vendredi 20 janvier 2006

Alain and I have managed to get lost in several metro stations of the world. Paris, (where we went in the completely opposite direction, got off, took the train back, then spent about 10 minutes looking for the train in the train for the correct direction) New York, (where we bought a ticket and then couldn't manage to even get through the turnstiles) and Washington D.C. Gotta love those times when you think "Okay, one of us has a PhD, the other their Master's, we should be able to figure this out between the two of us." We haven't tried London yet, I am sure it will be an adventure.
The Marseille Metro system is amazingly simple and straightforwarded, even for those who are Metroly Challenged.
As Peter Mayle states in his book Encore Provence:

My record with underground transit systems is one of almost unbroken failure. I can, and do, get lost in the bowels of London, New York, or Paris as quickly as most people buy a ticket. But the Marseille system, even to someone who has a useless void where his sense of direction ought to be, is delightfully compact and straightforward. Fifteen minutes after leaving the station, we were on the south side of the Vieux Port, walking along the Corniche in the general direction of lunch.

Yes, the Marseille system is quite convenient. There are two lines, one blue, one red, that intersect at two stations and have about 13 stops each. There is only one caveat: the workers need to not be on strike.

Back in October, on National Strike Day, all public services were on strike, as well as some workers from other companies. They were marching in the streets, holding signs and making noise. Okay great. Back to work the next day. Except for the Metro and Bus drivers. They decide to strike. And the strike went on. And on. They were apparently striking over pay, hours, and the fact that the trolley is being built with city money, then the city plans to sell it to a private company to run. Or something like that. One thing that I want my strikes to be is predictable. This one was not. You would go somewhere (such as school or doctor's appointments) thinking that the lines would still be running when you wanted to, oh say, return home. Yeah, have a nice walk. Or you would check the current status online right before leaving the house for the two minute walk to the station to find out when you got there that they are closed.

Luckily, we live about 30 minutes at a fast pace of walking away from my school. But many students live a lot farther out than that and missed a lot of classes. One of the Universities is on the very edge of town, and there was a lot of hitchhiking. As October dragged into November and the strike crept close to December, the merchants downtown were getting mad- less people coming to shop. The strike finally abated with threats that it would start again sometime. Thankfully, it hasn't yet. Though there was the time that I got on the train to go home, it got halfway there, then said everyone off, we have a technical problem. So as the metro line doesn't go straight as the crow flies from home to school, it was a long hike home.

The city is putting in a trolley line, which is quite amusing considering they tore up the old lines a long time ago, feeling that they were a thing of the past. Cars are the way of the future! Wait a minute, there are way too many cars now! Let's put some trolley lines back in, creating a general citywide disturbance for an indefinite amount of time, and make the traffic even worse with less room for cars! Great idea.

I would ride a bike but they terrify me. Plus, I can't figure out how the gear things work and don't want to die, run over by a bus or crazy Marseillais driver.

So basically, walk or take the Metro. Walking is calming right? It should be a nice leisurely stroll, enjoying the fresh air. Well, not when you have to watch every step you take for fear of dog bombs while squeezing between the parked cars and buildings on the sidewalks built for one.

If I had a car, I could drive to school. But the only place to find parking would be back at home. Thankfully the metro and bus system is fairly extensive and cheap. I was able to buy a one year pass for 260 euros I think it was. Yay for pulic transportation!

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