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How to Speak Like a True Marseillais


Photo by Caroline Marongiu-Ingargiola

Ah, Marseille! It only takes one visit to fall in love with the sound of cicadas, the smell of the sea, and its famous sing-song accent. The second largest city in France after Paris, Marseille is a culturally rich and diverse city. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, the Marseillais people come from Italy, Spain and North Africa, making Marseille a true melting pot. It isn’t just a city, it’s the city to visit in France.

I already hear the protests, “Why? It isn’t Paris?Malheureux, va! [ma.lœ.ʁø] (Little devil)! If you want to meet warm and friendly people and not have any trouble, please don’t mention Paris while you are in Marseille. It’s like saying LA is the best city and has the best baseball team to someone from San Francisco. The rivalry between Paris and Marseille is most notable, maybe, because Marseille has all the best of France. We have beautiful beaches, more than 300 sunny days each year, the Calanques [kalɑ̃k], the best food—prepared with olive oil, no butter, please—and a rich history. In Paris, let me think, they have… the rain and Paris Plage. What is Paris Plage? It’s a joke! During the summer, the city throws sand on the quays of the Seine and people lay on the banks of the river and pretend they are at the beach. In Marseille, even though we like saying we are a city full of gangsters, the people are quite friendly–not like in Paris, where the people are as cold as the weather.

The real rivalry is between the cities’ soccer teams, L’Olympique de Marseille and Paris Saint Germain. In Marseille, we have the best fans in the world, while in Paris, they try. In Marseille, soccer is a religion, in Paris it’s just money. But even with all the money, there is one thing that they can’t steal: our pride to be Marseillais.

Courtesy of Thibault Houspic

Calanque d’En-Vau, courtesy of Thibault Houspic

The city’s culture is rich and unique, and is reflected in the way people speak. Marseille is a city of exaggeration. For example, when someone is late, we say “I’ve been waiting for, like one hour,” or even “Gosh, I’ve been waiting for 100 years.” We say that even if we‘ve only been waiting about 20 minutes. The city also has its own vocabulary, of course there is the Provençal dialect from the South, but we also have some very Marseille-specific expressions. Here are some examples:

T’es en bois” (You’re in wood) means that you are really bad for something.

Vé moi ce boucan!”[bu.kɑ̃] or “Chapacan” [tʃɑ],  has  three different meanings:

  1. The person isn’t good-looking.
  2. He/she likes making messes.
  3. Making noises.

Un cabanon” is a small space without comfort. The word is used to describe a small, rustic shack on the beach.

Un cafoutche” is a small storage room for things you don’t use but don’t want to get rid of.

Une cagole” [ka.ɡɔl] is the stereotypical girl from Marseille. Typically she has a heavy accent, is not very clever, uses too much make-up, wears a jogging suit or a short skirt, and is always chewing gum. Cagole is usually used for girls who aren’t natural beauties. A cagole ia girl with exaggerated qualities, similar to the famous Jersey girl in America. For a man, we say, KéKé []

Je vais caner”, literally means “I am gonna die”. Of course, now you understand that people from Marseille like to exaggerate. You use this expression when something is boring, long and tiring. So don’t call an ambulance if someone tells you that.

Y a dégun” [de.ɡœ]̃ means that there is nobody, that a place is empty or filled with just few people. The opposite is cafi.

Arrête de m’emboucaner”, has three three meanings:

  1. Take somebody for an idiot.
  2. Have a heated argument.
  3. Smell bad, to stink.

Fada” means that a person is crazy.

Marronner” [ma.ʁɔ.ne] is to act in bad faith, to sulk.

Se faire pointer” is to refuse someone entry to a party or a place. Essentially, to turn someone away.

Un pastaga” — You have to know this one because it means Pastis, the famous anis flavored liquor from Marseille. You can also say, un 51, un Ricard, un petit jaune… We typically drink Pastis with ice and water.

Minot” refers to a child, or someone young.

Mettre un taqué” means to slap someone.

Etre esquiché” is to be squished. Specifically when a place is very crowded, and you are in a tight space.

Ton t.shirt est réné” means that your t-shirt is ugly and old. This word is used to describe something or someone who is out of style, or simply bad.

