply to you then” or something to that affect. The second encounter was shortly after that when a girl asked me for change for the train. At first I didn’t know what she was saying and said my signature phrase of the day, “Je parle une petite peu Francais.” She then explained herself in broken English. I said no and “Je regrette” (I’m sorry) and walked away. As I was leaving a guy (I think from England based on the accent) called to me, “Do you really speak English or were you just saying that to get away?” I was laughed and said, “Yes, I really speak English” and he walked away.
I don’t know if people are just humoring me or if I really can pull the “accent” off a little, but either way it makes me happy to know that I can somewhat blend in – even if it’s only for a few minutes and I have to return to my native language. I am curious to see how the rest of the week here plays out. France is really the only language I have really tried to speak more than just “please” and “thank you” and so far it hasn’t been too terrible!
At the moment I’m really just excited for it to be tomorrow. My day is over and I had a great one, but I know that tomorrow Eddie finally gets here and I am beyond excited to see him.