Once again, having been back in england for less than 30 minutes and I’ve seen reasons why I feel like this country is going to the pits! Having left France from the magnificant Charles de Gaulle 2 airport, with its TGV station sat right in the centre, motorways circling and rapid transport links. Architecurely it is stunning. a mixture of simple concrete and glass but the whole structure is curved and each departure section is made completly of glass and extends gracefully from the main structure. So I arrive back in terminal 2 Heathrow to a cramped baggage hall with no windows, people wrestling to get their luggage as flights from Paris, Stockholm and Madrid are all allocated the same carousel and then I go into the toilet to find buckets and containers under the urinals.
Then when waiting to buy a bus ticket I have to endure a conversation between a confused Japenese person and an incredibly rude ticket seller who somehow expects this bloke to understand the intricuacies of the UK transport system after a 12 hour flight from Tokyo… Wherever he was going only cost him £64 pounds luckily…
On a literary note, I found an old book of short stories by Roald Dahl in a Marseille book shop yesterday entitled “Kiss Kiss“. If you can get your hands on it, read it (found on amazon). Incredibly well written stories which I read in a day – not kids stories – and the last one is called Champion Of The World – the precursor to the children’s classic. Rogue State by William Blum is an incredibly shocking insight into the world of US terrorism throughout the 21st century. Read it and your blood will boil and you will shake your head so many times when it becomes apparant what they undertook in the years after the second world war and how they actually instigated most of the problems we see today in Iraq and Afghansitan. As William Blum says “Perpectual war for perpectual peace.
I also bought two blind CD’s in FNAC (no, not Phil Collins) yesterday – solely on the basis of the media reviews on the cover : Cassius – Au Reve (dancey) and Salif Keita – Moffou (Acoustic African?). I have no idea about either so reviews to follow shortly.
All I knew about Marseilles before arriving was based on the Taxi films and various articles about the rise of the far Right in France. So I was mildly surprised arriving on a warm cloudless winter’s afternoon to find a clean vibrant city with a beautiful port. Thanks to Routard, (French guidebooks equivalent to the Lonely Planet that have now been going for 30 years) I found a fantastic hotel in the Vieux Port with a view over the beautiful harbour – it really is quite a setting. Surrounded by bars and restos, full to the brim with expensive boats and yachts, I got some fabulous photos from the hotels roof terrace.
I was extremely disappointed last night to turn up at the Lounge bar expected a “soiree de jungle/drum’n’bass to find that the bar was closed for “une quinzaine” for renovations – anyone who knows French knows that this should mean two weeks, but generally means sometime in the future… in any case too late for me. I had visions of a vibrant nightlife here but generally found half empty bars with bright fluroscent lights, some haggard moustached gentleman propping up the bar and nothing resembling a “trendy bar”. This isnt always a bad thing but it seemed a lot quieter compared to nights out in Lille.
Today, however, I began to really like Marseilles by wandering around the Arab areas (yes, the same areas the hotel owner had implicitly told me not to go) and soaking up the vibrant culture. Just sitting reading Libe with a cafe and watching the world go around. There are some truly poor areas in the town and I began to realise why some of the locals think they are ignored by Paris when it comes to funding issues.
There was one thing I really wanted to see in Marseilles, the Unité d’Habitation designed by Corbusier in the 60s. Its a fantastic building but his concept of buildings in the sky and a place to live which catered for all your needs is something which generally failed but has been copied worldwide including the amazing duplex Trellick tower in London and those buildings above Sheffield railway station whose concrete walls dont work quite as well under the grey Sheffield sky. I was impressed by the lines, colour and scale of Corbusier’s building anyway, worth a trip out of town.
At every occasion I have tried to tell the French that British people are generally not pro-war and that the Sun is not a paper read by people who know what they are talking about.. Hopefully there are now less people who believe everything they read in the papers! Sometimes its pretty hard to understand what people are saying, the accent is really strong sometimes.
Finally my trip into FNAC has renewed my beliefs that the French music scene is diabolical. Not only is Phil Collins number 3 in “le hit parade”, and Johnnie Halliday number 5, but the only other section apart from International was Hard Rock/Punk…. One good thing was seeing the Hoggboy album on the shelves.
Not such an early start today and it looked as though most of my colleagues had a late night on the beers too. I’ve managed to avoid doing too much work today apart from the necessary…. Cannes really is a nice place and I feel quite priviledged to be here but there is a huge disparity between those in their Rolls Royces and the deaf man in the restaurant I’ve just come out of asking for 4 Euros for a cigarette lighter with Paris embossed on it.
Nice doesn’t feel like any French city I’ve been to before – the cafe culture isn’t as prevalent, but like most French towns, the city centre is bustling even at 10pm where most UK cities would be litter strewn and desolate. The whole attitude is so different where you have a few chain stores here and lots of boutiques, bars, cafes scattered around. It gives the town a soul and a reason for people to walk around in the evenings. It feels safe too – the old town is situated at one end and is full of little dark alleyways, but as I walked around looking for some good photos, I didnt feel at all afraid like I would in similar situations in Lille, Paris and Marseille (I expect)….
French TV generally was having a huge go at the Sun this evening, apparantly they distributed a version of the ‘popular’ tabloid in French with Chirac depicted as a worm – not in my name is what I say. Also talking a lot about the congestion charge which seems (?) to be working though I’ve been without the net for most of the week (just surviving) so don’t really know the news. Thats the wost thing about Anglo-French feeling, most of it just isn’t true but people from each of the countries see newspaper headlines and believe that is the populist position…. Oh well those who want to see through the media manipulation have every means of doing it I suppose.
This is a first for this weblog – i am sat on the 0733 train from Nice to Cannes writing this blog wirelessly on my laptop with a GRPS mobile phone card in my laptop. It’s another beautiful day in the South of France.
Just to prove it heres some photos:
I’ve just taken them on my camera phone! Technology is pretty cool sometimes….
I’m also quite amazed that I woke up at 5am UK time…. it’s going to be a long day..
Well it’s 11pm and I’ve finally arrived in my hotel room in Nice. It’s been a long day due to my own incompetence mainly. Left the house in Reading at 7.15 this morning, and via London, Paris and Marseille I’ve made it here! Main things I’ve noticed about the trip is that Air France aren’t exactly spreading the word about ‘haute cuisine’ by giving me a stale croissant on the flight to Paris and a packet of peanuts on the Paris->Marseille leg. At least I got a drink on the 2nd leg, there wasn’t enough time on the first flight cos I was on the back row.
Another is never try to find a cash machine in a French station or airport – they probably have one, but it’ll be hidden in some dark corner and probably won’t work – hence why I couldn’t buy anything to eat or drink before Marseille cos I forget my Euros….
A long journey, but without any hastles and I slept most of the time, and my French is starting to come back although just saying the most simple things seemed difficult at the start…. Now I’m starting to remember slang again..
Want to write more about Saturday’s amazing protests but I can’t keep my eyes open….
Oh yeah, Hoggboy had a 1/2 page article in Liberation this morning, was cool to see that – playing in Paris as we speak I imagine.