From Geneva to Aix, then Aix to Marseille. This was the last leg of my vacances de Toussaint.
I arrived on a Saturday night, and had arranged to stay with my friend Debby--well, friend might be a stretch. Debby is the mother of my friend Michaela's friend Ruthie. She's American, but has lived in Marseille for about 13 years now. Michaela and I studied abroad together, and Debby was one of those generous contacts who opened her home to multiple groups of us trying to get to France. That was 2 years ago. But then I reached out to her after I moved here, expressing interest in a visit to Marseille, and she once again welcomed me (who knows if she even remembered exactly who I am). Voilà, never underestimate the power of mutual friends.
In Geneva, I stayed with a family. In Aix, I was surrounded by college-age folk. In Marseille, I was with Debby. During the day, I went off on my own to explore in the city. In the evenings, I came home, cooked dinner for the two of us, and got annihilated in Scrabble (Debby is a force to be reckoned with). It was the perfect balance of activity and rest.
Marseille reminded me so much of San Francisco. From the coastal views to the street art to the hills--I felt a keen sense of nostalgia to summer 2015, which I spent in the Bay Area. During my stay I hiked up to Notre Dame de la Garde (an unbelievable cathedral), visited the Mucem + Museum of Contemporary Art (would go back to the Mucem any day of the week), and walked until I couldn't anymore. It felt so good to sweat under the sun and drink in the ocean air.
Debby also kindly invited me to any of all of her social activities she had planned, including multiple church gatherings and an English ladies tea. I had previously only been to Catholic churches in France, and I was intrigued to find that Debby had found Protestant communities. I went to her French Baptist church Sunday morning and an English-speaking evangelical church Sunday night. In the US, I found Protestant churches to be extremely high-production--full worship bands, light shows, trendy twenty-somethings, and craft coffee. But the churches I saw with Debby felt like family gatherings. No big performance, just a community of people. Rather than replacing tradition with trends, they seemed to replace the liturgy/creeds/hymns with each other.
I would return to Marseille in a heartbeat, if only just to take in the ocean views once more.