France has been in the news lately, and not for the best of reasons. Here’s a funny coincidence: I spent part of the New Year’s Holiday in France and returned to the United States the day before the terrorist attacks in Paris.
How did I find France? Did it feel like it was about to explode in any way? I have to say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. And although I did not spend time in Paris, I transferred planes there to go to Marseille, where I spent the better part of six days.
And my impressions of Marseille were quite interesting. I first heard about Marseille from my dentist, of all people. He had gone there for a convention six months ago, and told me when I was getting my teeth cleaned that Marseille was amazing. That definitely sparked my interest, because my dentist is one of those super brilliant people whose opinion I really respect: I filed that info for future use. So when it came time to decide on a new and unchartered short getaway for New Year’s, Marseille was at the top of the list. I had also heard about a new hotel chain in France called “Mama Shelter,” designed by Philippe Starck, the world class designer. I did some research online and there was a Mama Shelter in Marseille, where I eventually stayed.
It was a great choice: tucked away in a real residential neighborhood, the hotel was simple, comfortable and for France, unbelievably reasonable (about 100 euros/night). It had real style, was small, and had a great restaurant/bar, where a DJ played mostly American tunes for a great New Year’s Eve bash.
Here are some pics from that neighborhood, which was a 20 minute walk to the Old Port, a charming area surrounded by numerous great seafood restaurants where moules frites( mussels and French fries) could be had for 13 Euros.
Here’s the old Port, with its glorious ferris wheel.
Marseille is to France what NYC used to be to the United States in the 1980’s: a place where the reality was so much better than its undeserved bad reputation. I found the people incredibly polite, and the mix of African/Arab/French culture to be stimulating and completely nonthreatening. And of course, the food everywhere was amazing. Vive La France!