Etre tarpin beau / belle” [taʁ.pɛ̃] to define someone or something very beautiful, or with a good taste. Tarpin means very, a lot.

Vas te jeter!” This means to “go throw yourself.” However, if someone tells you that, please don’t think that we you want to commit suicide. It’s an expression used to force somebody to leave. This is similar to “get lost.”

J’ai quillé le ballon” means something is stuck somewhere and it’s inaccessible. For example, losing a ball because it is stuck in a tree and it is too high to reach.

Se bastonner” [bɑs.tɔ.ne] means to fight!

Oh fan de chichoune!” This is used to express the deepest surprise, or annoyance.

Il faut aller chercher Molinari” Litterally this means “we need go find Molinari.” This expression is used to describe having an insoluble problem and that you need help. There are several stories about the identity of Molinari. One of them, date of 1826, where Mister de Rocheplatte have to come in Marseille to help the Egyptian frigate. The person who will help him to get in the sea will be the very skillful Mister Molinari.

Oh mazette!”  [ma.zɛt] is an exclamation used to express admiration.

Peuchère” [pø.ʃɛʁ] two meanings

  1. That a person is unlucky or unfortunate.
  2. To show pity.

Une rengaine” [ʁɑ̃ɡɛn] is something that we repeat a lot, like an old story.

Faire Fanny”, is an expression to use when someone loses a game. We can also use, “Embrasser Fanny, Etre Fanny, or Se prendre une Fanny.” “Kiss Fanny” means kiss the bottom of a woman named Fanny. Usually using during the game la pétanque [petɑ̃k], which is similar game to bocce ball.

“Kissing Fanny” postcard from 1896

Escagasser”[ɛs.ka.ɡ] has two meanings:

  1. To annoy somebody
  2. To damage something

Mains de Pati” (broken hands)  is an expression that is usually used when someone spills his glass or breaks it. This means that a person is awkward and clumsy. This is similar to the expression “butterfingers”.

La Bonne Mère” (The Good Mother) is a familiar and affectionate name for the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde.

The list will be longer if I kept writing, but I let you discover other expressions on your own. Last piece of advice: In Marseille we don’t use punctuation at the end of the sentence, but just some poetic words such as, “Putain, con, merde…” you’ll get the hang of it.

Yes, my dear travelers, Marseille is a city full of surprises, which will either seduce you or drive you crazy.

Oh! I almost forgot, please don’t put an “s” at the end of Marseille, this city is unique. We don’t need a plural when there is only one Marseille.

Hamburg: Maritime Metropole Gate to the World

Hamburg, a city with many dimensions and something for everybody, from culture, traditions, interesting architecture, world flair, different kinds of artworks, nature, high-class shopping, non-stop entertainment, beaches and a harbor. A perfect day in Hamburg starts with a harbor tour, then a little stroll around the historic city center and finds an interesting ending on the world-famous Reeperbahn. There are many ways to discover the fascinating flair of the traditional yet modern Hansa trading town of Hamburg. However it is always a good idea to start at the heart of the city, the harbor.

Flickr user: glynlowe CC 2.0

Flickr user: glynlowe CC 2.0

The harbor dates back to the 9th century as a modest 393.7 ft (120 meter) long boardwalk. However, the official birth of the harbor is May 7th,1189, this day is celebrated as the biggest harbor feast of the world with over 1.5 million attendees every year. Hundreds of national and international ships of every type of shape or form visit Hamburg at the beginning of May for the birthday celebration, Hafengeburtstag.

Hamburg has always had a special position among Hansa harbor cities, because it was the first city with a harbor connected to the western part of the world, even before the discovery of America. Over the years, the town entered into economic alliances with many other foreign harbor cities, which was against the rules within the Hansa, who only aloud alliances with german harbor cities. The boldness to build these foreign relationships helped earn the town respect and established a good reputation for trust in the rest of the world, thus the town grew quickly to become a vibrant, international city. By 1850 there was not one harbor in the world without hosting at least one ship with a Hamburg flag.

