One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

Living in Marseille

Englishman is wilting in the Marseilles Summer

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So, very sorry for neglecting this blog somewhat. My newish job has really taken over my weeks of late, and I haven’t had the time to keep this updated with things as I had hoped.

So the first thing I need to talk about is my not-so-new love affair with a certain bar in the 7th A of Marseille. As you should know by now, the Apéro is a sacred activity, and this becomes ever more evident now we are in the blistering heat of summer. I think the thought of the apéro with friends or family at the end of the day is what drives many French people through each day at work. It certainly feels that way with me!

One of my favourite places for such an Apéro is Cafe de l’Abbaye, near to Abbeye St Victor south of the port. What was a pretty quiet bar through the winter has now become the cool place to go for a drink with friends after work into the sunset. The views from the small terrace overlooking the fort and the entrance to the port make it a perfect setting.

Drinking an apéro with a friend. He has gone for a Mauresque (Pastis, sirop d’orgeat, 1 ice cube and water) and me a Tomate (Pastis, Grenadine, 1 ice cube and water). Very refreshing. I have been reading a great book lately, (Dial M for Merde by Stephen Clarke) about a an Englishman in the South of France – sounds familier right? In it there is a quote about men from Marseille and Pastis. It compares a Pastis to a female breast, and says “one is not enough and three is too many”. Although this is a little crude, it is very true. Pastis is very good for two drinks, but after that my mouth starts to feel like I have been anesthetized somehow.

… and so we moved onto a beautiful Cote de Provence rosé, with ice cubes as it was around 36 degrees!

One of the big features in Marseille is there is a lot of street art and graffiti. Some of it is stunning, and some a bit mindless. I have found a few examples in English, and often there are a few grammatical errors of spelling mistakes which makes things a little funny for me, be it a statement of love or a line from a film. I did however find the example below in my local area. I  have searched the statement on the internet and haven’t found anything to suggest it was taken from somewhere else, so I can only believe that the person who wrote this has A) a flawless grasp of the English language, and B) a poor relationship with his/ her father who is now a capitalist. Intriguing…

I have to leave you with news that this week is the biggest Pétanque tournament in the world in Marseille. Players and journalists from around the world (but, mainly France!) have descended on Marseille for a fight to the death, as well as to drink many litres of Ricard to win the trophy, which is all sponsored by local newspaper La Marseilles. I am lucky enough to be working in a place where the journalists, TV presenters, players and their WAGS are all staying. It has been an eye-opening experience. They drinking Pastis all day, answer the door for room service each day completely stark naked and enjoy a Police escort to take them to each event. A POLICE ESCORT!?! Only in Marseille.

Anyways,

Onwards!

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Englishman attempts Marseille fish soup

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So, after finally having a day off with decent weather (no wind!) I decided to take a little fishing trip out on my kayak to fish for the classic rock fish, which frequent the coastline of Marseille and form the basis of the famous Marseille soupe de poisson.

I managed to get a rough idea of the recipe from several friends and members of my girlfriends family to give it a shot, so having gathered the other ingredients together I went about giving it my first attempt.

Firstly, I sweated 3 cloves of roughly shopped garlic and 2 chopped onions with some olive oil for around 20 mins. I also added a small amount of chopped ginger because I love it, but I couldn’t taste it in the final soup so I won’t bother again!

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Next I added 5 roughly chopped tomatoes with the seeds removed, roughly chopped red pepper, bouquet garni and sweated some more, before I seasoned with salt and pepper and added 1.5 litres of water. This is supposed to be sea water, but I’m not sure that is very hygienic when you see half of what seems to floating around in there at present!

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I simmered this on a low heat for another 25 mins.

I had managed to fish a variety of species that are perfect for the soup. The only species I was unable to catch which would have been perfect is the infamous Rascasse, but they are very difficult to catch.

From left to right… Sarran, Sarran royal, Sar, Pataclet, Girelle royal, Girelle, crénilabre & Roucaou.

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I added the fish whole to the soup, except for the slightly larger once which I emptied and added. I then cooked this on a low heat for 25 mins, stirring occasionally until the fish had broken down in the stew. I then added Saffron and seasoned again.

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I then filtered into a bowl, making sure to press down hard on the fish and veg solids to extract all the juice.

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We tried the soup last night with Rouille covered croutons floating in the top. It was pretty good, but I might have to do a bit more research for next time, in order to get a stronger flavour from the soup. It feels like I’m missing something…

Here are a few photos taken from out on the fishing trip. The islands I was fishing close to are the two just off the tip of Endoume. One is called Degaby (with the small castle on top) and the other is just the isle of Endoume.

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The Guardian – The view from Marseille

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(Currently updating this from the beach. This is currently my view, above!)

Firstly, sorry for not updating this recently. I have started a new job a week ago which is now taking up a lot of my time. All good though!

