Marseille By Baby Train
I expected Marseilles to be a bit meh.
And I wanted to hate France. The day before, just as we were heading off to Aix-en-Provence, I got a message that Darling Man had been refused a visa by the French embassy in Ho Chi Minh City.
I ignored the news while Miss M and I explored Aix. But that night, when I finally got to speak to Darling Man, things seemed worse than hopeless. Yes, he could appeal the decision, but a wall of public holidays meant that the embassy would take weeks, not days, to assess an appeal.
And Darling Man was not keen to appeal. He was concerned about the fact that the French Embassy had his photo, fingerprints and passport details. He’d grown up under a totalitarian regime, so his nervousness about governments was perfectly understandable.
He seemed to have given up on our family cycling and camping adventure, but I still wanted to fight for it. A poor internet connection his end, the time difference and parenting duties my end meant we didn’t agree on a course of action.
The next day I decided I didn’t want to take my foul mood to a fabulous place. I decided we’d do Marseilles. Because I was expecting it to be meh.
I tried to fake a perky attitude. But it didn’t work.
With the universe tuned into my mood, things started quite crappily. A battle over breakfast and a subsequent pee accident meant we missed the first two buses to Marseilles. And the buses from our village to Marseilles only went every hour and a half.
So all that was left of Marseilles’ famous morning fish market when we arrived was the stink of fish and one partially dismantled stall. And the supposedly beautiful port was obscured by a noisy construction site that stretched most of the way along the waterfront. Meh.
Console myself with fabulous French food? No chance. Miss M was in super-active mode. Probably a reaction to spending so much time in the stroller the day before. Meh.
With a baguette in one hand, I chased Miss M around a square, rescuing napkins, glasses and cultery as she ran through sidewalk cafes. Still trying to eat on the run, I chased her into and out of a fountain. I chased her as she hurtled towards a busy street.
And I gave up on the baguette and any notion of exploring Marseilles. The meh mood was firmly in place.
We would just do the baby train, les petits trains touristiques de Marseille, which would haul us up the hill to a church. Baby train. Meh. Church. Meh.
But it might keep Miss M entertained for a few hours.
Off we set.
Through a “tunnel” full of “caves”, Miss M’s interpretation of a strip of cafes, tourist shops and bars wedged into old buildings along the waterfront.
We found the baby train station and several baby trains. Miss M’s enthusiasm was infectious. I felt slightly less meh.
And what do you know? The baby train was not meh at all. It was fun.
The church, Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, was amazing. A gallant French school teacher helped me carry Miss M’s stroller up HUNDREDS of stairs.
The interior of the church was insane, gilded fanciness with model boats hanging from the ceilings.
And high above Marseille, outside the church I’d expected to be meh, under the blue sky, overlooking the ocean, with a tired toddler in my arms, I realised I couldn’t hate France. I still bloody-well hated the decision made by some bureaucrat to deny Darling Man entry, but I could not hate this beautiful place and the friendly people.
I decided to stay and explore as much of my local area as I could and test the limits of what was possible with a two-year-old in tow.
*A flashback post, written in Vietnam a few weeks after our Europe adventure ended, because I discovered that traveling with a toddler and no co-parent was not conducive to blogging.
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10 years ago