Saturday, April 13, 2013

Culture run to Marseille



Yesterday was belle bleu bling of the rub your eyes in Loony Tunes disbelief variety. "Let's go to Marseille," Remi tossed out just as the coffee was kicking in. "Where did that come from?" I wondered. "We never go to Marseille." Have you heard its reputation? If rumours were to be believed you could not cross the street without being blind-sided and mugged then trampled over by vagrants.

Now, you would think that with our travelling experience, we would know better than to listen to les préjugés défavorables. Alas, um, nope. I believed the hype. Me, who used to walk home past Show World in Time Square at 3AM with nary a wrinkle of fear.

So it was with triple delight that I opened up my eyes to a vibrant, fascinating city. And there was nothing random about it, Remi had a plan. He always does.


Our destination? La Vieille Charité. Built in the 17th century, it was as an almshouse for the poor that, while sounding like a refuge, was essentially a prison for beggars not to mention a workhouse for children. In 1760, there were over one thousand residents. After the French Revolution, it was taken over by the homeless and fell into disrepair. 


It was the influential Minister of Culture André Malraux who spear-headed the movement to restore the facility to its former Baroque glory, a process which would take over sixteen years.


Today, the Vieille Charité is home to several museums and is a thriving cultural centre.


There is nothing like ART to shake away the sadness of the past now is there?


With the light ping-ponging off the warmed up stone, we felt nothing but light, happiness...


...and inspiration breaking through and through and through. How it does.

The absolute main reason for our visit was a last dash to see the exhibition "Vestiges" by famed Magnum photographer Josef Koudelka. From 1991-2012 he voyaged across nineteen countries around the Mediterranean to document the remains of the Roman and Greek archeological sites.

The result of his journey is absolutely stunning. Remi and I were both left breathless.
Unfortunately, I couldn't take any photos in the exhibition itself, so please enjoy by clicking here to have an inkling. Gorgeous.


However, photography was allowed in the other temporary exhibition, The Treasury of Marseille, which featured 29 relics from the Greek National Treasury that had never been seen outside of their home country as well as a gorgeous 3D representation of the original temple at Delphi in which they were housed.


Admittedly, I was less drawn to the delicate fragments than to the bolder ideas, the colors and fluidity of the son et lumière, the sound and lighting special effects of which the French are true specialists.


Whoever thought up having clouds blow across the roof of the chapel has my dear gratitude. I was transfixed...


...and left dreaming of what it was like to be an explorer then...


...and happy, very much so, to be an explorer now. 


Both exhibitions are a part of Marseille-Provence 2013, where the city and the surrounding region (including Arles!) have been declared the European Capital of Culture. There is so much more to see and I will look forward to taking in all that I can and hopefully bringing you along for the ride...

41 comments:

Gldiebr said...

Fascinating, thank you for the tour, Heather! What an intriguing history. Taking a day off to explore is always good for the soul.

Joan McKniff said...

Delighted to be along for the ride !

Laura said...

Your tours are always enjoyable and unique. The photography captures the essence of your destination with amazing light & color Have a wonderful Spring weekend Heather!

Teresa Maria said...

A great post, as always! It is great to have a man with a plan!

Jeanne @ Collage of Life said...

Adored this post...two travelling explorers on a day out in Marseille and what discoveries. Your photoprahs are wonderful Heather. I am trying to decide which is my favouite, a new game for me when I visit..I have two. The corridor with the bench because I can never resist one either. The colours and light play so beautifully in yours. The last, 'explorer'..I love..

Jeanne xx

Angela said...

I love Marseille and every time I go I wonder why I don't go more often. Its a wonderful melting pot of people and history.

La Contessa said...

Loved your field trip beautiful photos!

Lost in Provence said...

Thanks Sue! Hoping that you and your puppers have time to do the same!

Lost in Provence said...

And I am so happy to have you here, Joan. :)

Lost in Provence said...

Gosh, thank you so much Laura! Wishing you the same...

Lost in Provence said...

Merci! And he can cook too. ;)

Lost in Provence said...

You are so wonderful, Jeanne. But I have a confession for you--Remi very rarely makes a comment about my blog--he is very supportive and it is my thing--buuut he is the reason for the last 'explorer' photo. I initially had something else and he suggested that I use that instead--I am glad that he did! Wishing you a wonderful Sunday in Saigon...I am sure there is much to get caught up with at Chateau Mango...

Lost in Provence said...

And it is so close! I have in my head that it is a big deal to go but honestly when we lived in Paris we didn't think anything of it taking an hour just to get to the centre commercial to go grocery shopping!

Lost in Provence said...

Molto Grazie! :) (Is that correct Italian? I hope so!)

Acquired Objects said...

Lucky you Heather to have a man who likes to travel the exhibition was so worth it I love ruins. We're finally melted around here and hopefully can get out and travel a little ourselves.

XXX
Debra~

1904 said...

A Marseille I didn't know existed.
Thank you,
Thank Remi,
XXX
G

Mark said...

