France #14: Valuable Experiences

Mason ’24 and Lillian ’24, recount a day of cultural experiences in Marseille. 

Today, we got to visit two fascinating museums. The first, Cosquer Méditerranée, details the discovery and significance of the Cosquer caves. These underwater caves, located near Marseilles, contain significant prehistoric art. They’re not the easiest to access, however. So, the museum contains a near-perfect full scale replica of the caves, which visitors tour in little moving carts. Along the way, an audio guide explains the painstakingly reproduced markings and natural features of the caves. It was a wholly unique, immersive experience. Following our tour, we entered other exhibits to explore prehistoric artifacts, models of animals depicted in the caves, and the current detrimental effects of global warming on the caves.

Mason ’24: After spending the morning exploring the first museum, we had about two hours to walk around town and find something to have for lunch. Each of us had some money Dr. Hunt had given us, so we walked towards the restaurants by the port to see if we could find something we would all enjoy. We ended up finding a small restaurant called “The Sushi,” which we were a little suspicious about at first. Still, we decided to try it, and I don’t think we could have made a better choice. Six of us ended up splitting two dishes of sushi, where each of the dishes were in the shape of a bridge! There were some sushi that we hadn’t tried before, like a mango and cream cheese one, but it was some of the best sushi I’ve had. Paying in cash for sushi for 10 people to eat was a bit of a struggle, but luckily we had Sammy to help us count it all up and Daphne to organize the bills. After that, we decided to look for some ice cream, and found a little shop on the same street. A few of us got granitas (slushies), and even though Svet had originally gotten a cola flavor, after trying Aaron’s, she decided to get a refill of tropical blue. There’s quite a bit of food coloring in the blue slushie, enough to turn Aaron’s mouth completely blue! Soon, it was time to walk back and meet up with our teachers and explore our second museum of the day.

Lillian ’24: After lunch, we walked to the building next door to the Cosquer museum: MUCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. MUCEM contains an ever-changing list of cultural exhibits on topics ranging from the history of Marseille’s Fort Saint Jean to an exploration of language and maternity. We toured an exhibit about the culinary heritage of the Mediterranean. We discussed the famous Mediterranean diet that has been well-documented in scientific papers and self-help books, looked at rows of ancient spice jars, and wove our way through a faux supermarket complete with “Mediterranean flavor” potato chips. Along the way, our guide emphasized that cuisine is ever-changing. The tomato, for example, something that much of our Mediterranean cuisine couldn’t exist without, wasn’t introduced to Europe until the 1500s. Diets continue to change today as the world becomes more globalized. As we risk losing cooking techniques that are important to heritage, we also risk the cultural ossification that comes when we refuse to change with the rest of the world. Although I was slightly disappointed that there were no edible samples, this thought-provoking exhibit was valuable to experience.