I’d been told that the bars and cafes in front of Marseille’s port “can be tourist traps.”
They can’t be that bad, I thought, France isn’t The Third World. The businesses on the port have very nice views: boats, yachts and a castle; I suppose they could serve a turd on a plate, then still receive a tourist the following day. Now, I like to think I can save a penny. “Come on sugar-tits,” I said to the misses, in other words. I held her hand and scanned the bars that travelled away from the port. I’m a big fan of walking a few streets from tourist areas. The clientele tends to have a local face.
We arrived at a small Italian restaurant near Place Lenche. It’s a ten-minute ocean breeze walk from the port. White and red checker table cloths, a wood fire pizza oven made from bricks shaped like a done, welcomed us with a stern waiter. His no bullshit swag told us, “I’m the owner.”
We ended our dinner with a crisp, thin crust pizza in our stomachs and the owner earned his swag. After dinner, we returned to the port, I was still accepting the smooth taste of pizza and felt like drinking a beer. The port had a decent atmosphere, thanks to the ocean. I wanted to stay close. I looked to my girl, “But, let’s walk one block back.”
My girl’s father told me when I arrived in Marseille, “Fais attention avec les gens qui pretendent etre ton ami ici” he said as he brushed his shoulder delicately. Then he changed tone to say, “Une fois que tu es leur ami, ils essaient de t’enculer.” His body language was good and I’d say he’d be pretty good at charades. But I didn’t understand. My girl looked at me and said “He’s paranoid. He thinks people here attempt to be your friend, then try to steal from you.”
I smiled. I got this, I thought.
We arrived at a small bar called Bar L’unic. It was a dive bar, but had outdoor seating so I thought, this one’s for us.
A waiter came to our table, immediately over friendly, asking questions, shopping for fine details such as “Where are you from?” and “How long have you been in Marseille?” then “My name is Julien.”
I just need something to wash my pizza down with.
“What’s a simple beer you can give me?” I said. If he’s going to be friendly I might as well let him recommend me a beer. I got a decent glass of Chouffe beer and the experience was ok, more a result of the nice dinner I’d eaten and the company I had beside me with my girl.
At the end of the beer I said to the waiter “C’est cambio?” and he corrected me with a smile, “No it’s c’est Combien?” he said. It was nice of him. It kind of made me lower my guard.
“Anyway, how much is it?”
“Pour toi,” he replied with a laugh.
That’s a red flag. I felt it from the start, you see, when he arrived my table, he seemed like a car salesman wannabe whose poor posture and grooming had resorted in him working in this shabby bar.
“8 euros,” he added.
That’s a lot of money for a beer in a less than flashy bar.
“8 euros!” I replied.
Julien stayed firm, “Yes, it’s eight euros.”
“Pour moi, it’s 8 euros, you mean?”
There’s not much you can do when you don’t have the knowledge of local beer prices. I paid the bill to keep my night smooth. I didn’t want to spoil the previous restaurant’s hard work. I checked the menu of the bar and sure enough the “special” beer prices were 5-euros. I returned into Bar L’unic and Julien kept firm. I dropped into a couple of bars on the way home, doing the research.
“5 euros,” two bar girls told me.
A passed by Bar L’unic one week later on a Saturday morning. I spotted a bar girl so entered.
“Excuse me, how much is a big glass of Chouffe?”
“5 euros,” she replied as she raised an eyebrow.
Just as I thought, Julien had spoiled my pizza.
The bricks that build a home start from the ground up. If you’ve got bad bricks, then the home’s future is off to a bad start. If a barman is robbing a costumer 3-euros more than he should, it immediately has me worrying about France’s minimum wage – “around 7-euros after paying tax.” If you put a shitty home beside a nice home it’ll look out of place; and it’ll affect the appearance of the nice home, which is kind of what happened to me.