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Cafe Etiquette – Ecole – and Life before Dawn

The walk to the bus in Cassis, before dawn, is  ALL uphill and quite the cardio-exercise………It’s a lovely view at the top where I wait for my bus. I see Cap Canaille and the sea from the stop.

7:07AM

The La Gineste bus makes it to the top of the hill, overlooking the sea, and  picks me up as I stand waiting patiently with my backpack necessarily keeping me tall. Since I wake up before dawn,  I have  no coffee, so I just go back to sleep on the bus with occasional views of the sea, and the incredible view of Marseille’s port from high high up as we descend into that old city.  It’s beautiful.   At 7:50AM the bus drops me off at  Perrier Prado as I join the throngs of  young students stepping down very quickly off the high steps onto the sidewalk.  I’m not so fast, but I try and act like I’m just like them.  When the boys behind me, wait, and let me go first, I know that they know that I’m not young like them.   It makes me smile and I’m especially grateful that they are so considerate.    http://www.marseillesympa.com/gineste.html

It’s so early and there’s another hour before class begins so it’s a great time to scout the markets.  Most of the time they are just setting up and I wrote earlier  about  how hard the vendors work to set up their wares.  It is most interesting to watch.  Baskets, brik-brak, sheets, towels, soaps, plants, hardware, buttons, ribbons & bows, plus an entire block devoted to shellfish and fresh fish….. fresh cod, sardines, sole, all carefully displayed on large displays of crushed ice.  I scout the tables, the prices, buy a ” un drap” (sheet) make a mental note of other great prices and move on.

The street (Prado) is bustling with people going to work,  students, some with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths, most of them hand rolled. After the  recent huge tax increase in cigarettes in France, it would make sense.    We all wait at the corner for the light to change.  Some cross before the little green man comes out, but I swear I haven’t been able to navigate how to cross that street while the little man is still red, so I don’t do it until he’s green.  These walkers have done it so long that they have the timing all figured out.  My senses tell me “Don’t even think of stepping out there until your “green  man” is visible, Marti!!”

Walking past out- door cafes, pharmacies, and towering buildings whose “le rez de chausse” often doubles as an office front and entrance to other apartments above it.  The amount of people living in one square block of this city is huge.   Then the sidewalk becomes steep and I walk around some dog poop, but less than in  Paris (so far), I must say,  and around the corner to Rue Paradis and Rue Perrier.  PAUL occupies the entire corner, with an ancient fountain, tables and chairs, but it’s also shared with chairs from the other cafe, so if you buy your expresso from PAUL, and sit in the WRONG chair, you will be asked to move – to PAUL’s table and chairs.  They’re very nice about it, but they’ve had to ask me twice now. ” Oh!  Je suis desole!”   I exclaim, and they “de rein” me up one side and down the other, like it’s really no big deal, it’s just something they have to say…..all in an early morning rapid swipe of tables  and chairs and wisking away the previous customer’s breakfast crumbs.    I swear, I’ve never seen waitstaff people move so fast as they do here in Marseille and in Paris!!  It’s a ballet to be savored, all of it’s own!!  Since I’ve also worked as “wait-staff” I especially recognize them and appreciate them!!!

When I go to the “correct table” – the ones that say PAUL on the seatbacks, quite loudly,  I sit with my order of “The Express” (1,60 – or 1 euro 60 centime) .   Sometimes, I order the Le Parisian, which is more oooh la la-ish, as it consists of  a cafe creme grand, which I order with “creme doubler”  and the fancy croissant (any one I like in the glass case) to go with it. (2, 40).   This, I have yet to calculate with “My Fitness Pal” App , and frankly, I really don’t desire to find out.   The one I usually order is  “The Express” which is simply an expresso, in a tiny porcelain cup, ever so cute, one tiny cylindrical sachet of sugar, which I pour only half,  and one of the plain croissant’s, nevertheless, caloric rich worthy.  I eat it very very slowly.   Nothing small lasts a very long time here at one’s table,  and since the coffee is tiny, and the croissant is tiny, my bites are even more tiny.

This way, it will last me a good 35 minutes because that is what I have now, until my  Alliance Francaise secretary shows up to open the door.  In that length of time, I browse  the free “20 Minutes” news, or “La Provence”, look over my French notes, and watch what seems like the entire world walking by my little table, 6 feet from the organized chaotic traffic; I know an oxymoron…but true.  The street gutters are being washed at 8:10 and they’re sweeping the gutters with the water – – moving the trash down down down.  It’s not as bad as Julia Child described in her book  “My Life in France”, but there’s still a lot of trash.

So, it’s a beautiful change in transportation here in the South, down to Marseille, and a beautiful ride back home, up the mountain, round and round – jaw dropping views —— to Cassis.

Cassis From Cap Canaille

Cassis From Cap Canaille (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quite different than Paris, and the Paris Metro. It was dirty in those metros, mostly, and you felt like you must wash your outfit each day that you rode the metro.  But that soon became a ridiculous idea, as you couldn’t wash your outfit everyday in a Paris apartment, plus,  one  actually became immune to the massive amounts of humanity.   And then, Paris – is Paris.   Ahhhhh

My mornings are sometimes difficult to maneuver, that early alarm clock, when my husband has exact opposite hours, teaching late night hours and not arriving home to our little apartment until 11PM,  but it’s all worth it – bigtime!

I especially love sitting at that cafe early morning waiting for my French class to start, the noisy traffic, the signs of Prefecture, Alliance Francaise, the Big Green sign for the Pharmacy, the lovely old fountain across from my little table.  When I enter that ancient tall building holding a lot of students from all over the globe trying to learn the French Language, I am so incredibly grateful for a chance to do something I have wanted to do my entire life!!!!!  I love learning this language, no matter how difficult it is some days and the people who are in my class are fun and young and we laugh a lot when we work  with our “voisin” -( neighbour),  – on various exercises and questions.

As Julia Child would say “Bon Appetit” before savoring that first succulent morsel of food,

I say , before starting my class each day   – something very Existentialist –

Je pense en français;  donc je suis.             I think in French; therefore I am.

or should it be:   Je pense; donc je suis  français             I think;  therefore I am French.    🙂

ALLS I KNOW (as they really do SAY in MissourA) is that on the French Comedic Sitcom tonight, I laughed out loud, because I actually understood the French subtitles!!!!!   HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Waltraud Morrison #

    Marti, I love your writings! Perhaps one of these days, you will have your “own” book just like Julia Child.

    October 8, 2012
  2. Felt like I was there at Paul having an express with you!

    October 8, 2012
  3. Marti, your writing is amazing. It is similar to growing up in Missouri and listening to the baseball game on the radio. Jack buck painted a picture that made you feel you were right there at the ball park.

    As I sat at my desk, drinking my McDonald’s coffee and looking out at the beautiful fall trees, I swear I was sipping an espresso and looking at a beautiful ancient fountain! Thanks for taking the time to write and treating us to a look at life in France.

    October 9, 2012

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