Last Monday, on a rather overcast day here in Marseille I organised a small apéro at one of my favorite café overlooking the port  to discuss the French elections with Guardian journalist Jon Henley. Jon was on a mission to travel around France through the week, hearing ‘normal’ people’s opinions on the French elections so far. He was then live blogging his experience through The Guardian website and twitter, to create an interactive map of his journey along he way. He arrived in Marseille on Monday morning, and would leave Paris on Friday, and his journey in between would be entirely spontaneous, based on suggestions of issues in certain regions and people who wanted to talk to him about it.

I gathered a few friends I have here, including my fiancée, and some choice opinions from the discussion can be found HERE.

(NB: I was more involved in the organisation of the project, and didn’t share any views that I have, as it was more based on people who had lived in and knew Marseille for a long time.)


‘Melting-pot Marseille’ reflects France’s immigration debate -AFP

Here’s a short report in English from AFP news, which I had a tiny part in helping organise.  The piece talks about the history of immigration in France, and the rise in popularity of the Front National.


Marseille election results for the 1er tour

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Just a quick update to say that the site for the election results in Marseille is now live, and is being updated as soon as the results come in. You can search by arrondissement or polling station.

Click the image above or click HERE to go to the site


Marseille – Provence 2013 Capital of Culture Programme

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The Programme for next years European capital of culture programme (so far) has just been put online in English. Click the link below or the image above to be transported to the virtual programme now.

http://www.mp2013.fr/ext/avp-en/


Marseille UMP and PS representatives debate on local TV

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For those interested in local politics in Marseille…

                               

Yves Moraine (image left) – President of the UMP in the municipal council Marseille and  Patrick Menucci (image right) – the Mayor of 1éme and 7éme arrendisemonts of Marseille joined Fanny Fontan on Le Forum on the Marseille channel LCM for a feisty debate yesterday.

On the programme the two candidates debated topics such as immigration, tackling unemployment in the City and Education.

Click the below to watch the debate in full (In French)

For non-French speakers, here are a few choice quotes from the debate translated into English…

On employment contracts: “cdi for the youth employment and retention in employment for the senior employees is no expense to the employer”. - Patrick Menucci

“The reality of France in Europe is that many people are unemployed, like many other countries in Europe in this terrible crisis period. As we are central member of the European Union our problems have increased with this crisis.  Continuing to reduce unemployment is essential to our recovery process. ”  - Yves Moraine

One the economy : “The choice is fundamental. The choices of Sarkozy are clear, to make the economy work for everyone.” Yves Moraine

On Hollande as president “F. Hollande is fighting for the best result. Marseille has to mobilize for change”. - Patrick Menucci

On Immigration “It is unacceptable to mix Muslims and immigration: they are French. Immigration is a chance!” - Patrick Menucci

Immigration is a chance AND a problem in France.” - Yves Moraine

“Mass immigration of religions and cultures very different to (us) constitutes a problem in reality.”  - Yves Moraine

NB: apologies if my translations are not perfect. I was trying to translate ‘on the fly’ which was quite difficult as the debate become more heated! If you spot a problem or an inaccurate quote please drop me a message and I will change it.


Artisan 13 – L’Ecosse à l’honneur

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Over the weekend I headed out to St Just to l’hotel de département for the Scottish themed Artisan 13 festival. The Conseil General along with the Anglo Med business network had worked in co-operation with the Scottish tourist board to promote Scottish and Provencal designers, jewelry makers, musicians and food experts to create a unique Provencal-Celtic blend.

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The expo featured some fantastic Scottish musicians, dancers and singers playing traditions folk music. I have to say it left me a little teary-eyed and emotional, even a little home sick (even though I’m English!) It was lovely to hear some songs in the English language again, and it was great to see the local children getting involved too.

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We moved on to the exterior food stalls and outdoor activity stands. We saw most of a live food show by 2 top chefs who created deserts containing Foie Gras. I tried the samples, and can’t say I liked it too much, but I was impressed by the preparation and techniques they used.

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For lunch we had a Scottish/Provencal mix of Haggis accompanied by a Seafood platter! Probably not the best mix I know, but we were trying to get into the spirit of the day! (Note the chutney accompanying the Haggis. I have never heard of this before, so I suspected it was to make the Haggis slightly more palatable for the French!)

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We then headed over to the Scottish produce stand where they were selling traditional Scottish smoked fish for a very reasonable price. Note the very special label below…

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We also talked to one of the head Chefs of the stand, who runs one of the largest catering schools in the Provence. He told us that they do exchange programs with other catering schools around Europe over the summer, where students can come and learn about traditional Provencal cooking, and vise-versa for the French children they exchange with. A lovely idea!

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All-in-all it was a fantastic day with a great ambiance. I’m looking forward to seeing more events like this in the lead up to Marseille-Provence 2013 capital of culture.


