Sunday, October 9, 2011

Des weekends d’automne

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home! Yesterday we gave in to a bit of nostalgia, remembering that this was usually the weekend we would do our big apple picking trip and then can for the next two to three weeks. No canning here and no turkey either, as it wouldn’t be close to fitting in our oven/grill/microwave. Instead we will be having a roast, making an apple crumble, skyping with multiple people and I will be updating the blog.  

Over the past couple of weekends we have been enjoying autumn in Marseille. This has included some wonderful walks in the Calanques, as well as visiting the Foire de Marseille. The Foire is a huge trade show. It has literally everything. From farmers selling their products, to food booths, to home renovations set ups that include entire mock ups of kitchens. There was a whole section full of ridiculous patio furniture, pools, and lawn ornaments, which was really quite amusing. Right next to this section was basically a car lot full of cars you can drive without a driver’s license. Yes, that’s right. You just have to be over 18 and you can get on the road with one of these. They are governed at 80 km/h, so you can’t go on the highway, but really traffic is crazy enough here, why would you allow someone who doesn’t know the rules of the road to drive?

In addition to this, we also explored multiple pavilions from different countries. The Canadian one was a riot. Just look at the menu from the restaurant. Bison and caribou? I’ve never even eaten caribou. Can we feed the stereotypes any more than that?

My friends from school arrived at the Foire a bit before us and dragged us to a booth where you could pick an oyster to see if it had a pearl in it. Then you could get the pearl for free if you paid for the setting. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky, but Keith picked an oyster with a pearl and now I have a lovely necklace. Considering I can’t remember the last time I got was bought jewellery, I was quite happy with the outcome! For his hard work Keith got an Italian ice cream.

Some of the technology on display was impressive: sewing machines that did needle point, personal helicopters, and this guy who was walking around taking pictures. We got our picture taken and only found out after that the photo will be posting for one week on a huge building in the Vieux Port as part of the celebration of Marseille being the culture capital of Europe for 2013. In this mood, we decided to go see a 3D movie about what other changes they will be making to the Vieux Port for this upcoming celebration. Like most French projects, this one includes big plans but little has actually been started in terms of actual renovations. We waited in line for about ten minutes only to watch a 3D movie that told us exactly what was in the brochure we read in line. Once again the lack of French efficiency boggles my mind. My tax dollars are not going to the project, they are going to a movie about the project that will probably never be realized. Errr. 

Laure and I before the movie

 Our neighbours also had a booth at the Foire and we were able to drop by and see the screen printed speakers they were selling. Their booth was hoping as people here really seem to love the art-deco style of decorating.   

This weekend we decided to take advantage of our car and head out of the city to further explore Provence. Our destination was Saint Rémy de Provence and Glanum. Glanum is a archaeological site that was first a Gaul settlement, then taken over by the Hellenists, and then the Romans. The site itself was fabulous with a mixture of ancient ruins and rebuilt sections. The settlement was started and grew because of a spring that not only provided water, but was a sacred site of worship for the various cultures which inhabited Glanum. The signs throughout the site provided excellent information with colour coded diagrams about how the settlement changed throughout the different periods and how former buildings were incorporated into newer buildings.

It is amazing to think that all of this was hidden under the ground for so many centuries, and it makes me really wonder how many other such keys to the past are simply under our feet.

After exploring the ruins, we wondered around the small town of St. Remy de Provence. This town is clearly a tourist hot spot during the summer, but was quiet and closed now that it is October.  Some of its claims to fame include being the birthplace of Nostradamus, many highly acknowledge restaurants and the asylum in which Van Gogh stayed in and had one of his most prolific painting periods is also just outside the city. 

Instead of checking out these highlights we opted to go back to nearby Les Baux de Provence, so that we could explore its medieval castle. Yes I think we are addicted to castles and this was probably a crazy idea considering that the mistral was blowing so hard that at times we could not hear our audio-guides. The castle is unique because of its positioning, but also because after the wars of religion the castle was ordered to be dismantled by royal proclamation. Hence, all that is left is what was built right into the rock on the top of the cliff side town. Climbing to the top was quite an adventure, aside from the winds blowing, the steps are so warn and irregular that half the time I was using my arms on the railings to pull me up, not trusting my feet. The views down to the oliviers and vineyards below are astounding, and from this perspective it looks like nothing has changed for centuries.