In 1888 the Hansa generated a free-port and build the Speicherstadt–still the largest connected bonded warehouse complex in the world. In 1913 Hamburg became the third largest harbor of the world, behind New York and London due to the rare combination of long, toll-free stock and the transaction of foreign goods.

Flickr user: Julian Schüngel CC 2.0

Flickr user: Julian Schüngel CC 2.0

But this quick and successful development also brought out the dark side of the city–pirates! Yes, there were pirates in the North Sea and the most famous and notorious one was Klaus Störtebeker. His legendary passing is still the story of nearly every tour in Hamburg. Legend says that Störtebeker and his crew, the Vitalienbrüder, were captured near Helgoland island. The pirate ship got stranded on a sandbar after the low tide came early that day due to a storm. On October 20, 1400 Störtebeker and his crew were to be executed in the Grasbrook district in Hamburg. To rescue his crew Störtebeker tried to bargain with the hangman. Everyone of his crew members should be saved from execution, when the pirate would be able to manage to walk by them, after he has been beheaded.  All the stories end with the information that the beheaded pirate was able to walk by 11 of his crew members. Due to his bargain, those 11 pirates would have been spared from execution, if the officials of the city had not broken their promise. Everyone of the Vitalienbrüder were executed that day.

Today there is nothing to fear, you will not find pirates in the North Sea nowadays. In fact, the North Sea is one of the safest oceans of the world. Still, the city with the most bridges in Europe offers visitors an exciting and fascinating experience.

In 2002 Hamburg opened it’s newest container terminal–one of the largest and most modern container harbors in the world with a transaction rate of over 140 million tons every year. Since 2006 Hamburg also a new cruise terminal, this and the unbeatable location of the harbor is bringing more and more tourists to the city.

Flickr user: glynlowe CC 2.0

Flickr user: glynlowe CC 2.0

When one of these massive cruise ships enter the harbor, try to be near the View Point next to the Cruise Center. This is always a magnificent spectacle, especially when the Queen Mary 2 is floating up the Elbe. The people of Hamburg are quite fond of  this British cruise ship and say Hamburg is the home port of the Queen Mary 2, that’s why she is always welcomed into the port with fireworks.

For the early birds it is pleasingly to visit the famous Fischmarkt (fish market) every Sunday at the Landungsbrücken. This historic market offers you more than just high-quality, fresh fish on the market, it is a bit like stepping back in time with the calls of the market crier and juggling. While you enjoy your fish-bun you can observe the sunrise over the water. On the other side of the harbor, workmen start harbor operations and you can witness how the gigantic container ships are loaded and unloaded. If you enjoy a more traditional type of ship, visit the sailing vessel Rickmer Rickmers or the Cap San Diego. Every saturday you can climb the rig to smell the salty sea breeze, combined with a spectacular view. In the evening you can also enjoy an amazing view of the illuminated city and harbor from the other side of the harbor, which can only be reached by ferry; this is also where the permanent musical The Lion King is located.

Flickr user: Stefan Klauke CC 2.0

Flickr user: Stefan Klauke CC 2.0

If you walk along the water, you come to the largest intra-urban construction project in Europe, Hafen City. Between the harbor and Speicherstadt arises a mixture of sailor flair and modern architecture. The new emblem of the city is the Elbphilharmonie concert hall and it embodies the soul of this new city district. Many shops and businesses welcome you to stroll and if you need a little break, you are at the best spot next to the many tiny canals. Follow these canals and you will find yourself in the historic district of Speicherstadt. This part of the city is characterized by all the red brick warehouses. Like the Italian city of Venice, the whole district was build on thousands of oak stakes over the water. One advantage of building a district in the middle of water is that the many canals between the buildings serve as a water street for all the ships, who can deliver goods directly from the North Sea.

Those canals pervade the whole city and bring maritime flair to the city center and suburbs. You can ramble along the waterfront, visit the buildings at the historic center–especially the city hall, which is the senate home of the city state–or climb the tower of the St. Michael’s church to enjoy the view over the city.

