Just as I started to feel familiar amidst the narrow streets and terracotta roofs of Marseille, my departure approached… Just as “comfortable” began to set in, it was time to leave the South of France and this alluring woman I so quickly grew fond of… Although I was acclimating to the aesthetics of French lifestyle, the whirling traffic and busy markets of Marseille failed to let my heart rate slow down. Every corner revealed a new scene, new colors, new gardens, another terrace, and more interesting people.
One of the passions Marion and I had in common was mountains. That’s one reason she introduced herself to me on Facebook, was because of the pictures of Colorado I post on my page. I had never been to the Alps and after spending a week in the suburbs of Marseille, I was itching to get into the high country and explore the mountains. Our plan was to head east of Marseille and travel through part of the renowned “Côte d’Azur” or Blue Coast of Southern France, where she had some friends. From there, we would head North into the Alps. We loaded up her little European car with hiking gear, food and art supplies and headed out.
After sharing a few hand crafted and delicious meals with Marion’s friends we left the coast and made our way into the foothills of the Alps. The small villas and orchards passed by as the peaks began to grow in size and stature. We spent five days touring around the relatively small mountain towns of Embrun, Briançon and Vallouise (for context, think Durango, Vail-Aspen, and Ouray, respectively). Craggy panoramas, glaciers and avalanches. Steep climbs, grassy meadows and floral vistas. It was beautiful and much too short of a tour. A highlight included picking dandelion greens for dinner each afternoon on the way home from our hikes. For more on globally available foraging options, I recommend this book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds by Katrina Blair.
Upon returning to Marseille, we both got in some hours working online and shared a few days with Marion’s family. Once the work had been done, and the social graces complete, we continued to venture. Highlights included spending a day in the “Calanques“, which are steep limestone canyons that run into the Mediterranean Sea. Of all the coastlines I’ve visited in my life, this part of the Mediterranean takes the cake. Not many beaches, but the water was clearest calcite-blue, and the breeze was warm and magnificent. I’d take cliffs over sandy beaches any day.
One morning we ventured deep into the heart of Marseille, which is France’s second most populated city. Founded by Greek sailors some 3000 years ago, this city has a notorious history for being defiant (Marseille has a distinct accent from Paris), dirty (I’ve never seen this much graffiti), diverse and thriving on trade that moves throughout the Mediterranean. So… distinctly unique, incredibly cultured and a true treat to visit. We spent the day visiting the magnificent byzantine style towers and cathedrals throughout the city, my favorite was the Notre-Dame de la Garde, that capstones the highest point in the city.
As evening set in we took the metro to a hip and heavily graffitied district, called Cours Julien, and met up with some friends at a hole in the wall tapas joint called Dos Hermanas. Dinner started with two glass pitchers of Sangria on the smokey back seating area. We ordered a variety of tapas that ranged from, spiced potatoes and mayo, to pickled wild mushrooms, to lemon calamari. The food was excellent and a young, loud and charismatic crowd moved in and out of the small patio, chain smoking cigarettes as they caught each other up on the day’s events. Occasionally everyone in the bar would have to cringe and duck as the boisterous middle aged hostess-woman screamed orders at the top of her lungs to the three sweating young men in the kitchen (whom began working much faster). One of my friends Seb, leaned over after she passed by and says, “this is very Marseille“.
Enamored by the past few weeks I ended this excursion to the South of France sitting on a rocky pier. My feet in the Mediterranean allowing the setting sun to dry my skin, I pondered why we love. Once again, I found myself connecting with an amazing woman, having a blast and letting go, for now… As I listened to the calm waves and seagulls it became clear that love is not a promise that takes place in the future, but an intention and a mindset that is enacted in the present. Love is neither a guarantee nor a repetitive process, but a recurring devotional act of expanding one’s mind and heart… Allowing the grand experience of life to unfold as the stage and the characters change. To me this whole online-romance turned into travel-adventure affirms the innate value we all have. That is, our innate ability to connect and touch lives, our ability to be wholly who we are, and add value to other people’s experiences.
This is the fourth continent I’ve been to and it feels like the fourth continent I’ve got family on. Although this trip to France was sparked by romantic intentions, at it’s heart, it embodies much more. The willingness to connect… The willingness to expose one’s self to new scenes, new venues in which the grand story of life unfolds. By doing this we liberate our life, actions and consciousness from all that we’ve previously conceived. Thus liberating ourselves of all previous limitations. I’ve never regretted buying a plane ticket. This experience just threw a bunch more logs on that fire.
Departing Marseille was the hardest plane flight I’ve ever had to get on… Usually I’m pretty stoked about coming home. But this time, I was really thinking about staying. As I boarded the flight I felt like Marion and the other people I met in France painted a bit of my soul… sandy oranges and rich blues… brushed upon my cheeks by the customary kisses of four generations of Marseillias.
I left with the salty taste of the azure coast, mingled with the scent of rosemary and orange blossom.
Wild and Free,
P.S. Thanks for following these adventures. It has been a true treat of an experience and I love telling inspiring stories. So thanks for your interest! Also for those curious, Marion will be flying across the pond this summer and the adventures will continue state side.
Check back again for more update’s by Alex. To see more of his work visit him at alexpullen.com