Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 4

June 30, 2013

Molly and I started out the day once again by running to the store to get a few more supplies. As one of the girls on our trip pointed out, it seems like the French must go to their local store almost every day. They charge for bags at stores here, so people are inclined to bring their own bags and to not buy more than they can carry. Today Molly and I stopped at Monoprix and a store that sold fresh fruits and vegetables. I was finally able to say "J'ai une allergie aux pĂȘches" (or something resembling that) as one of the workers offered us a fresh peach to try. I hadn't actually had to tell anyone about my allergies in French until then. I did get some bananas, strawberries, and potatoes, so I should be pretty stocked on groceries for a while. 

Our main event of the day was visiting Cassis, a small town several miles outside of Marseille. We got to take a boat tour of the calanques, visit a local beach, and have some free time to go shopping. Molly bought a neat souvenir clock for her apartment, and I got three postcards. I've decided to collect a postcard from every country or city that I visit so I can make and frame a collage when I get back to the states. Molly and I talked with some of the other girls about possibly going back to Marseille sometime in the future so we can explore the small town a bit more.

When we got back to Marseille around 6:30 we found out that there was going to be a free jazz concert tonight at the Vieux Port. We had a cheap dinner eating in and went to the concert later on in the evening. We had to navigate the subway system to get downtown. We have metro passes provided by our program, but it was the first time we'd been on the subway without any help. We only stayed at the concert for about half an hour before we decided to come home (we have to be up early tomorrow). It was a bit confusing to find our way back to the hotel because the subway station we'd originally used had been shut down due to the crowd. It took us a bit of walking to get to the next station, but we still managed to have an early night and were back home well before midnight. 

Tomorrow we'll get a tour of Euromed and have our school orientation. Molly and I still don't know if we have actual classes tomorrow or not. The only thing we really know is that we have to be downstairs by 8:30 to catch a bus to school with everyone else. I'd nearly forgotten I was here to take two classes. Hopefully school won't be too boring.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 3

June 29, 2013

Day 3 started off with a trip to an electronic store, Darty, with Molly and 2 girls from our trip that we met last night. One of the girls needed a cheap hair dryer, one needed and charger, and I needed a SIM card for my cell phone. We had to be back at our hotel by 1:30 for a bus tour and we were pushing it for time. It was taking forever for them to set up my SIM card, so Molly and I told the other 2 girls to go back to the hotel so we all wouldn’t be late for the tour. Eventually we got my SIM card and Molly and I had enough time to jog back to the pavilion by the hotel, buy a quick lunch, and be in the lobby by our scheduled time.

Our bus tour was one of the highlights of the day. It lasted from 2:00 – 5:00 and we got to see sites like Notre-Dame de la Garde, Palais Langchamp, and the Vieux Port (the Olde Port). We got some great pictures, and it made us want to spend some more time exploring the different parts of the city. Marseille is twice the landmass of Paris, so we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.

When we got back from the tour we were pretty hungry. We found a bigger grocery store a few blocks away from the hotel that we stopped in to get a few things and then went to a pizzeria on the main boulevard.

In France, water is often more expensive than wine. On the first night I paid 3,50 Euros for water at a restaurant, and only 2,50 for a glass of wine. Because it’s more economical and because I’m visiting France, I’ve been trying to find a wine that I actually like. I’ve tried white wine (hated it), rose (could handle it a little more), but tonight I tried red wine. The red wine is my favorite one by far. Hopefully I’ll find some specific types of wine that I really enjoy by the end of the trip.

Molly had wanted to go to the beach to see the sunset, but we didn’t quite make it there tonight. Instead we’ve been hanging out in our room, chatting, uploading photos, and trying to fix our phones. I need to figure out how to put money on my SIM card, though for the time being I seem to be able to text Sarahanne in Switzerland just fine.

Tomorrow we’re going to Cassis with our group and I can’t wait to see the calanques! 

Day 2

June 28, 2013

We started off our second day by sleeping in a bit. We were woken up by a maintenance man who came by to fix our lights. He reset the fuse in our room, changed a light bulb and all was well.

The grocery store had been closed after dinner the previous night, so Molly and I went grocery shopping once again so she could get some lunch food. Shopping this time was much less rushed and we tried to take our time to figure out what all of the different foods were. My cashier was also much nicer this time around. 

Once we finished shopping we came back and cooked ourselves some lunch. It was around 3:00, but neither one of us had had anything decent to eat since waking up a few hours earlier. I successfully cooked myself some pasta on the hotplates in our room and had that with a banana, some bread, and coffee. They don't appear to sell sweetener or coffee creamer, so we'll be on the lookout for those whenever we go grocery shopping again.

Several members from our group had gone to the beach just as we were getting back to prepare lunch. After we were done eating we decided to walk to the beach and join them. Our professor had left us directions to the beach in our welcome letter on the first day, so we simply started following the directions, hoping we were indeed going the right way. In the end the walk took us about 30 minutes, but wasn't too bad. We didn't see anyone else from our group at the beach, but had a really fun time sun bathing and talking.

