Things which exist are generally thought to have a certain sort of permanence, or at the very least a minimum of predictability. With this axiom in mind, the last two weeks have led me to believe that Time does not, strictly speaking, exist. For example: whilst painting, it does not tick away like a reasonable universal concept, but in fact stops when you take out your easel and doesn’t see fit to begin again until five minutes after you shoud’ve started cleaning up. And when you are behind on blog posts it rolls double sixes every turn – do NOT pass go, do NOT collect €145.39 (that’s $200, for those keeping up with the capricious exchange rate).

Also, midterms week is upon us. Having never before experienced this academic phenomenon, I am not, perhaps, handling it with maximum grace. How does one study for four classes at once?!! Answer: less thoroughly. Trying not to stress too much about it, seeing as how I could technically fail all my classes and suffer no consequences except the utter demise of my intellectual pride… hmmm. Perhaps I should be stressing a bit more. What kind of madcap, inhumane schedule puts multiple midterms in one week? I ask you.

But look at all the things one can do when one casts off the chains of homework!

Friday 7 October – Sightseeing in Marseille

Julie and Val at Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille.

Inside Notre Dame de la Gard.

And then it was my birthday! Here’s how it went:

Left at 7:45ish AM to catch the bus to Arles. I could tell you all about that, but instead I’m just going to link you to my friend Andrew’s videoblog, A) because he does an awesome job with this trip and I’m in the video, and B) so you can watch his other video entries, because no matter how many words I write or pictures I post, I’ll never be able to convey a complete sense of place like 7 minutes of nicely-edited camera action. Okay, maybe just one picture:

Outside of the amphithéâtre in Arles.

So when we returned from Arles, my fellow dinner companions and I ran home, changed clothes in record time, and met up at Pasta Cozy. We were tipped off about this restaurant by Hilary and Brian when we did the first wine tasting, which was held in the restaurant’s “cave” and included luscious samples of Pasta Cozy’s utterly innovative tapas and desserts. Martin showed up just in time for dessert and bought us another bottle of wine; festive times all around.

l-r: Wandiba, Laura, me, Val, Julie.

Prof Durand being teacherly at Entremont.

Lessee, what even happened last week. Oh! We did get to Entremont, actually LAST Thursday, after being thwarted the week before by French ambivalence towards functionality in the public sector (long story short, despite several emails, the directrice of the site forgot that we were coming, didn’t realize the gardener had closed and locked the main gate, and neglected to mention that the buzzer-intercom thing was thoroughly cassé). Here’s a story about Entremont: it’s like 2000 years old. The Salyens (the main Gallic tribe in present-day Provence) founded it around 190 BCE, expanded it around 140 BCE, and got pwned by the Romans (what else is new) around 123 BCE. The Roman settlement Aquae Sextiae (present-day Aix-en-Provence – whoa!) was founded at the foot of the former Entremont plateau shortly thereafter. Only the bases of the walls remain, with a few other artifacts, including ubiquitous pottery shards that you can pry out of the ground. You can touch everything, in fact, and realize with utter astonishment that other hands once touched those stones, wayyyyyy back in the day. Prof Durand says that it’s a little-known historical treasure, and that many Aixois haven’t even been there. They’re missing out. History is cool.

Fast-forward through a Economics quiz (“Question #7: Who had a lover named Europe?”) to the weekend. Martin and I spent most of Friday shopping for, preparing, and consuming ginger-pineapple fried rice, which sort of assuaged my cooking bug, but really I think just encouraged it. We’re planning stirfry for next time.

the star of the show.

Saturday, as per usual, we woke up at an ungodly hour for Saturdays and ran to catch a cartetreize bus. (You should understand that when I say “we”, I actually mean “I”, but I have a compelling aversion to using the latter pronoun in narration when said narration includes other people.) This one took us to La Ciotat, another jewel of the Med – I just can’t get enough! We were on the hunt for some hiking, but the lady at the Office de Tourisme insisted that without a guide hiking was “interdict!” in the area. So, we called the guide company. They were closed. So, we called the ferry people to see if they would take us out to the L’Isle Verte, but after September they take people only by reservation, and anyway, they were closed. Zut! You get 0/10 on the helpfulness scale, La Ciotat. At this point we lost two of our party to the siren song of Marseille, but Lauren, Martin, and I struck heedlessly out, intending to find a trail and feign ignorance and language barriers.

What we found, after a beautiful park and some dead-end trails, was this sign:

Signpost in La Ciotat.

Ah ha, we said. Cassis, 3h10m. This must be the overland trail we read about in some random lady’s blog a month ago. That sounds like fun, we should do it sometime.

And then we walked to Cassis.

This trail should be on all lists in all books entitled Hikes to Complete Before You Die, or any variation thereof. Coming up over the lip of a hill onto a promontory 1000 ft up, with the open sea straight ahead, La Ciotat on the one hand and Cassis nestled in the bay on the other, I had to laugh, at the sheer outrageous beauty of it.

Looking towards Cassis (hidden in the bay behind that middle-ground mountain).

IF I live through it my midterms, we’re going to St. Remy and Les Baux on Saturday, to do more picnicking and see the ruins of Glanum. That’s another Gallic site ruthlessly sacked by the Romans, though this time the conquerors added a nice touch: an arc de triomphe which the people of the settlement had to walk through every time they wanted to enter or leave the city. Just in case they forgot who was boss in these parts.

à bientôt, mes amis!

P.S. Besides Andrew, an excellent blog is also being kept by Ms. Lauren Wright. Now you can live vicariously from multiple perspectives!