Presidential Election Update

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So the Presidential Election race has now officially commenced, with each of the candidates campaign adds flooding French television. They take turns to appear on all the major talk shows and their campaign posters are now lined up on official boards outside most public spaces and schools. As someone who can’t vote, I have to admit that I really can’t wait for the whole thing to be over and done with, and for normality to resume! anyways, here is a little update of some of the recent events from the front-runners.

I have ordered the following candidates in order of their positions in the most recent Sondage (Poll).

Sarkozy -UMP

After being well behind in the early stages of the campaign, Sarkozy is now a few percentage points in front of the PS leader Hollande. It is hard not to draw a link between the tragic events in Toulouse, and the Presidents rise in popularity – but his sensitive speeches and supposed tough stance since the events have seemingly struck a chord with a population reeling in shock.  Arriving on the scene of the school shooting later on the same day certainly raised a few eyebrows from people who thought the police really didn’t need any distractions whilst they did their job, Sarkozy went on to send his foreign minister to the funerals in Israel. At this speech the foreign minister made the bizarre claim that “Every time a Jew is cursed, attacked, or injured on French territory, we will react. Attacks on French Jews are not just attacks on the Jewish community, but on millions of French citizens who cannot tolerate such behavior.”  The cynical side of me can’t help think that what he means by this is the death of an arab or other French minority would not be given the same importance. The whole episode seems even more sad, as the week previous to the shootings Claude Guéant was aiming angry comments in the direction of the Jewish and Muslim communities, attacking their traditional slaughter methods amongst other things and saying they needed to do more to modernise in order to integrate better into French society.

Sarkozy has recently been trying to show more of his sense of humour, appearing on the French equivalent of The Daily Show, Le Grand Journal recently and laughing along with presenter Yann Barthes as he played a show-reel of embarrassing clips and gaffs. He has been constantly making what can only be described as ‘dad jokes’ on the campaign trail with the general public, and generally trying to shake the image of a glamorous out of touch millionaire and re-connect with the people.

The epicentre of balanced, fair and open-minded journalism (!!!) The Daily Mail last night published a story that Sarkozy has apparently attacked The UK AAA rating and deficit reduction measures, fueled by Standard and Poor stripping of the French rating a few months back. Whether there is much truth in the story is open to debate, as I can’t find this story in any other news agencies, it didn’t feature on French news and the journalist hasn’t been named in the article.  Hmmm….

Hollande – PS

Why do you think your campaign hasn’t evoked much passion from the French people?“, a journalist from Liberation asked the self-styled Mr Ordinary last week. Unfortunately, for someone who has modelled his election campaign themes so strongly on the successful Obama campaign, his lack of charisma and awkward campaign posturing has left an underwhelmed feeling with many voters.  Certainly, some of his more extreme claims such as 75% taxes for top earners and separate swimming pool opening times for men and women in the Muslim community have been met by bemusement, even from those within his own campaign team who seem to have no knowledge of them being formal policy. Although the reaction that has met Hollande on the campaign trail, including the frenzy of Martinique recently – Hollande still looks slightly like a rabbit in the headlights addressing large crowds, and struggles to command a stage like Obama.

Sarkozy recently accused Hollande of acting “like Thatcher in London, and Miterand in Paris”, in relation to his mixed messages about the financial markets, and in particular the regulation on the City of London. You can’t help but feel that the events in Toulouse were a gift for the right, and it was very difficult for Hollande to know how to react to this. In the end he attacked Sarkozy for not doing anything to prevent the tragedy, and questioned how the authorities could keep him under surveillance, but not link him to the first or second shootings quicker. This was a fair point, but his message was being drowned out my the incredibly angry rhetoric from the right, who were seizing the initiative to dominate every talk show and news broadcast which followed. All very depressing…

Mélonchon – Front de Gauche

Mélonchon’s steady increase in popularity has surprised many, as he recently overtook the Front National in the polls. Mélonchon has the charisma which Hollande so painfully lacks. His campaign has recently been built around enormous rallies held in famous locations in major French cities. His recent Paris rally attracted many tens of thousands of people, all captivated by his fiery calls for the people to rise up and trigger a “civic insurrection”. He is due to hold a large rally on the Prado beach in Marseille this weekend, although it looks a bit too windy for me to trek down their to investigate!

His anti-capitalist leanings have attracted many who were left disillusioned and angry after the financial crisis. His policy claims go even further than Hollande in many respects, with the same promise of 75% tax band for high earners and a salary upper limit to re-address the balance in the French societies finances.

Many have also warmed to his vitriolic attacks on Marine Le Pen, although his attacks on the Anglo-Saxon and, particularly the English are a little personal for me! Speaking at a recent rally Mélonchon ranted  “We speak fluently “globish”… the language of the occupier – the occupier of our minds” and “Our battle is a cultural battle”, he added, calling French the “language of the heart” and English the language of “accounting”

….. ok then, I’m definitely not going to your little rally now! Connard.