Flickr user: Wolfgang Staudt CC 2.0

Flickr user: Wolfgang Staudt CC 2.0

Around the countless canals, known as Binnenalster, are many green recreation and sport areas making you feel as if you are no longer in a city. Hamburg counts as one of Europe’s greenest cities and was elected as european capital of environment in 2011. The city combines modernity, tradition, water, nature and an urban-lifestyle. Besides the strategic location of the city, the unique architecture and landscape, the Hamburg people of are known for their cosmopolitanism and welcoming attitudes.

Visit Hamburg once and you will fall in love.

Off the Beaten Track: Madrid’s Malasaña

Formerly a sleepy district in the center of Madrid, Malasaña has become a refuge for the city’s outcasts in recent years. Mostly dissidents of mainstream city life, these newcomers have revived and transformed the area into one of Madrid’s most thriving neighborhoods. With forward-thinking businesses sprouting on nearly every street corner, dusty and decayed structures have made room for artisan butcheries and trendy shops. Nowadays, you’ll find local culture peacefully coexist with erotic boutiques, grow shops, and heavy metal clubs. Despite these radical changes in locals’ everyday lives, the area has remained its authentic Madrilenian panache.

Upon exiting Tribunal metro station, the earthy colors of Malasaña’s buildings take you back to Moorish times. Make your way through clothespined alleyways towards Plaza del 2 de Mayo, Malasaña’s central hub for summer festivals and weekend flea markets. Make a pit stop at Buenas y Dulces for one of their ever-so-fruity tarts before nestling yourself on one of the park’s benches; the ideal spot for serious people watching. Zigzag your way down to charming Calle del Espíritu Santo from which streets meander into the dense neighborhood. Camouflaged amongst typical Spanish facades, Lolina Vintage Café is a hidden gem. Take a breather in their eighties inspired interior and enjoy a glass of icy Tinto de Verano.

Photo by Flickr user: Javier CC2.0

Make up for skipping your siesta by adopting the Spanish tradition of late-afternoon tapas. With a hundred different mini-sandwiches on the menu and special prices on Wednesday and Sunday, Cervecería 100 Montaditos is a welcome alternative from ordinary sandwich shacks. Here’s how it works: skim the menu, order by number, and wait for your name to be called. For what are believed to be the best tapas in the area, head to Albur. With its fair prices, this restaurant provides a popular hang-out for both classy and casual crowds.

If you still find yourself with an itch in your pocket, browse through one of many specialty shops. Located just off Plaza del 2 de Mayo, Numbers Sneakers is the place to stock up a Malasaña essential: a pair of colorful hipster-approved kicks. While you’re at it, check out the custom cap-wearing mural on the wall behind the cash register. Magpie Vintage is the go-to place for both men and women looking to find unique pieces and explore new styles. End your shopping spree in Mercado de Fuencarral; a mall that houses a selection of the wackiest shops. Collections range from Jamaican memorabilia to tuxedo-styled bibs. Malasaña is also home to some of the oldest businesses in town: still-operating farmacia Juanse, founded in 1898, is the oldest of its kind in Madrid.

Sauntering the neighborhood with heavy shopping bags will work up an appetite, but remember that dinner is seldom served before 9 pm. When craving quality burgers, it’s hard to beat industrially-designed Naif Madrid Burguer & Bar, serving fully-loaded homemade burgers on toasty buns. For less than 8 euros, take-out eatery Ay Mi Madre! offers daily menus of Spanish classics; the menu may be small, but the food is quite satisfying. Alternatively sit down at atmospheric A 2 Velas and let a candlelit Iberian dinner herald true Malasaña dining and ambiance.

The people are loud and the waiters are rude; yet, Sidrería El Tigre provides a true Spanish experience. Elbow your way to the bar, order a round of beers and you’ll be rewarded with piles of complimentary tapas. Head over to Diplodocus for some serious pre-partying; bring some friends to share one of the massive 2-liter cocktails. Madrid nightlife is only getting started around midnight. Follow the twenty-something crowd to underground parties or queue up in front of scruffy-looking nightclubs. As soon as your eyes adjust to the brightly lit decorations, you’ll understand why Tupperware is among the coolest alternative rock bars in the city. Derived from what is not considered to be the most elegant of words, Maderfaker caters to a funkier crowd.

