Day 1: Welcome to Marseille

by Eli Hodapp

I made it to Marseille late this morning after what amounted to two entirely uneventful flights, which I’d argue are the best kind of flights. I actually managed to sweet talk my way into an Economy Comfort seat on the first leg, pleading with the gate agent that sitting in row 35 and waiting for the entire plane to get off would result in me missing my connecting flight, especially since we were looking at nearly 30 minutes of delays before taking off. She agreed without issue, which was cool.

Unfortunately, the higher-grade economy seats on an Air France flight operated by Delta isn’t anywhere near as nice as Air France proper. I got free drinks, and a few extra inches of leg room… But miles away from what I got on a recent Economy Plus SAS flight. But, whatever, free cocktails are always welcome. I ended up watching Contagion on the flight, which either was the best time to watch that movie or the worst time. I’m still not entirely sure. If nothing else, it made me very self-aware of the surfaces near me and how often I touch my face.

We actually arrived in Paris nearly an hour and a half ahead of schedule, so I was able to wander around the airport for a while. I got some mixed signals at O’Hare regarding whether or not I was going to need to pick up my bag and re-check it in Paris, so I swung by an Air France desk to clarify. When the guy asked for my passport to look up my itinerary he mentioned that I didn’t look American, so, mission accomplished on that front I suppose.

My flight from Paris to Marseille had me sitting in the very first row, on the aisle of the right side of the plane, so I got to see all of the take-off and landing procedures that the flight attendants do with the cabin door and all the switches on the wall. I’d really like to fly dead head in a cockpit some day, but with the increased security at airports I don’t know how that will ever happen.

Anyway, upon landing in Marseille I got my bags without issue and a €45 taxi ride later put me at the front door of my hotel. Last year when I was here the city of Marseille was absolutely overrun with homeless people. I wish I could remember what people here referred to them as, but I remember it being a very strange almost offensive name. It wasn’t “gypsies,” “vagabonds” sounds right, but I think it might’ve been the French translation instead. Previously, every open spot of park, sidewalk, and alleyway was totally packed with homeless. They’re all gone now, and it’s actually made Marseille a pretty nice city, although I’m really curious where they all went.

My hotel is really nice, and is home to one of those ultra-creepy retrofitted elevators that goes straight up the center of a massive rectangular stair case. I’m on the fourth floor, and originally I wanted to avoid the elevator, but then I remembered European-style floor numbering. The fourth floor is actually the sixth floor, since the ground floor and the mezzanine level don’t count. The “first” floor in their numbering scheme doesn’t start until the third actual floor.

After a quick nap, I wandered around the city for a while, stopping at Monoprix to pick up some stuff to snack on. My JP Morgan card worked flawlessly, and having a card with a chip on it is so much more convenient to use than the American-style magnetic strip. I was just able to plug it in and pay instead of having them dust off the old magnetic reader that no one ever seemed to know how to use.

Tomorrow I don’t have anything to do during the day, so I think I’m going to go for a run along the waterfront. I’m already missing not being able to go to the gym every day, but I’m going to put that effort into running, and am curious to see how far I’ll be able to run without stopping by the time I get back. Maybe I’ll find somewhere cool to go for lunch.

Well, time to pop an Ambien and see how this whole fighting jet lag plan goes.

Oh, and the shower here has no shower curtain, only about 2 feet of glass jutting out near the wall along the tub. I’m really not sure what the secret is to showering here, but despite my best efforts, I got water everywhere. I suppose that could be why the bathroom is floor to ceiling tile, but that still seems confusing.