Le Pen – FN

Marine is still hanging about like a bad smell. As stated above, the recent shootings in Toulouse turned out to be an absolute gift for her anti-immigrant campaign, and yet somehow her percentage has seemingly decreased in the polls since.  It was very interesting that immediately after the first few shootings, when the media was speculating that the perpetrator was a far-right extremist or Nazi like the case in Norway last year, Marine stayed suspiciously quite in the media. Possibly she was scared that it might come out that the gunman was somehow linked to her party in some way. As soon as it was established that the shooter was A) of Arab ancestry B) an islamic extremist called Mohamed and C) was unemployed and had his 500 euro per month flat paid for by the local authority VOILA! Marine magically appears on every single new channel going simultaneously, spewing her usual bile about immigration, integration and French identity.

What is even more shocking is how she has continued to use the case since as a sign of an out of control immigration system. At a recent rally in Nantes, when talking in relation to the shooting she said “they arrive here by boat, and take everything they can from us”.  This is obviously a very dangerous thing to say, as the shooter was a French citizen born in France and hadn’t arrived in France at all.

One of the most interesting pieces of information coming in from the Front National in the last week is how popular they are with younger voters. In a recent poll Marine Le Pen’s party lead among voters aged between 18-25, which dispels the belief that the FN’s core vote is older people who still cling to the old idea of French colonialism. In the poll she scored a 26% rating, compared to Hollande in second place with 25%.

Bayrou – Movement Democrat

Finally Francois Bayrou, the centre candidate. Bayrou has had a relatively quiet campaign so far, and is still struggling to connect with a larger proportion of the French vote than the previous election. His worries about the French national debt in particular have seen his support drop, as it is seen as being unpatriotic discussing such matters.

Bayrou does, however seem to be the only candidate who can speak English. This may not seem that important to your average French voter, but it can be crucial on the world stage. Even Francois Hollande didn’t manage to speak any English at a campaign stop in London recently, and a visit to the labour party offices. He could have at least rehearsed “terrible weather today!” or “More tea please!”

Here is Bayrou talking in English…

http://www.wat.tv/video/francois-bayrou-anglais-aify_2exyh_.html

…and here he is slapping a small child on a previous campaign trail for trying to steal his wallet. Nice!

I know there are a few Expats living in France  who, like me can’t vote in the elections and view the whole thing with similar bemusement! I have created a anonymous poll below to see who you would vote for if you had the vote. I would be interested to see your answers.


BBC article : Marseille: One Square Mile of France

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The Marseille 2013 PR machine has been whirring into action, with several articles in major worldwide publications going to print lately. Many of them focus on the same old issues and clichés of the city, such as illegal immigration, high poverty and crime – which is a real shame as many other European cities face the similar problems, but don’t get the same negative press.

This new article and video by the BBC paints Marseille in more of a positive light, whilst still talking about clichés and stereotypes of the city. For me, it is very hard to sum Marseille up in just one article or report. It is a very complex and unique place that really can’t be understood in a short stay or a fleeting visit. It is in my opinion a magical exciting and intoxicating place which is unlike anywhere else in France or the World.

So if you do read one of the countless articles that are cropping up, take everything they say with a slight pinch of salt and come and experience Marseille for yourself to get a true picture of what this city is like.

THE BBC ARTICLE – CLICK HERE


Kayaking from Les Catalans

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So, when me and my girlfriend first discussed moving over and everything that it would entail, one of my major points of negotiation was that I couldn’t be departed from my little sea kayak. As I have stated in previous posts, I am a bit of an angling fanatic, and love catching fresh fish to eat – safe in the knowledge that I know exactly where it comes from and how fresh it is.

The relatives of my girlfriend had organised a space at their local boat club for me when I moved over, and I also felt this would be a great opportunity for me to socialize with people, and get my French up to scratch.

This week I had a day off, and the conditions were pretty perfect. The temperature was around 23 degrees, no wind and not a cloud in site. The locals have an expression in French “le mere d’huile” to describe the state of the sea on days like this, which means the sea of oil.  Below are some pictures of the trip out. If you fancy doing something similar, I have heard there are centres towards the Prado and Le Point Rouge where you are able to hire kayaks from. I highly recommend it, as you get a totally different perspective of the city, and on days like this it is very relaxing!

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Setting off (note the clarity of the water!)

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View back towards the shore, with Notre Dame de la Garde in the distance.

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The headland towards Le Point Rouge.

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I also managed to catch lots of brightly coloured Girelles, which are a very common fish around the rocky shores of Marseille. These are perfect for the famous Marseille Fish Soup! I will have a go at preparing this soon, and will look at putting a blog together with a recipe, for those interested!