For the time being, Malasaña remains a retreat where weirdos feel perfectly normal again and people living the most banal of lives feel wonderfully weird again viagra moins cher. Set in a rustic Spanish setting, Malasaña and its residents will welcome you with open arms whether you’re a rebellious teenager, mutinous office worker, or suffering from a midlife-crisis.

A day in Coyoacàn, diving into the heart of Mexico City

Our intern Laura visited Mexico City over the holiday break. Below she describes the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of Coyoacàn, a peaceful, yet exciting neighborhood.

I am Laura, a 22-year-old French girl living in San Francisco for a six-month period. When I arrived in California in October I planned to explore Mexico, especially since a friend living in Mexico City invited me to visit him. Eventually, I got the opportunity to go around the holidays, which allowed me to enjoy the incredible decorations. Plus I have to say, for a girl coming from a cold French region, walking around wearing a short skirt in December is pretty exciting!

After landing, the first thing that caught my attention was the size of this city. At 573 square miles, Mexico City is 14 times larger than Paris! I figured that I could not see everything, I had to make choices. With only 8 days in the city, what did I absolutely need to see? For years I knew I wanted to see Frida Kahlo’s house, so exploring its neighborhood seemed like a great plan. Located right in the heart of the city, Coyoacán is one of the 16 boroughs of the Federal District. “Indeed, you can’t leave Mexico without experiencing this area” my friend told me. This became clear to me when he dropped off at Plaza Hidalgo only on the second day of my trip, the last day of 2013.

San Juan Bautista church was built in the 16th century

A melody of salsa

The first thing I noticed in Coyoacán was the architecture. Buildings are very low, and their colors are so crazy. I noticed the huge contrast between them and the grey color of the crumbling San Juan Bautisto baroque church façade. Inside the church, the ceiling is covered with very interesting colonial paintings. The different tints were amazingly bright, backgrounds, so dark and depth of field was almost not represented. I felt very lucky to see this church, so different from the roman and gothic arts in my own country.

After a while, I came back out to the fresh sunlight. It was nine in the morning, time when waiters are tying aprons around their waist, when old men meet on a bench, trying to solve world’s problems. A light breeze, twittering birds and the scent of coffee hung in the atmosphere. The city was waking up leisurely, and I found everything so quiet, unlike the rest of the city. However, I changed my mind pretty quickly! Once the first stools have been set on cafes terraces, the area became more alive. Even at this time, melodies of salsa music escaped from windows.

Nearby, I saw a yellow gate with an arched shape. Just above, “Bazar artisanal mexicano” had been hand-painted. A craft market? Without hesitation, I went for it! After walking through the first food stalls, I found a genuine Ali Baba’s cave. Surrounded by lime, corn and fried food smells, I jumped in this colorful crowded shamble. Exotic fruits, spices, sombreros, traditional clothes and trinkets, but also posters, scrap metals, sheets were for sale all around me. Strolling among the pervasively draped fabrics and the frolicsome children, I just had the feeling I could find everything here! “Que vas a comprar hoy, chica?” A work-worn hand grabbed mine, it was an old woman offering a henna tattoo. Amused by being constantly called out to buy, I always answered with a smile or a polite “No, gracias!”

The Bazar Artisanal Mexicano  probably sells everything you can imagine

The Bazar Artisanal Mexicano probably sells everything you can imagine

 La Coyoacana

Time to meet my friend for lunch was already here. “La Coyocana, 1pm” he told me. When I arrived, he and his family were already enjoying a michelada, the mix of lime, tomato juice, pepper slices and beer, the alleged “perfect hangover drink”. They all were sitting in nice-looking chairs in this wonderful courtyard. Traditional decorations were hanging above the tables, waiters were running, straddling on every side of the yard, trying to serve everyone as fast as they could. This was such a special place, it literally took my breath away as soon as I arrived. Instead of a michelada, I ordered an agua de horchata -the most refreshing beverage in the world. It is made of rice, almonds, sometimes cinnamon and often vanilla: my new addiction!  The sunlight filtered through the draperies sometimes reaching us, and a fresh breeze stroked our skins. Then, el Molcajete came. To describe it clearly I would say it’s a big stone bowl with three feet that is sometimes used as a grinder.  My molcajete however contained a traditional Mexican assortment: pork and beef, chorizo, tomatoes and greens onions, with chicharrón–huge pieces of crispy pork rind, all accompanied by the inevitable tortillas.