My mother was teaching in Marseille in 1951, and discovered she was pregnant by an American she had met mountain climbing in Austria. She came out of the obstetrician, in a state of disbelief, and literally ran smack into my father at le marche aux puces...he had also been on the mountain climbing trip, with a bunch of international students...my mother burst into tears, he took her by the arm to a cafe in the Vieux Port. She confessed the situation, he told her "I'll handle everything" and he did. He arranged an extraordinary proxy marriage back in D.C. so my brother could be legitimate, then the divorce, and in the process my mother and he corresponded across the Atlantic and slowly fell in love. He married her (in Chile) and they had four more children, of which I was one... So yes, I have always been very attached to Marseille, particularly the flea market!

Lost in Provence said...

Oh Debra, this has to have been the longest winter ever for you!!!!
Gros Bisous,
H

Lost in Provence said...

Ooh, the one you do know is up next.
And I was in a horrible mood that day, he had to practically push me into the car to go! Silly, isn't it?
Bisous!

Lost in Provence said...

Mark! Your story is so amazing I had to read it three times in a row just to take it all in. Wow. Such an example of people becoming heroes, isn't it? And that they married again for the real thing...and had you...well, that is just the cat's meow.

Now I want to go back and discover the marché aux puces! If I do, I will say a little hello from you as well...

Loree said...

I absolutely love the architecture. What a fascinating place - the history behind it and everything else, especially those clouds moving across the dome. Pure magic.

Karen Albert said...

Thank you for this special post Heather! I am excited to go and look at more images of this amazing exhibit.
The renovation is wondrous!
xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

Mark said...

When I visited in 1991, i was loaned the apartment of a friend of my cousins for three days and got to know the city a bit. I of course treated myself to lunch in one of the cafes in the Vieux Port, wondering over a pot of "moules" if I perhaps had found the very bistro my parents had eaten at 40 years before...
I have all the letters exchanged by my parents during that time in a box...As soon as my mother dies I will go through them and perhaps create a blog from them or even a book... (It's still very painful for her all this time later... She thought she was a fallen woman whose life was ruined, and even though it turned into exactly the opposite, that memory is deeply imprinted in her.)

Glamour Drops said...

Quite fascinating....how delightful to be taken on this little desk-chair ride into another world entirely. The clouds on the dome...glorious! x

Lost in Provence said...

Isn't that something? But yet not surprising given the time. How much things have changed for women...even if we still have a long way to go!

And yes, a book. A book! Something as lasting as their love...

Lost in Provence said...

Loree, the architecture reminds me of some of the Baroque glories that you have shown us on Malte!
And yes, the clouds really were magical...

Lost in Provence said...

Hello Karena! The exhibit was absolutely amazing. The prints were HUGE and so beautifully done. At the end, we sat down and watched a 20 minute long slide show with 140 images--amazing!!!

Lost in Provence said...

Maybe you will be able to incorporate those clouds into one of your projects one day?

And I forgot to explain the pigments! They show how different ochres and natural elements were used to create the "antique paint" used...neat, isn't it?

Gustia said...

You're so right about Marseille's reputation as a crime infested vortex. Sadly, I've never been there because of it. I used to feel the same way about Nice until they installed the Tramway. However, what I like most about your post is the uplifted way in which you wrote it, almost like you have a fresh new lease on life. Sometimes it's good to just say, "yes" to being blasted out of our daily rut, n'est pas?

Lost in Provence said...

I think of you as someone who revels in spontaniety--am I right? So your response doesn't surprise me one bit! And from what I understand, there are definitely neighborhoods that are no go zones, but there is so much that is worth seeing--I will keep you posted after the next time I go back!

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Amelia said...

The travel writer extraordinaire. :) With your pen and camera, there's no telling... Marseille will become the new "it" destination for the South of France. The building is beautiful, love the architecture, considering its original purpose as an almshouse. And love the pictures from the exhibition.

xx Amelia

Dianne said...

Light ping-ponging off warmed stone .... I love it! I've just started my second read of "Count of Monte Cristo" set in this vibrant city so have loved seeing your pics giving us a glimpse into the world of Edmond Dantes and Monsieur Morrel.

Jérôme said...

Marseille is a wonderfull city, full of life and energy.
Of course a bit violent but as France went almost "on flames" with riots in every bigger cities, Marseille was the only one which stayed calm. There is really a feeling from all the Marseillais to belong to their city, enfants de la Bonne Mère!

lisa | renovating italy said...

gorgeous gorgeous, I can see why you were transfixed! x

Henri said...

il faudra revenir à Marseille au mois de juin pour l'ouverture du MuCEM - bonnes promenades dans les rues de Marseille (très belles photos de la Vieille Charité)

Lost in Provence said...

You are too kind, dear Amelia. And actually Marseille was #2 on the NY Times list of "Must See Places for 2013"! So I am already behind in singing its praises...

Lost in Provence said...

Wow, that is a wonderful idea to reread "Count of Monte Cristo", Dianne. I just might do so myself...

Lost in Provence said...

Je suis completement d'accord Jérôme. And as a former NYer, I felt right at home and delighted to be a part of such a cosmopolitan mix...it felt really good actually! No racial tensions as no one had anything to prove...

Lost in Provence said...

Thank you, Lisa--hope everything is coming along well for you in Italy!!

Lost in Provence said...

Merci, Henri! Et oui, mais bien sur--j'ai tellement la hâte à découvrir le MuCEM. J'ai vu une reportage sur "Les Racines et des Ailles" qui m'a convainque que ça va être magnifique!!