We have left Goult, and as Heather said so eloquently, we feel sad about this, because, well… where we are now just doesn’t compare. We’ve moved South and a little East, to the outskirts of Marseille, with the view of exploring the nearby coast, perhaps the Camargue wetlands and maybe throw in a city day in Marseille or Aix-en-Provence.
Our arrival at our AirBnB is both less trying than our arrival in Goult had been (the baby is not screaming), and much less exhilarating: we arrive through a truly atrocious industrial estate of almost American proportions, then uninspiring and more than a little dilapidated suburbian streets. To be fair, the house itself is impressive, a 1920s villa with Art Nouveau Charles-Rennie-Macintosh-inspired gates and a lovely garden (and a really scaredy dog, Iris). Next door are blocks of high-rise flats, and mean little houses with meaner big dogs who make us jump out of our skins every time we walk past them. We feel pretty reassured about being able to get the car inside the gates. In the house the bottom floor is occupied by the owners’ architecture office, so we share the kitchen and toilet with the architects; they live upstairs. They’ve somehow converted two ground floor rooms into holiday rental: one plush-looking room with a double bed, and one bizarre little bedroom with a single bed and another pull out one underneath, and fake grass on the floor. The ceiling of both rooms is shiny silver corrugated iron; coupled with the astonishingly noisy boiler next to our room (we take the singles to leave the nice big bed to Carol and Nella), it feels a bit like sleeping in a ferry cabin. There are inexplicable features like a remote control that switches on the lights in one bedroom, the bathroom and the patio.
Exhausted by the drive in 26 degrees heat, Hev and I decide to order Japanese takeaway – Eliza decides to show off her brand new progress in hand-eye coordination by upturning my bowl of eel donburi all over both of us in one lightning speed forward thrust.
Anyway, Friday arrives and it’s time for me to go get Carol and Nella from the airport! We’re very excited about this mini (partial) housemate reunion and it’s so nice to see them! The pleasure is not even marred by a tiny minuscule mishap involving the side of the car and the Charles-Rennie-Macintosh-like Art Nouveau gate as I drive in. Nope.
After catching up (Eliza is ecstatic to see them, and to revisit Nella’s classic renditions of “This Little Piggy” and the Tigger song), we decide to head out to the seaside to fulfil Nella’s mussel-filled dreams. We pick the abundantly scenic-route filled (according to the map) coastline between the Etang de Berre and the sea; unfortunately the scenic routes have been somewhat ruined by what looks like extensive wildfires – acres and acres of burnt pine trees and ashes. We arrive in Carry-le-Rouet to find a rather underwhelming, sad-looking little seaside town; but we persist, and choose a restaurant to have the promised seafood in. To be fair, the food is very nice – Carol even tries oysters for the first time (not sure she’s a fan), as well as whelks (not a fan), and raw mussels (not a fan). Nella has mussels in the richest blue cheese sauce in the world.
Poor Carol and Nella have joined us for the ONLY three days with a poor weather forecast in a two week period. But on Friday, the weather is still looking pretty good, if a little chilly and windy, so after lunch we wander in the miraculous sunshine around the harbour, Nella pointing out which of the sailing boats she’d like to own, while we catch up on all the stories from home (Em, we’re so sorry we weren’t there to take care of you when you had appendicitis!!).
Our wanderings take us on a lovely path along the rocky coast, past a little red-and-white lighthouse and through some nice yellow flowers.
The path has been made into a “health circuit” with various bars and things to scale and pull yourself up and other fit things to do, so of course Carol and I make utter tits of ourselves failing to do all the things (pull-ups, chin-ups, monkey bars, leg raises – my ten-year-old self would be appalled) and it’s brilliant fun.
We reach the next little town along the coast, have a celebratory beer in kind of freezing wind on the terrace, then return to the car, with a quick pit stop to skim some stones and for Heather to get her feet in the tiny bit of sand she’s spotted.
The child is miraculously silent in the car, throwing into question the veracity of our claims of demon baby and the screaming fits she throws every afternoon in the car seat (these are absolutely true claims, by the way, as has been abundantly proved since). We reach the house all baked by sun and wind, via the boulangerie and the takeaway pizza place at the corner, which looks totally terrible from the outside, but makes hands down the best pizzas I’ve eaten in the last fifteen years, and it’s a great little family-owned shop.
We spend a joyful evening playing Pandemic for hours (and losing EVERY GAME), drinking buckets of tea and eating the pizza. It’s so good to see these guys!