“Molcajete” a traditional Mexican dish.

Aware that this plate was invented by pre-Hispanic cultures, eating from it felt like a journey back in time!  I was wholly amazed by the beauty of this spot and by the charming scene unfolding around me. While we were enjoying our food, a group of six costumed men were singing very loudly: some were playing the guitar, some the violin and even the triangle. I knew they were mariachis, Mexican folk musicians, but this was the very first time I was seeing them for real. Suddenly, they came to us! I didn’t know what to do, but my friend’s mother knew: after handed them a bill, she whispered something to them and they started playing for us. One of the best memories from my Mexican trip!

Mariachis playing a very traditional love song in the restaurant’s patio

To continue this perfect moment with art, I decided to go to the famous Frida Khalo Museum, which is in fact the house where she was born and always lived. Again, being in this place was like walking through time. For me, it was very sad and surprising to see how much she suffered since her childhood. The house, her sanctuary, is so calming, it’s hard to imagine how tormented her life had been. What I found most moving was seeing the painting Viva la vida, probably because it was so simple, so pure and almost infantile. Knowing that she created this painting, despite the fact that she was dealing with such dreadful pain, made me even more fascinated by this woman.  To me, it just seemed to be an explosive hymn to life. The house is brimming with light, colors, life and the gorgeous surrounding blue is impressively stirring.

The famous blue walls of the Frida Khalo Museum

During the last part of my visit, I examined a temporary exhibition featuring pieces of her wardrobe.  What was really thrilling to me was that I understood that her firmness, her toughness and her confidence was in fact a way to hide her vulnerability, her frailness. That’s how I realized she was a mix of weakness and strength. More than a touristic experience, visiting Frida Kahlo’s museum was a profound experience for me.
Coyoacàn has so much history that makes it a huge part of Mexico’s soul. From my first steps on Plaza Hidalgo, I felt the spirit of this place. Every time I close my eyes now, I dream of going back there for a nice ramble.



Frida Kahlo museum –

Bazar artisanal mexicano Facebook page:


Spotlight: Sretsis

Sisterly Fashion Love in Bangkok ~

Bangkok Thailand, a place known for its buzzing street markets and mega shopping complexes, is a shopper’s paradise. Trying as I did to experience all that Bangkok shopping had to offer, I was taken on an exciting ride. From scouring the endless, cramped, humid markets that stayed open until the wee hours of the morning, to strolling the countless gleaming air conditioned malls Bangkok, proved to have something for everyone.

That something for me was Gaysorn, Bangkok’s premium shopping center. This shopping experience was on the opposite end of the sweaty street market spectrum. Gaysorn was a breath of polished, (air conditioned) fresh air. Dior, Fendi, and La Perla all have homes here, but the store I was most interested in locating was Sretsis.

With the annual release of their Summer Love collection, this store was on my must see list. The collection, titled “Oh, My Dear, Deer!” held true to the Sretsis signature: playful, feminine, and sophisticated with these components reflected in the décor of the store. Black hardwood floors met light colored fabric panels on one side and clean white walls on the other. Furniture straight out of a Victorian fairytale invited the clientele to sit and try on the drool-inducing shoe collection. Ruffled jumpers and lace tops hung from the branches of a faux tree planted in the center of the store. From their collection to their store, Sretsis hit the nail of femininity and luxury on the head.

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Sretsis, which is “sisters” spelled backwards, is the brainchild of three fashion-forward sisters. Graduating from New York’s Parson’s School of Design, Pim Sukhahuta embarked on creating this international brand. With her sister Kly who handles the marketing, and Matina who created an accompanying accessory line, these three sisters went from playing childhood dress up to dressing fashionable women across the globe.

999 Ploenchit Road
Gaysorn 2F-28, Bangkok

Photos by Heather Perry

What did you think of Heather’s review? Or the Bangkok shopping scene in general? Let us know in the Comments section or via our Facebook and Twitter pages!