There were hundreds, hundreds, more than I have ever seen, of sailing boats and other boats in the marina in the middle of Marseilles’s downtown, a sign of enormous wealth and privilege.
But the rest of the city was disturbing. More than once I was jostled more closely than normal and I clutched my Baggalini purse. I was appreciative of its design which makes it extremely difficult to steal or steal from.
We saw a handful of mentally disturbed people; one woman picking over her dog for fleas or ticks or whatever while sitting on the floor of the tram. She got out and settled herself and her dog in a doorway to beg. The dog might have been drugged (not to mention the woman), because it lay without moving.
A man with a new, red abrasion on his face wheeling a small baby carriage, with a new, red abrasion on his face boisterously invited me to sit down next to him while we were all waiting for the tram to return from the museum where we had seen an outstanding exhibit of impressionists. He was pushing a three-wheeled, small baby carriage.
A man with the blackest of skin, wearing a bright blue pair of full pants with a band of white around the ankles, and a full shirt, stood about a foot into the street unmoving, staring.
On the tram, a man stood ever closer in front of me, fumbling with the bag around his waist. I thought he might be preparing to steal my purse, or masturbating under the bag’s flap, but I was wrong. As I got up to leave, he grabbed my breast. I was stunned, furious, still worried that this was a distraction so someone else could steal my purse, and rushing to get off the tram in a strange city. All I could manage was a whack on his behind as I got off. If I had possessed just the right vocabulary to excoriate him in French, I would have. It would have to be demeaning language without being profane and also a warning to others on the tram. I couldn’t spontaneously dredge up just the right words.
Afterwards, I asked my husband, “With all the young women on the bus, why did he pick on me?” He answered, “He liked ripe fruit.” It was a nothing incident, just a story to tell, but lumped together with all the other disturbances we encountered in Marseilles, it unsettled us all.
On the other hand, we saw a magnificent exhibit of impressionist art in a spectacular building up a steep hill in Marseilles very center. The city has been deemed one of two cultural centers of Europe this year, and the city was cleaned up, the trams were sleek, silent, and frequent, the food was pretty good, and the dreams engendered by the hundreds and hundreds of sailboats were nice to float home on.
Tags: Marseilles, the writer's life, travel