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Roll on the Summer!

 


I could definitely get used to this…

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Spring in Marseille feels like mid-Summer in the UK…

…currently sipping a Pastis and watching the sun go down. Perfect!


Englishman has first job interview…IN FRENCH!

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Upon arranging in France 4 months ago, my main initial priority was to settle in and get my French up to a strong level as quickly as possible. Although I had a level of French when I came over, I was very focusing on wanting to sound as French as possible. I now feel my French has improved a lot and I can follow and contribute to most conversations with friends and family.

So out of the blue this week I got a call back from a local business, (I won’t name the place or the line of work as I don’t want to jinx it!) to ask if I could pop by for an interview for a position I had applied to a week or so ago. Although I was happy to receive the call, I was suddenly panic about the thought of having to do a whole interview in my new, far from perfect language. I hate interviews in English, and having to explain myself, my motivations and my past experiences in French sounded very scary indeed – especially with the thought of a Manager staring at me the whole time studying my responses. I knew that this had to happen, and that I shouldn’t expect to get the position over other native speakers who might also be interviewed, but to treat it as a new experience. Still, the merest thought of what mistakes I might make through my nerves caused me to hyperventilate!

I spent a long time preparing what I wanted to say, translating my qualifications and achievements into their equivalent in French and working through every possible mistake I could possibly make so I knew what to avoid. I want to make sure I was formal, but friendly and as I can’t really disguise the fact I am English I should instead make more of it. I decided to dress up in a nice suit, shirt ands tie combination, borrowed some nice shoes off my Fiancées dad and generally worked on my appearance in the hope to it might take the emphasis away from any faux-pas I might make.

So today was the interview day, and after several toilet visits I prepared myself for the interview. I arrived early, announced my arrival with the secretary and took a seat in the plush reception. After a while a young French gentleman in a suit emerged who had obviously been interviewed before me, and I was called in for my interview. The interview itself went very well indeed. Although my interviewer spoke very quickly I had no problems understanding everything word he said, and I was able to answer any questions posed at me with ease and confidence… Thank goodness!

After 10 the interview was over and I was shaking hands and leaving the office, before saying goodbye to the secretary. I might not have got the job, but at least I felt happy with myself to have got through what felt like a big hurdle without any problems.

Merci France!


Les Nauticales @ la Ciotat

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Last Sunday I was lucky to get an invitation to Les Nauticales 2012, an exhibition in La Ciotat celebrating all things nautical. The expo runs until 25th March and is focused around the marina next to the casino.

Unfortunately the weather was a little grey and overcast, but this didn’t dampen the mood of people attending the event.

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The local sea school were taking novice sailors out for short trips around the bay, although looking at the state of the sea, I thought rather them than me!

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The local sea Gendarm were on site, although they didn’t look particularly happy with people clambering all over their boat!

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The French equivalent of the RNLI were fundraising too. I made sure I gave them a good donation as you never know when you might require their services. Lovely friendly staff enjoying a hearty laugh and a joke with the general public. A great institution entirely funded by voluntary donations like the UK version.

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My friends had a stall on the marina for the Sea Shepherd organisation. They attempt to raise awareness of some of the awful fishing and hunting practices around the world. Their recent victory over the Japanese Whaling fleet is a great testament to the determination and extreme lengths they go to to try to combat these horrendous acts of cruelty and corruption. If you do attend the exhibition, please stop by and say hi to the guys running the stall. They are there all week entirely voluntarily.

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A drawing board for children to illustrate with different sea life.

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All in all a great day out. I highly recommend it if you are in the area of La Ciotat this week.


Englishman is talking about the food… AGAIN!

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So, this week it was the Birthday or Anniversaire of my Fiancée. As we are now mid-twenties and are attempting to live our lives as sophisticated adults to variable success, we thought we would have a light buffet with friends and family. Now my initial thoughts when it comes to the word ‘buffet’ is the traditional English style finger food of cocktail sausages, cold pizza and coleslaw served up on a floppy paper plate, which inevitably flexes as you pull away from the table, giving freedom to a stray pickled onion. As with any type of food here however, the French take things to the next level.

We prepared a selection of seafood, salads and various cheeses – whilst we waited for the Mother of my Fiancée to bring a couple more dishes she wanted to prepare. It turns at that ‘a couple of dishes’ in France seems to somehow translate as 10 plates of intricate platters, as well as fruit and 2 different types of desert which took her all day to prepare. She also brought along 2 bottled of champagne to add to our extensive alcohol supplies, which could have quite easily killed a small elephant if drunk at once.

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The night was a great success with a lovely time had by all. Lots of laughing, telling old stories and generally embarrassing my Fiancée! The food was unbelievable. My head the next morning was rather less thrilling!