At 6:30 we got dressed up to go to a restaurant down by the beach with our entire study abroad group and the French students from Interact. The Interact student group is made up of French college students who spend their summer breaks in Marseille to plan events for the Euromed study abroad students and help us out with various things like practicing French or telling us the best places to shop. The dinner lasted several courses and we didn't leave until about 11:30 at night.

Afterwards we all piled into one of the last buses running for the night and headed down to the Vieux Port area of town where many bars are located. I was sort of tired, but ended up staying out for a bit with Molly and we managed to make some new friends from our group. We had no idea where we were in relation to the hotel, so when we wanted to leave we had to get some of the Interact students to help us hail a cab. In the end we got home safely and pretty cheaply too. 

Overall it was nice to have another day where we could get acquainted with Marseille.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 1

June 26 & 27, 2013

Day 1 of my trip to Marseille started out with 3 flights that would last over 15 hours of travel time. My first flight was from RDU to Philadelphia, and was mainly uneventful. I met two other girls at the airport who had my same 3 flights to Marseille, and on the first flight we met another 3 UNCW students who were traveling to Marseille through Brussels. 

The second and longest flight across the Atlantic, was also the flight with the most drama. To begin with, we almost missed the flight. We had about an hour layover in Philadelphia before our 6:30 flight to Munich was scheduled to depart; however, none of us had realized that boarding for the flight began at 5:45 instead of a later time like we were expecting. We'd stopped at a restaurant and had to jog back to our gate once we heard the last call for boarding. We were the last people on the flight, but at least we made it.

The trouble didn't stop there. We remained on the ground for a rather long time and at 7:25 were told that because of a thunderstorm all of the flights out of Philadelphia were being rerouted for northeastern paths to avoid the storm. We didn't take off until nearly 8:00, and the wait to take off seemed endless. We arrived in Munich around 9:00am their time, only about half an hour late from our original schedule.

Our last flight from Munich to Marseille was significant in the fact that I believe it's the only time I've gotten on a bus and been driven from the gate to board a plane. We arrived in Marseille around 12:30 and managed to claim our bags and meet some of other UNCW students by 1:00. About 30 of us were at the airport and received a bus ride, provided by our program, to our hotel.

By this time we were all exhausted and starving, having stayed up for nearly an entire day. But as we were constantly reminded, it's better to fight jet-lag by staying up and going to bed at night in the new time zone. After checking into the hotel several of us took quick showers and headed out to find somewhere to eat. We ended up having a rather large group of about 15 or more students at first, but this proved difficult to come to any decisions and we spent a good while indecisively trekking around the streets close to our hotel to find our next meal. Eventually 10 of us ended up at the outdoor section of a local restaurant were they served gnocchi, veal, and duck, among other things. It was a fun time, and it was nice to get the opportunity to start meeting other people on the trip.

After our late lunch/ early dinner we stopped at a small grocery store just by our hotel to start on our grocery shopping. I was quite overwhelmed by all the different brands of food and the different languages that the labels were in. It hadn't really hit me that I would be in a foreign country for a whole month until I was in the checkout line. The cashier either didn't speak Engligh, or didn't want to. It was crowded and busy, and she was aggravated that I didn't understand what she was saying even though I tried to respond with "Je ne comprends-vous." Attempting to pay with a debit card was surprising difficult when I couldn't understand the French commands on the screen and I was feeling stressed to hurry up my pace. I quickly gave up and handed the lady some cash instead. I'd never really fretted about not knowing much French, but the brief encounter made me realize that I have a long way to go before I can easily interact with locals.

When I got back to the hotel I saw that my roommate, Molly, had arrived from a surprise layover in Lyon. Originally Molly and 2 other students were slated to fly in to Marseille from Amsterdam. It became a chaotic scene when a fly attendant didn't show up for the flight and the airline insisted that the remaining flight attendants couldn't handle a full flight of people, so they kicked off 40 passengers from the Amsterdam to Marseille flight. Molly and the 2 other girls were flown to Lyon, France instead and then put on a flight from Lyon to Marseille. The airline also lost all three girls' checked luggage, and at this time the luggage has still not been recovered. 

Molly and the 2 girls hadn't had a decent meal all day, so I accompanied them to a pizzeria even though I'd already eaten. I just sipped on water, but had a fun time talking with everyone.

Molly and I are still trying to deal with some minor issues like getting wifi passwords from the front desk, figuring out our international plugs, and planning what foods we plan to prepare for ourselves while on the trip. 

While I don't think the past day and a half would count as an "all-nighter," I've done a lot of things and am very exhausted. We have most of the day to ourselves tomorrow, and we have a formal dinner with the Euromed students tomorrow night on the beach. There aren't any pictures good enough to post today, but hopefully there will be soon.

p.s. Our lights just went out. Hope that gets fixed soon.