Driving in South France with GPS (3)
- Marseille: Vieux Port and the last panic -
My 100-km dash from Saint-Tulle to the old port of Marseille, Vieux Port, was very easy thanks to the command of the GPS lady. I arrived at hotel Sofitel before dark and set out to explore the old port.
A small park near the hotel was my first attraction, Le Jardin du Missak Manouchian, where I saw two marble monuments. Although I did not recognize the name, with my improved French after two weeks of intensive training, immediately I understood he was the leader of French resistance during the World War II. But, who was he? Who were the other 22 people on the monument? What did they do? In fact, I only learned recently when re-visiting my five-year-old trip. Manouchian was a French-Armenian poet and devoted his life to the liberation of his adopted country France. He was executed by the German army just four months before D-Day. And he was also a member of the International Communist Party. While searching online, I found the park changed, too, as a bust of Manouchian was added. Moreover, a French movie was made after him, L’armée de crime, and even wiki has an entry dedicated to him now. His last letter to his wife, Dernière lettre de Missak Manouchian à sa femme, was particularly touching and poetic.
The evening by the port was quite pleasant. The yachts and the old castle, The Fort Saint Nicholas, were quite impressive for a brief visit. By the way, the food was delicious, too. If you are there, the Marseille Bouillabaisse is a must-have. All was satisfied, and I went back to the hotel falling to my last sweet dream in the French South.
The next morning I got up before dawn and set up the GPS route to the Marseille international airport. I also asked the hotel for directions to get on the express way leading to the airport, even though trusted the GPS. Soon enough, it verified that my try was not wasted. I got on the road but found the GPS lady was not talking. No signals. My God, what do I do? After a few tries, I summoned my instincts before the GPS era and made it to the express way. Before long, the GPS lady woke up with her commanding voice. About half way to the airport, I tuned the GPS volume down and eased myself into the music while enjoying early morning traffic in the port city. Suddenly the lady stopped whispering, and the GPS fell from the dash board! I was in a panic, very scared, because there would be a turn ahead. Should I stop? As I was in the middle lane and could not stop, I managed to pick up the GPS and try to resurrect the lady. Not sure which button I pushed, she was alive again. Thank God, finally I made it to the airport.
Although the rest of the story was not spectacular, I still felt regret for making a few more mistakes before boarding. There were no gas stations around the airport, or I missed them all, so I placed the car back to the airport without filling up the tank. Sadly, nobody showed up at the rental car lot to greet me. I dropped the key in the car and left. It was worth noticing that the French car (Citroën) had a much better mileage than most of the American or Japanese cars. I had the car for a round trip of 200 km, two weeks of commute between my hotel and office, and even an expedition to the national park. All was less than a tank. Or, more precisely, I was afraid of the French gas station, particularly, telling diesel from gas.
I am sure that everyone nowadays will do better than me, thanks to fancier navigation systems and smart phones. All you have to wish is Madame GPS-Satellites will never quit working.
At Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, before being constrained to the international departure area, I spotted a shop that had cute toys and cards. Two little friends, a tiger and his crab girl-friend, were bouncing around and greeting me in the front. Since then they joined my flock of zoo friends at home. Every time when I say Hi to them, they remind me of this amazing trip to the French countryside in Provence.