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Posts from the ‘Marseille’ Category

on walking rue dignan and on remembering where bourdain drank

A straight and narrow street cuts across a central portion of Marseille. It is rue Dignan which slices through the first arrondissement from the Jardin de la Colline Puget to near Cours Julien. It is sandwiched between Boulevard de la Corderie on the west end and the small street rue Estelle on the east end.

Rue Estelle meets the Escaliers du Cours Julien. In French “escalier” means “stairs” or “steps.” The escalier is known for its street art.

Elaine Sciolino, a former New York Times correspondent, wrote a book on rue des Martyrs in Paris titled “The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue Des Martyrs.” She has said, “It’s a half-mile of magic.”

Elaine Sciolino lived nearby for a number of years on a small feeder street into rue des Martyrs, so she knows rue des Martyrs well.

I have often wondered if rue Dignan might deserve some recognition. Maybe it might not rise to the stature of rue des Martyrs as Sciolino lived it. However, rue Dignan shape shifts enough that someone clever could write an account that challenges its anonymity.

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The economic fortunes of rue Dignan changes from the Jardin de la Colline Puget to Cours Julien. It seems to be middle class in the area near the Jardin, moves into a more boutique and upscale look in the middle, then becomes decidedly poorer as one approaches rue Estelle and then climbs the stairs to Cours Julien.

Pausing on the overpass that crosses Cr Lieutaud and looking around, it is easy to see that money has not been invested in the area.

But wait, there’s more!

on eating baby goat and pigeon and baby duck and some frogs legs and . . .

While I am making a list, I will add pig (ham in various cuts and types) and entrecôte and baby cow and many kinds of fish, lieu jaune, loup, sole, rouget, dorade, cabillaud, morue, saumon, to name a few and let’s not forget the crustaceans, moules, huitres and palourdes and crevettes, gambas, coquille Saint-Jacques and let’s add the birds, chicken, duck, canette, pigeon, and, of course, foie gras and snails.

I have eaten everything from the list during the lunch hour either in Paris or in Marseille or both.

During a side trip to Antibes recently, a friend asked what I missed most during my 15 months absence from France due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We were eating lunch at a restaurant, and my first response, without thinking, was to say, “Eating lunch in a French restaurant.”

I was among friends I had not seen for fifteen months, and they had organized this lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Antibes, La Petite Escale. Quickly I added, “But most important above all are the friends I have not seen in such a long time. I have missed them most.”

I have missed the friends and acquaintances whom I have not seen for over a year. Everyone knows. My life and their lives changed when a significant interruption occurred.

But, I had missed eating lunches in France. Eating lunches, and dinners for that matter, are different from eating lunches in Portland, Oregon, where I live in the States, and so are the dinners, although I do not have much experience there.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I do eat lunchs at restaurants in Portland. When I want to eat at a restaurant in Portland, which is not as often as my stays in France where I will eat lunch everyday, I will think first: “What dish do I want to eat. Will it be a hamburger? Pizza and salad? An unusual taco(s)? Thai food? Sushi?”

I know the Piedmontese Short Rib taco at Carlita’s. I know the chirashi at Yama Sushi. I will go to Bhuna for the Chettinad Chicken or the Kashmiri Lamb Rogan Josh. I know from week to week that those dishes will be there, in those restaurants; and if I go away for three months, let’s say, and return to Portland and return to those restaurants, those dishes will still be on their menus.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Those dishes are tasty, and I can try other items. But basically, the menus and the dishes are structured in the same way. But wait, there’s more!

on walking to the port upon arriving in marseille

After any absence from Marseille, usually 11 months, this year after 15 months because of the pandemic restrictions, and after settling into the apartment in Endoume, a small quartier to the southwest of the Vieux Port and directly east of the Château d’If where the Comte de Monte-Cristo was imprisoned, according to Dumas, from habit and from interest and with anticipation, I do three things.

I walk my neighborhood and look at the Mediterranean Sea where the Château d’If and the other islands sit. I will walk a short distance into Palais du Pharo area and look to the fort and to the MUCEM and to the Vieux Port and say, “Gosh,” for the panoramic view of all three. I walk then to the Vieux Port and look up at the mirror and then watch the spectacle underway under it, or sometimes nearby.

Never do I tire of the repetition. Each year, when I return to Marseille in October, my stay begins anew, again, with the familiar. I check in again and tell myself, “I am back.”

I take the bus from the port when I arrive. Later, without baggage, I will walk the distance to Endoume. On the bus leaving the port, I stand on the right side where the windows extend and where I will have the best vantage point for seeing the Mediterranean Sea and the islands. Always, emerging onto the Corniche after turning the corner on the bus route, seeing the panoramic view after an absence, again I smile and remember I have been here before.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

The Palais du Pharo, built by Napoleon III, and its grounds and a restaurant are nearby. The bus route, and the walk, veers sharply right, but not taking the right turn but walking straight through the gates, one climbs onto the grounds and into the open space before the palais(Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

Immediately, without any concern for adverse weather conditions, out there wanting to be touched, if only we could, are the Fort Saint-Jean, the MUCEM, the Tour du Fanal, Place d’Armes, the Vieux Port and its boats. I might even see the ferry that took me to Corsica.

But wait, there’s more!

on wandering the back streets of le panier once again looking for wall art

After descending from Paris to Marseille, I repeat activities each time. As soon as possible after arriving, I want to drink that first pastis. (I could order it Paris, but I am writing about Marseille now. It is not really a Paris drink.)

I need to buy a bar of savon de Marseille, maybe a second for the trip back to Portland. I want definitely to walk along the water front outside my apartment, and look out to the islands and to Château d’If, where the Comte de Monte-Cristo castle is perched and unmistakable from a distance.

I want as soon as possible the return to Le Panier, a neighborhood to the north of the Vieux Port. I return initially, after arriving in Marseille, because I want to see the wall art and the graffiti. I wonder if the past art has worn or chipped away. I wonder if any new art has appeared.

In addition to Le Cours Julien in another neighborhood, Le Panier is one of the best places to explore the streets for the wall art. I have often walked the maze of streets there and taken many photographs. The images on the walls never seem to end.

The last time I was in Marseille was October, 2019. I had to cancel my lease for 2020 because of the pandemic. Arriving after a two year absence felt exhilarating. Everything was familiar but in a foreign sense.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

But wait, there’s more!