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The only slight hiccup was a poor spelling mistake on the personalised Birthday cake, which my fiancées father had ordered. See if you can spot it below…

PS, it isn’t a mistake in the spelling of her name. Comment below if you can spot it!

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Englishman is besieged by Le Mistral, and other minor events…

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A little round-up of recent events…

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Ok, so Le Mistral is currently battering our house making it very difficult to sleep at night due to the foroscious noise. For those not in the know, Le Mistral is the strong Provencal wind which travels from the North towards the South out across the Mediterranean sea. Myth has it that a Mistral will last for 3 days, and if it doesn’t stop after 3 days then it will rage for another 3. So far this seems very accurate! The strangest thing about this wind is its ability to switch on like a light. All was calm when we went to bed last night, but during the night all of sudden we were woken up to all hell breaking loose, as plant pots, wind chimes and out-door furniture went crashing about as the Mistral commenced. It was a case of my fiancé making a quick dash to the window boxes to bring in the plant pots before any damage was done!

The great thing about the Mistral however is that it clears the sky of all cloud, as the picture below demonstrates…

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So the week before last I was invited by an old University friend to a concert at Le Dome. She is currently touring the world with the Australian Pink Floyd, and this date in Marseille was part of a massive arena tour of France and the rest of Europe. Le Dome is the largest indoor events venue situated in Saint-Just in the 4e Arrondissement and seems almost like a mini arena, similar to the Birmingham NIA.

I took a few friends along, and we made our way to the VIP section, behind the sound desk. I had heard a lot about how bad the sound quality is in the Dome, but we had a great position and I thought the sound quality was generally great. The show itself was very impressive, with an incredible light show and all manner of stage tricks and visuals to bring the Floyd back-catologue to life.

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After the concert we attended the ‘after party’ for a short while. It is a long time since I toured with my old band, but it still amazes me how unglamorous venues and festivals are backstage. I found it hard to imagine recent performers such as Beyoncé and Rihanna pigging out on peanuts and lounging on the plastic chairs in the rather empty and bland backstage lounge. Maybe Monster Munch is more their thing? Who know… Anyways, it was good to catch up with an old friend for a short while before we departed into the chilly Marseilles night.

For much of last week we had a lot better weather, and the temperature hovered around 18 – 20 degrees with a tiny breeze. We were invited over for our first BBQ of the year (In Februay!?!) at the mother of my fiancé in the Blancarde area of the City. I thought this might be a perfect time to buy some fresh fish from the famous Marseille fish market on the Vieux Port. I am slowly getting a lot better at identifying the various strange and wonderful species of fish we have down here, so I felt confident I might be able to order something suitable for the BBQ!

Once I got down there I hovered around the various stalls in amongst the fish lovers and bemused tourists for a good 15 minutes. I desperately tried to suss out which fish I wanted, the name in French, how many I wanted and how much I would need to pay by listening to other people ordering. At last I plucked up the courage and asked one gruff-spoken, leather skinned Marseilles fisherman for some Dorade Sar, or small Sea Bream. There are many different varieties of Sea Bream in the mediterranean, the most highly prized being the Dorade Royal or Guilthead Bream in English. Unfortunately all the stalls were fresh out of Dorade Royal, so I felt the Sar could work well on the BBQ. I thought 15 Euros seem to be the amount many other people were paying so I plumped for the same. I soon started to worry as the man filled a bag with these fish, 10 in all before handing it over for the cash. I walked home feeling a bit silly that I had ordered so many fish, and that I would be eating Sar for the next 2 weeks solid!

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One final thought before I go…

One of the things that I have been having a lot of problems with lately is when you have English words, phrases or names within everyday French speech. I have been working very hard on my French accent, but when it comes to pronouncing anything in English I always revert back to my English native speaking accent. This inevitably leads to me having to repeat what I have just said again, as the person I’m talking to hasn’t got a clue what I just said. Take asking for a packet of cigarettes for instance. I have now worked out that I need to say the English word, phrase or name with a fake French accent in order to be understood.

Rather strange if you think about it… On y va!


Raymond Blanc visits Marseille

Here is French chef Raymond Blanc visiting Le Petit Nice in Marseille (which you may have seen in my previous posts) for his current ‘Hungry Frenchman’ series.

PS, Gerald Passedat (pronounced Pasta on the program!) That guy was born to be a chef surely!


Relaxing day on the îles du frioul

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Due to the schools being off for half term vacation, my Fiancée and I were both lucky enough to have a weekday off together. We were joined by another couple of friends and decided to head out on the ferry-boat service (The Navette) to the îles du frioul from the Port. The service goes at different intervals every day of the week, and has only cancelled 75 times due to bad weather in its entire history. Pretty impressive really when you see the state of the sea during a Mistral!

The trip costs 15 euros, or 10 euros if you want to bypass Chateau d’if.

