Marseille: The Trip That Was Never Meant to Be
For weeks I had been looking forward to spending a weekend in southern France with a friend from New Paltz who is studying in Holland. We bought our train tickets in February and had been counting down the days.
On Friday, my friend, Julia, arrived in Besançon and then early Saturday morning, we went to the train station all ready to go to Marseille. When we had purchased the tickets, the website left us with no option but to print our tickets using the Automatic Ticket Machine in the station. The website did not tell us, however, that those machines do not recognize foreign credit cards. We had paid for tickets, but we did not have tickets.
We didn’t know what to do. The ticket office in the train station opened at 8AM, but our train was meant to leave at 7:36AM. I knew though, that after spending the money on the tickets and looking forward to the trip for weeks, I would not be leaving that station on any mode of transportation other than a train to Marseille.
We showed the train conductor a screenshot on Julia’s phone of our ticket receipts and explained that we couldn’t get the machines to print our tickets. The only solution he gave us was to buy new tickets (which were much more expensive), but assured us that the more expensive tickets would be refunded once we arrived in Marseille.
So that was that. We paid for the tickets and were off to Marseille.
And as soon as we got to Marseille, we waited on the long line to the ticket counter, where we explained our situation. We were very surprised to hear that we would each only be refunded about a third of what we paid for the tickets.
Angered and annoyed, we tried to forget about the ordeal and enjoy our time in the beautiful city. We found our hotel, which was right in the middle of Marseille’s Vieux Port, a boat harbor filled with seafood restaurants and ice cream shops.
We walked to a beach and spent the whole afternoon there. The sea was beautiful and it was great to be in the sun. I really am grateful for that afternoon and how fondly I will remember that part of my weekend in Marseille.
Julia and I stopped back at the hotel before going to a wonderful Middle Eastern restaurant for dinner. It may have been one of the best meals I’ve had in France. It’s been pretty hard for me to be away from falafel for three months. While we were at the restaurant, I received a text message from my mom asking me to call her on the wifi once I was back in the hotel. I was a little surprised that she texted me, because she pays my phone bill and knows the international fees. I just figured she must have been missing me and wanted to talk.
Even though we were tired from our long day, Julia and I didn’t go straight back to the hotel after dinner. Instead, we got ice cream and sat by the water, watching the sunset. It was another memorable moment from a weekend that was about to take a turn for the worse.
When we did get back to the hotel, I didn’t immediately call my mom. I’m pretty grateful that I waited, because once I did hear the news, nothing was the same. I at least had another hour of ignorance.
I’ve been a dog owner my entire life. I had four dogs the past year, which is a lot, but they are really one of the greatest parts of my life. I knew going into this semester abroad that there was the possibility that I wouldn’t be going home to four dogs. Big dogs have short lifespans, but they were all in good health when I left. I knew that losing a dog was a possibility, but I didn’t actually think it would become a reality.
When my mom told me that my 8-year-old French Mastiff had died right before she sent me the text message, I fell to the floor in tears. I had a pain in my stomach, wishing that I had been able to spend the past three months with her, knowing that it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. At that moment, there was nothing I wanted more than to be home in New York, grieving with my family.
The next morning, I begged Julia to return to Besançon earlier. Our train tickets had been for 10PM that night, and I knew that, as beautiful as Marseille is, I just could not make it through that entire day.
We took a train that was meant to leave at 3:19, but didn’t leave until 3:45. The conductor kept making announcements that there was something wrong with the train, making me wonder whether I had made the right decision to leave Marseille early. We did make it back to Besançon at a reasonable hour and returning to a place that wasn’t home but was familiar did turn out to be best for me.
This week has been hard. I’ve now gone through the deaths of four dogs, and it never gets easier. If I were home, I could grieve with my family, who are all feeling the same as I am. Here, all I can do is distract myself with the various pleasures of study abroad, such as new friends, beautiful views, and the focus it requires to learn a new language.