Cruising for Christmas–Marseille, France

When we woke up the next morning we were docked in Marseille (MAR-SAY for those like me, who didn’t know how to say it properly).  We found out that the ship offered a bus to get to the town and so we paid (of course) for that and got on.  I was pretty glad to get off of the ship and amazingly once I was on solid ground I felt just fine.  We took the bus into town and my first impressions were that the entire city of Marseille was under construction.  It really was!  It took us ages to get to the town – just 3 miles away – and when I mean ages I mean at least 40 minutes.  We got off the bus and saw that the next bus (what we thought was the next bus) didn’t come back until 3:30 so we had about 5 hours to explore. 

I hadn’t done much research about Marseille, but knew they had a good Christmas Market and that is what I wanted to see most of all.  So we headed away from the sea, thinking that would get us where we needed to go.

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Where the bus dropped us off.

 

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We choose to walk away from the sea – which was UP….

 

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Really UP….

 

After climbing to the top of the stairs we started to think we were not on the right path – we found a friendly (English-speaking) estate agent who gave us directions back DOWN the steps to the town centre and he also gave us a business card.  He was very helpful and we were lucky we found him when we did or who knows how far we would have gotten – considering we were walking in completely the wrong way.

** We found out after we got home that the ending part of Love Actually was filmed in Marseille and that the scenery looked very much like the street we walked on.  There is no way to know if it was the same street, but it was definitely the same general area – kind of neat!

We knew we were headed the right way when we started to hear more traffic, had completely gone the opposite way we were originally headed, and started to see shops and tiny Christmas trees caked in some white foam stuff.  At the entrance of all the shops along the main street they had these trees and they looked quite festive!  I couldn’t resist touching them to see what was actually on them…. I still don’t know.

 

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We had finally made it to the Christmas Market!  It was a lovely, mild day and so we browsed the market – taking in the smell of lavender, herbs of Provence, chocolate, spices, and the sounds of a carousel.

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Marseille

 

More than half of the market was made up of various clay figurines – we bought a small angel – and found out that this is what they are:

Santons (Provençal: “santoun,” or “little saint”) are small (2.5–15 cm) hand-painted, terracotta nativity scene figurines produced in the Provence region of south-eastern France. In a traditional Provençal crèche, there are 55 individual figures representing various characters from Provençal village life such as the scissors grinder, the fishwife, the blind man, and the chestnut seller.

The first santons were created by Marseillais artisan Taylor and Rebecca (1764-1822) during the French Revolution when churches were forcibly closed and their large nativity scenes prohibited. Lagnel crafted small clay figurines in plaster molds and let them dry before firing them.

A maker of santons is a santonnier, and the creation of santons today is essentially a family craft, handed down from parents to children, Santons are fashioned in two halves, pressed together, and fused. Hats, baskets, and other accessories are applied with an adhesive. When the figure is completely dry, it is given a gelatine bath in order to harden the figure further and to provide a surface for the application of pigments. Faces are painted first, then hair, clothing and accessories. Until the end of the 19th century, santons were air-dried rather than fired in a kiln. As a consequence, such figures were fragile and easily broken. Modern santons are generally fired in a kiln.

From the market we tried to find a public toilet (WARNING: THERE ARE NONE) and finally asked in the tourist office, and was directed to a large shopping mall nearby.  After finally finding the toilets we sat down at a table and tried to figure out what to do for the next 3 or so hours.  We ended up spending most of our time in the mall.  Catching up on everything on the internet, going to the grocery store (a favourite thing for us to do), me buying a new scarf, and then slowly walking back to the bus stop.

 

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Once we got back to the bus stop we found that the busses had been running the whole day and the LAST one was at 3:30 (lesson learned).  We got on the bus quickly drank all the water we could and tried to figure out how to hide the treats we bought at the store – turns out they didn’t check when we got back on the boat so we didn’t die of thirst the rest of the cruise (like we thought because we didn’t buy a drinks package). 

We got back on the ship and immediately I felt sick again.  We went back up to the room and Chris went and got me some *gasp* FREE travel sickness pills from the front desk.  They took the edge off of things, enough so I could eat dinner, but made me very sleepy so we had another early night.

The next day we were docking in Barcelona, Spain….

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