A “Short Walk”

by Eli Hodapp


Today, in a nutshell, was an absolutely fantastic day in France.

Last night I took an Ambien around 11:00 PM, woke up around 3:00 AM, immediately took this melatonin herbal supplement junk I bought from Costco and fell back asleep before waking up to my alarm at 6:45 AM. A quick shower later, and I was down at the awesome hotel buffet breakfast with all my American friends. French breakfasts are totally crazy, and I’m glad I’m back on carbs as the croissants were just out of this world. Also, having not drank any kind of juice for months now, everything is about on par with Jasmine breaking out into song and singing “A Whole New World.”

Following breakfast, we went on a hilarious European “short walk” which is code for “anything under five miles away” to the building we were actually doing the International Mobile Gaming Awards judging at. We started with a list of around 600 games, and narrowed it down to around 300 by lunch, which is an adventure in itself.

Every year it seems we get catered this lunch which is French to the French. Today was some sort of crazy salmon and egg concoction, and it was pretty amusing watching all the other Americans be like, “What the?” when they saw it. C’est la vie. Following that, we argued the list of games down to just under 200, before agreeing to come back the next day to figure out all the finalists.

We walked back to the hotel, this time taking a route along Marseille’s waterfront and past all the museums and cathedrals. Apparently Marseille was recently elected (?) the cultural capital of… Europe? So, there’s all sorts of new building on the waterfront to mark this new occasion. None of it is completed yet, so the waterfront is essentially a construction zone. Still, it’s really awesome seeing it all being revitalized.

Speaking of which, I found out why Marseille is the way it is. As mentioned yesterday, it’s sort of fascinating just how stark the difference is between “outer” Marseille and “inner” Marseille with buildings falling in on themselves, massive concrete apartment complexes, and more. Apparently all that stuff was built just following World War II.

The explanation I got was that France was more or less in ruin following WWII, and so to rebuild all these cities the French relied on the labor of immigrants. In specific, Marseille utilized northern African labor, and all of these people naturally needed somewhere to stay. So, the rundown periphery of Marseille was born.

The curious part of this arrangement is that during the previous generation there was definitely a distinct segregation between the native French and the immigrant worker. However, since then, all these workers have since had children who are now natural French citizens and aren’t putting up with living in the outskirts of the city in their concrete megaplexes.

The effect of this is that Marseille is evolving, and it’ll be curious to see where it ends up inside of the next 10-20 years. I feel particularly lucky in that I’m more or less just able to experience a sample of the city every year, and as such, able to see the way it’s changing and evolving on a macro level without needing to really worry about the direction it’s taking as any more than just an observer.

Following the judging we headed back to the hotel, where I did a bit of work and took a quick nap before dinner. We all met up at this swanky French restaurant which featured a prix fixe selection of seafood. It was fantastic, and I really wish I had the means to eat like that every day. Wine flowed like water, and I had some crazy licorice concoction for an aperitif which everyone else needed to water down to drink. It tasted great, although the weird streaks of color in it looked exactly like my shampoo.

The walk back from the restaurant was stupid cold, as the wind picked up off the water. 20 minutes later, we were all back at the hotel. Fist pounds were had by all, and we all agreed to meet up for breakfast tomorrow.

I’m going to pop some pills now and head to bed. I’ve absolutely annihilated jet lag this trip, oddly enough, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand, I am totally overjoyed with my ability to be functional for the duration of a European day on my second day off the plane. On the other, I was sort of planning on having a broken sleep schedule for my 7:00 AM flight to Amsterdam on Wednesday.

On a typical jet lag schedule, waking up at 5:30 AM or whatever would be totally A-OK as I’d likely be up anyway to shower and head to the airport. However, as I’m rapidly adjusting to the time change, that’s going to be a bit of a rude awakening- Both literally and figuratively. Either way, I’m excited for the rest of my trip.

Hopefully everything is OK back home.