Marseilles, 2004A meeting called Groups, Geometry and Logic was held, from Sunday, September 26, until Friday, October 1, at the Centre Internationale de Rencontres Mathématiques, located outsides Marseilles at a place called Luminy. Ayşe and I attended, along with Ayşe's student, Şükrü. We flew Lufthansa via Munich that Sunday morning, again taking the 7.50 flight out of Ankara.
To get to Luminy from the airport, if one is not taking a taxi, one can take a bus (for € 8.50) to the Saint Charles train station, then the metro to Rond-Point du Prado, then a local bus, the 21, to Luminy. This is what we did, following the directions provided by CIRM. The directions were adequate for the journey. Buying a metro ticket was a bit confusing, as there seemed to be several options. I thought I was communicating adequately in French with the cheerful ticket seller, but she switched to English. There was a group ticket, but she said you had to be four people to use it. This didn't make sense. We bought one card worth six rides: three to Luminy, and three back the following Saturday. (If we boarded a bus, say, within an hour after entering the metro with our card, we wouldn't have to pay again.)
We didn't go directly to Luminy after reaching the gare St-Charles; we left our luggage in a locker there (after sending it through the x-ray machine) and toured the old city by foot.
First we went out of our way. I was leading the way, with a tourist map obtained from the airport and with the compass I had brought from home. I had forgotten to consider that the top of the map might not be north. It wasn't; it was east.
When I found this out, we headed west down the map, to the old harbor and the old district to its north called Le Panier. The tourist map suggested a walking route there, but we didn't see any reason not to wander freely. This sometimes meant climbing up a street like a stairway, with a gutter down the middle.
In the last Üçan Süpürge (Flying Broom) women's film festival in Ankara, I had seen a very nice movie called Lost Seamen (les Marins perdus), which took place mostly on a ship docked at Marseilles. So the concrete of the seaside there looked familiar. Along the waterfront, we found a late-nineteenth-century church, the Cathédrale la Major, which was rather attractive. Its style was called “Romano-Byzantine”. You can see the round Roman arches in the tourist's picture that I found; there you can also see a hint of the Byzantine dome at the crossing. The synagogue in Turin had also had alternating light and dark stones, like La Major. Inside the latter, a plaque on the wall in English and French commemorated the soldiers of the British Empire killed in Europe in the Great War.
Wandering back up into Le Panier, we found an old complex called La Vieille Charité, seemingly built (in the 17th century) out of Christian piety, though perhaps the real aim was just to keep the impoverished Marseillais out of sight. In any case, the place is given over now to the Muses. We were a bit confused by the various kinds of tickets available for the various museums and exhibits inside. We chose to see the Musée des Arts de l'Afrique, d'Océanie et des Amériques. There we saw visionary masks and sculptures from (modern) Mexico collected by somebody, and decorated skulls and shrunken heads from South America and the Pacific, collected by a French brain surgeon.
We couldn't check into Luminy until five in the afternoon. After we had whiled away enough time in the city, we headed out there. It wasn't completely obvious which way to go, once we got off the bus at the end of the line. We were surrounded mostly by trees, but buildings could be seen in more than one direction. I asked one person where the Centre was, but she didn't seem to have a clue. Fortunately the direction we chose to walk turned out to be correct. We walked up a hill past some large modern buildings, then turned right as directed by signs in order to find the old manor house (or whatever it was) that is now devoted to mathematical abstraction.
Our room on the second floor (two flights up) was a hotel-room-with-bath like any other, except that there was a desk with reading lamp. The walls were about two feet thick. Unfortunately (or rather, by design), we were prevented from sitting in the window-frame by the fixed piece of glass that made up the lower part of the window. This fixed piece also made it impossible to reach out and clamp open the shutters. Therefore, when leaving the room, we could only heed the handwritten sign that we had seen at the entrance: It warned us against high wind and admonished us to keep the shutters closed.
When the shutters were open, one saw the coppiced plane-trees in the yard, and beyond them, just hills of bare rock and pines.
Through those hills, it was a half-hour hike to an overlook of the Mediterranean and the surrounding calanques—that seems to be the French or Provençal word for the rocky valleys that empty into the sea around there. I have been given two photos from the trail:
Here are I and Ayşe with Oleg Belegradek, who also lives in
Turkey, but whom we see as frequently outside the country as in; I first met him in
the US, when his son and I were both students in College Park.
The second picture includes Boris
Zilber; reading and presenting his seminal 1984 paper on “strongly minimal
countably categorical theories” (in translation from the Russian) was my first
big task as a student of model-theory.
I swam in the cold water, although I seemed to have a cold. I did, or the swimming ensured that I did. But I didn't want to pass up the opportunity. I started noticing a number of sneezes and nose-blowings during talks at the conference. When I looked more closely, it appeared that the several vegetarians at the meeting were the ones getting sick. (Ayşe was an exception, though she had had the stress of preparing and giving an hour talk at the meeting.)
Well. We vegetarians were being served reasonably tasty food, but it might not have been very healthful. We ate a lot of starch, but no whole grains, no dark-green vegetables, and not much fruit. Lunch and dinner tended to feature a cheese course, and it was nice to eat those soft and moldy cheeses that aren't made in Turkey. But eating some vegetable protein in addition would have been better.
Breakfast was dismal. There was orange juice. There was no pain complet, but only white bread (croissants and “petit pain”). To put on the bread, there was only butter and jam in little packets. Presumably the caffeinated beverages on offer were acceptable to those who drank them. I did sometimes mix up a cup of hot chocolate with one of the provided envelopes of powder.
Every morning in Ankara, I eat a breakfast of rolled oats, raisins, yoghurt and honey. It is just what I want, day after day. After several days at Luminy spreading butter and jam on white bread, I was thoroughly disgusted, even though this combination is tasty and filling.
I dwell on food at Luminy because some day we might have an opportunity to go back. I would go back, but I would want to bring some supplementary food and maybe even vitamin pills (which I don't take at home).
On Friday evening, on the Web, we researched eating and book-buying possibilities for the next day in Marseilles before our evening flight. (We had to check out of Luminy by nine in the morning.) I plotted restaurants and bookstores on our map from the airport, with the aid of Cartes-Plans on line. (I recall having trouble finding this with Google, until I searched on plan as well as carte.)
On Saturday, since it was near the Rond-Point du Prado metro station, to which we would take the bus, the Librairie Prado-Paradis might have been good to visit; but then we would have had to buy another ticket for the metro. A librairie that we did visit, not far from the gare, sold mainly used books for students. I hadn't been aiming for Fnac, but I remembered that it was at the Centre Bourse as we passed this, so we went in. Yes, I bought some books in French:
- the complete stories of Maugham, since I've read them enough times in English;
- a novel (Le rocher de Tanios) by Amin Maalouf that is not among the four that I have read in translation (namely, Leo Africanus, The Gardens of Light, Samarkand and Ports of Call); annoyingly, though Maalouf has lived in Paris for about three decades, his books were in the foreign literature section;
- Descartes's Règles pour la direction de l'esprit, perhaps a silly purchase, since Descartes himself wrote the book in Latin; but I had been meaning to refresh my memory about something there.