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Chateau d’if

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First things first LUNCH! We stopped off near the little port for a lovely lunch. Moule Frit, cold beers, sunshine, great service… and these fantastic views. It really made me realise how lucky I am to have this on my doorstep.

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We then all went for a stroll around the footpaths on the Island. The rocks landscape still holds many clues as to its strategic use during the Second Word War, as disused bunkers, trenches and gun positions testified.

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The landscape was stunning, with tiny inlets and small secluded beaches could be found between gaps in the craggy rocks. The colour and clarity of the water is something that still blows me away.

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After a bit of calamity trying to get a ferry back (first one was too full meaning we were forced to have another Pastis!), we got back home. A wonderful take, which I highly recommend. I can see this being very popular during the summer, so make sure to arrive at the boats well before departure to make sure you get a space.


Marseille’s Melting Pot – National Geographic

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Some fantastic photos and an interest look at the different cultural communities which exist in Marseille, courtesy of The National Geographic.

Click the image or link below to view…

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/03/marseille/kashi-photography


Englishman attempts to understand the French Election

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So, Sorry for not updating this more regularly. I had my parents visiting me for the last week, so things have been a little hectic to say the least.

It is pretty hard to escape the forthcoming presidential elections here in France at the minute. The TV is full of debates in which everyone talks over each other, passionately arguing their side to the point where no one can understand what is being said anymore – let alone me! We have already had people canvasing in our street – although the FN soon cleared off when they realised I was a foreigner! The whole city seems to have been covered in a kind of election campaign poster wrap, and you can’t walk two feet down a street without seeing some brightly coloured poster displaying a slogan and awkwardly styled headshot. The one thing that struck me is just how many political parties there are in France, as opposed to the UK. Politics here seems much more black and white, and the differences between the main political parties seem very obvious. As an Englishman, I am of course not able to vote. I have however tried to follow the daily incidents and updates of the campaign so far, however  to me all the candidates seem desperately uninspiring.

The other thing I have really noticed is how the rhetoric has really heated up in the last few months, through a variety of different channels. The main issues that The FN and the UMP seem to speak most about is Security, Immigration and The Economy. You notice an abundance of programs on the TV now showing the police tackling crime in the major cities and suburbs, and these programs feature worrying statistics which, if you believed them would make you never leave the house again. After talking to friends here about this, they said exactly the same thing happened in the run up to the last election campaigns and that it just so happens that these channels are all owned by friends, donors and political allies of Sarkozy. This is very worrying if true.

For those not in the know, here are the 3 frontrunners and a little about them – (from what I understand!) I should also point out  I have no political ties and my opinions are purely as an impartial observer.

Francois Hollande – Party Socialist (PS) currently polling 32%

Francois Hollande is currently ahead in the polls and has styled himself as mister ordinary. His main policies include harsher curbs on the financial system, a re-alignment in the relationship with the EU, higher taxes on top earners and the creation of thousands more public sector jobs – particularly in teaching. To me Hollande is very bland, uninspiring and uncharismatic as a leader. One of the most exciting moments of his campaign so far was a rather miffed lady from Lille pouring flour over him just before a speech (yes, it is that exciting!). The current slogan for the PS  is ‘Le Changement c’est Maintenant’, or ‘The Change is Now.’ A slogan clearly taken from the succesful Obama campaign. This slogan has been much derided however, as it is accompanied by a rather funny bodily action. This has created many parodies on the internet, one of which I have embedded below…

Nicolas Sarkozy – UMP currently polling 26%

Current French President Sarkozy is deeply unpopular at present and is desperately trying to realign himself with the French people, after people took offence to his flamboyant scandal-ridden tenure, when many were suffering due to the recession. His campaign focuses of a Nationalist pride and Conservative values, including opposition to gay marriage which he called a “fashion of the moment”. Sarkozy used a recent meeting in Marseille to state that only he had the political strength and leadership to get the French economy back on top, and said that he had saved France from a similar fate as Italy, Greece and Spain. His campaign has moved further to the right to try to take votes from the FN, and he uses ministers such Claude Guéant to be his right-wing mouth piece. Guéant recently hit the headlines for saying that Arab cultures were less important than the French culture – seen as a anti-arab attack by many, echoing the rhetoric of former FN leader Jean- Marie Le Pen.  The UMP slogan for this election is ‘La France Forte’ or ‘A Strong France’.

Marine Le Pen – Front National (FN) Currently polling 18%

Marine Le Pen took over from her father, and former leader Jean-Marie in 2010, and has worked hard to try to bring the party into the mainstream, and be the voice of the French people who have been badly affected by the economic downturn. She has broadened the appeal by have a larger policy on many issues, and not just the anti-immigration policies of her father. Her policies include pulling out of the Euro and going back to the Franc, cutting immigration to tens of thousands a year and legislation giving first preference for native French people in new job openings. So far Marine has struggled with apparently not receiving the 500 signatures from mayors to certify her candidacy, as well as Jean-Marie’s conviction for Genocide denial in the past few weeks. Jean-Marie is still a large force in the FN, and attends many of the political rallies that are held.  I would look up what the FN slogan is for this years election, but I really can’t be bothered… probably something unpleasant though.

