Part Nine : The Great Divide, Part II

July 25ish - August 2

The way things worked out, I got to spend a couple more days in Paris after Rick set off for Bordeaux. I decided to stay with the Aussies because I wasn't sure how soon I would be in touch with Rick and I also wasn't quite prepared for the idea of traveling alone. Irene was still in Paris for half a day after Rick left, and we went to the catacombs and to the largest Paris cemetery. The catacombs were incredible - the bones of millions of people were stored in old quarries under the city after numerous old cemeteries were emptied in the 18th century. It was creepy! The cemetery was interesting as well - we saw the tombs of Oscar Wilde, Frederick Chopin, and numerous other famous people. Irene is pictured here at the most-visited gravestone in the place: Jim Morrison's. We found out recently that Jim's lease will not be renewed since his gravesite attracts too many crazy fans that create disturbances and deface his headstone. 
The day after Irene left, I visited (and revisited) some sites with the Aussies. We went to the Eiffel Tower and climbed to the 2nd level (now that was a workout.) The view from the tower was breathtaking, but I didn't take any pictures because I feared it would be one of those times that a picture would ruin the memory. We went to the Arc de Triomphe, walked down the Champs-Elysees, strolled along the Seine, visited the Picasso museum and returned to the hostel exhausted. (Actually, I think I returned to a hostel exhausted every night of the entire trip, so that's nothing special.) To illustrate the exhaustion, here are Alex and Dougal asleep on the subway. They had foregone some of the walking Sandy and I did and instead gone searching for albums at some of the great record stores in Paris (they both dj back in Australia). Even though all three of the Aussies were 100% percent Australian, Dougal surpassed his friends in being the only one who actually said "G'day!" as well as other stereotypical phrases. I was tormented unendingly as far as my Canadian "ehs" were concerned and the boys constantly pointed out that I said "aboot" instead of about. Pronunciation was our only real difference, though. I found with these guys as well as with others that Australians are just like Canadians in nearly every way. The only exception was maybe that they could drink more. And faster.
After Paris, I decided to follow the guys to Marseille - I was excited at the prospect of going to the Mediterranean, as well as seeing Marseille itself which is basically just a dingy, non-touristy coastal town. Also, it was interesting to get to know people from the other side of the planet - especially Sandy, since a little romance was happening. Marseille was an incredible place - completely different than anywhere else I had been. It was dirty, raunchy and completely unwelcoming for the tourist. We didn't stay in a hostel because the hotels were cheaper. I actually got to use the French I learned in school to get us rooms in a dingy place called "Hotel Sphinx." That was our base of operations for exploring Marseille - or at least exploring the beach! I never thought I could be a beach bum, but the Mediterranean changed all that. We spent an entire afternoon at the beach, and thanks to some miracle (and spf 30 sunscreen) I didn't get scorched. The water was blue as blue can be, and because of the salt we could float without treading water. The beach itself was pebbles instead of sand, which was not very comfortable but cut down on the general sandiness of our clothes and towels. This view of the coast is taken from high on a hill and looks out at the "Chateau d'If" - those of you who suffered through the "Comte de Monte Cristo" in school will remember that the Chateau was used as a prison for some time.
The next day we climbed way up to a church on a hill over looking the town - it was exhausting because it was very hot, but unlike the weather at home it is possible to get relief from the heat simply by stepping into the shade. This is a picture of Sandy with Marseille in the background. Other adventures in Marseille included having a beer at the Marseille football club bar, eating a real meal - pasta! - for the first time in forever, and playing card for hours over vodka - liquor is unbelievably inexpensive and led to some difficulties as I tried in vain to keep up with my new friends. I think I was lucky in being a girl since they were easier on me about the drinking then they had to be!
I was finally able to get email from Rick - it had been difficult finding internet access in Marseille - and decided to go to Rome in hopes that Rick would come too. The Aussies were off to Madrid, and we said our tearful good-byes at the train station - or at least Sandy and I did! I was a bit apprehensive about taking an overnight train into Italy alone, but was lucky enough to be in a compartment with a strange (but nice) guy from Michigan and a nice guy from the Northwest Territories. (Try to quash an American's stereotypes of Canada when the Canadian beside you rides a snowmobile to school and has a neighbour with a dogsled!)

Back to Part Eight : The Great Divide, Part I
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To Part Ten : Roma