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Notre-Dame de la Garde
Upon arriving in Marsaille, we looked around for our hotel (which Janet believed should be "next to the train station"). It wasn't in sight, but while we looked the sun set, and Notre-Dame de la Garde was lighted on the horizon. It's by far the most striking sight in Marsaille at night!
Marsaille still has a crime problem, even though the police are very active. Janet and Carol saw a couple of teenagers riding skateboards in a restricted area. Two officers with German shepherds - no, not French poodles! - promptly accousted them, checked the teenagers' licenses, frisked them, and led them in an animated discussion on the error of their ways. One of the German shepherds barked enthusiastically, which seemed to impress upon the young ones the seriousness of their offense. They were lectured some more. Finally, thoroughly chastened, they were released by the police officers and rode quickly around the corner to the bus stop - where a security guard promptly accousted them...
Even so, we were warned by several people to keep an eye on our luggage, and to stay off the streets at night.
After an hour of trying to find the hotel (looking in maps, searching for the Avis office indicated by a sign, asking various people, attempting to call the hotel (the pay phones all wanted a card, then gave detailed instructions in very rapid French - thanks a lot, guys), I finally tried the Metro. There, two young ladies went way beyond the call of duty. Unlike my friend the Spanish conductor (who spoke faster and faster, apparently in the belief that if he just spoke Spanish fast enough, I would understand him), these ladies spoke a few French words at a time, augmented by hand motions. They searched a map. Finally, one of them pointed to a place on the map and said, "Here." I asked, "Ou est la station?" (Where's the train station?) She pointed about 20 blocks from her first finger, and I said, "Merci". When Dale asked me what she said, I replied, "Hire a taxi."
The hotel was an eclectic mixture of excellence and disappointment. The rooms were huge, and included separate rooms for toilet, shower / sink, kitchen, den / bedroom, and (in the kids' case), full bedroom. Yet surprisingly, the adult's suite lacked a bedroom - we had to sleep on a pullout sofa. Because of recent renovation, the halls smelled of paint. However, wonder of glorious wonders, off the lobby was a small laundymat (normally 4 Euro a load, but the desk clerk graciously waived our fee - perhaps feeling that our clothes were in more than the usual need of washing?).
We ate pizza in our rooms. The pizza was unique - it included whole olives (including the pit). Also unusual was that the delivery person refused payment, claiming that they would call later for a credit card number. They never did - when I was checking out, the hotel clerk helped me reach them and ensure they had the necessary information to be paid. Very odd.