There are other parties also doing battle in the polls with smaller percentages, but I thought I would just focus on the top three, as in my view it is certain one of these will succeed.

I will try to keep my blog updated if something interesting happens in the campaign in the coming weeks, although this doesn’t look likely at present!

FYI: I have had to translate a lot of the information above from French articles, so if I haven’t got something quite right or have made any serious errors please let me know and I will correct it.


Beautiful sunset from my flat

Sorry I haven’t updated this for a little while. I will try to give a full update tomorrow.

This week I contributed to a piece for The Daily Telegraph on expats moving to be with their partners. This link to the piece can be found here… http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatlife/9074202/Will-you-be-my-expat-valentine.html

Here is a shot I took just now from my living room, looking West towards The Frioul islands..

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Have a lovely weekend all!


Addiction (a confession)

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I think it is time I come clean and face up to an addiction I have. Over the last few weeks I find myself constantly needing a fix. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night with only one thing on my mind. I really need help…

My addiction is not with Alcohol, Drugs, Gambling or Sex, however. I am addicted to the bread from my local boulangerie, specifically’La Benette’.

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Sometimes I find myself unable to stop eating a Banette without finishing the whole thing in one sitting. Sometimes more than one. It goes perfectly with any Pâté , Frois Gras or Cheese.  I really need help! It is just too good!

If you are ever in Marseille, and would like to experiment with this particular vice, I recommend my local Boulangerie. Click the image below, or go to  the following address…

40 Rue Endoume, 13007 Marseille
(I don’t work for, or advertise for this shop btw!)
But be carefull though. This bread is very addictive!!

My first trip to Stade Velodrome

I would first of all like to apologise for the terrible state of the photography on this post! 

So, as some kind of right of passage now I am a resident of Marseille, I thought it only right to pay homage to the mighty OM (Olympique de Marseille for those not in the know). For the last few years I have been following the fortunes of OM, and I made sure to do my research on the players, manager and results for OM before arriving in Marseille, as I knew it would be a great starting point of conversation.

For those who don’t know much about OM, here is a little recap of recent history…

  • OM are in ligue 1 (the French equivalent of the premier league)
  • They are managed by former Chelsea and French international footballer Didier Deschamps, who was in the French team when they lifted the world cup in 98
  • OM play in the Stade Velodrome which at present can hold 60 031 places – but is currently being upgraded in time for the French European championships
  • They have won the Coupe de League for the last 2 years and last won the French League 1 in 2010. They last won the Champions League in 1993
  • Their major rivals are PSG (Paris Saint Germain) and previous meeting between the teams have ended in violence and rioting by fans. The encounter is now closed to away fans in each stadium to minimise trouble. This encounter is known in France as ‘Le Classico’.
Me and 2 friends decided to buy tickets for the mid-week semi final of Coupe de League as Marseille played local rivals Nice. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get to the stadium – just 20 mins by the metro. Certainly a lot easier than Wembley by Underground! Once we arrived we went and got some food and a beer/ Pastis on the Prado (the road that runs alongside the stadium) and soak up the atmosphere. I was immediately struck by how different it was to pre-matches in England. No heavy drinking, chanting, drunken antics or violence that I saw. As we sat down for a drink I realised how calm and civilised the experience was, with people slowly sipping and Pastis and chatting with friends, whilst dressed in the OM colours of blue and white.
Arriving at the stadium entrance the atmosphere started to pick up, as we could hear the announcement on the pitch, the classic OM songs and the rival fans whistles.

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As we arrived the teams were warming up, and we first caught sight of our favourite players, such as Valbuena, Remy and Mandanda.

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We stood down the front whilst the teams emerged.

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Didier Deschamps walks to his position on the touch-line.

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The match was fantastic. Marseille won 2-1, although key-player Valbuena was sent off for two separate yellow cards for tiny incidents – much to the displeasure of the home fans. I certainly learnt some new words and expressions that night that shouldn’t be repeated in front of the mother of my fiancé!

After the match it was back on the metro for 20 mins and home. I couldn’t believe how easy it all was. No crushing on the Metro, although admittedly the match was under-attended due to a bigger game this sunday vs Lyon. Apparently there were a few clashes between the 2 sets of fans after the match, but we were all home by then.

ALLEZ  l’OM!!!


Aside

Shit French People Say – Video

In my endless quest to ‘speak like local’ I have taken a lot of pointers from the following video. Very true. Could possibly do with a couple more putains though!


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