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I happened upon Ma part du gateau somewhat accidentally. It was  Printemps du cinéma and movies were 3€ that weekend, so a friend recommended it to me and I figured, nothing to lose, right? And then I arrived in the theatre to find that this is the latest work from none other than Cédric Klapisch (L’auberge espagnole, Les poupées russes), moving on from issues of youthful motivation and life direction to a heavier domain; capitalism, globalization and social inequality are at the heart of this drama, and despite its general awkwardness and heavy-handed treatment of Good and Evil in the form of Socialist and Capitalist, Country Girl and Corrupt Big City Man, it effectively conveys a pressing sense of desperation while making me feel sort of guilty for speaking English. (Warning: Spoilers. But like you’re ever going to watch this movie…) Continue Reading »

Crossroads

As the dark road extended ahead of us, winding between mountains and cliffsides, the time and distance spent on our journey had begun to weigh on us. With our GPS giving us very confusing directions to our hostel, we began to rethink the wisdom of making Nice our final destination. From the looks of things, Carnaval events for the night were more or less finished by the time we entered downtown, and the hostel was nowhere to be found. Finally, on our third trip up and down a hill (the manual transmission now, for the most part, tamed), we spotted a gate between two stone walls, pulled into a “parking lot” – around 15 cars crammed end to end in a small garden in a way that could not have been safe – and made our way to reception. Continue Reading »

The Road Ahead

Mediterranean Profiles Part the First

I, like most people, used to associate road trips with stunningly boring hours spent staring at tarmac on the highway, alternately napping in the passenger’s seat and shouting along to dance music and 80s standards to keep myself occupied. But once you toss the notion that you need to get where you’re going as fast as possible, you can get off the bland (And expensive! 14€ tolls? No thank you!) autoroute where people get mad because even when you floor it on your cheap rented Opel, it won’t do more than 120 km/hr and the speed limit is 130. Continue Reading »

In late February 2011, I learned that C, a friend I had barely seen since high school, was roving around Europe and was looking to see some South of France. Always eager to be the guide, I began to plan a train itinerary through the history and landscape of Provence, taking us through Arles, Avignon, and Montpellier, where we would get to soak in some Roman ruins and typical French student nightlife.

Well, you know, ‘the best laid plans’ and stuff, because obviously none of that happened. What did in fact happen may have been cliche in all of the ways I’d been trying to avoid, but perhaps it ended up being just what I needed.

Over the next few days, I’m going to share a bit about the places we visited on what ended up being an epic 24-hour road trip across the French Riviera and back.

Continue Reading »

In Defense of Marseille

Gangs of Marseille??

So it has recently come to my attention that there is a significant portion of the American tourism handbook industry that is actively telling people not to come to Marseille. The section on Marseille in France for Dummies (actually entitled “Marseille: Crime and Bouillabaisse”) includes such gems as “don’t take your car [to Marseille] as it will almost certainly get broken into or stolen” and “make a quick tour of Marseille…a major transportation hub in the South.” Transportation hub?? Also, they suggest that everybody that comes to Marseille pretty much only does so for prostitutes and/or drugs. I even read one online source that (legitimately?) warns travelers who are not up to date on their vaccinations of the potential risk of hepatitis A.

Well consider this post a rebuttal to “Crime and Bouillabaisse” from someone who has not only never been robbed/attacked in Marseille (I mean, knock on wood I guess) but is also a vegetarian and has never had a 60 euro bowl of fish stew. Furthermore, I did not come here in search of prostitutes and drugs. Ok maybe a few prostitutes, but listen, Marseille is great, and I’ll tell you why: Continue Reading »

Upon leaving Paris, my erstwhile home, I set out on an eastward course, landing in a place where I not only didn’t know the city at all, but where I couldn’t even speak the language. (I always feel guilty when this happens, when I don’t even really understand the structure of the language enough to string together the few words I do know. At least in Italian and Spanish, if I’ve got some nouns and verbs, I can make myself understood because I can figure out what order to put them in. German? Lost cause. Incidentally, I did get really good at saying Einschuldigung…but I digress.) Continue Reading »

Design Fetish

French premium cable channel Canal+ has this FANTASTIC ad campaign for its big television movie premiere events. The posters manage to be on-trend with the whole clean, minimalist design that you people seem to love so much, while making some truly superb references, way too witty to be pasted on the wall of a bus shelter. SO HERE I GO BRINGING THEM TO THE INTERWEBZ. Thought I’d share…because, well, they’re awesome. Translations provided with the disclaimer that, like most things, I think it sounds better in French. Continue Reading »