Timeless Days …

Picture from the past: Hans (top) and I (middle); Kindergarten (1959), Kerkrade, the Netherlands

Have you ever met your best Kindergarten friend after 40 years, and it clicked, as if you were back in time while staying in the present? A state not affected by time. If this sounds complex, it is really child’s play. My longtime-no-see Dutch friend Hans passed by In Marseille with his partner Cia, and we took a plunge into our childhood memories with now six decades of life experience in the background.

La vieille Chairité – museum and cultural centre; Marseille

After Kindergarten we both attended the same primary school, but on my seventh birthday my family moved to another provence, there were maybe two brief visits back and forth after that. Our last meeting was in 1977, in Maastricht, we were in our early twenties, and just before my departure to India. Then, we lost contact.

L’homme à la pipe (detail) (1968); Picasso

Over the past decade, we googled each other but did not find any contact-info, until Hans discovered my sister Petra on Facebook, last year, and soon the link was reestablished through email and WhatsApp. Hans and Cia were keen to visit France and came to Marseille this month via a short trip in the south. The first day we would visit art museums in Marseille, however, time stood still, we were in no hurry.

Deux femmes courant sur la plage (cropped image) (1922); Picasso

We visited Parc Valmer for the view it gives on the Mediterranean sea and nearby islands, like the famous Il d’If. We had lunch at a restaurant at Vieux Port, where Cia wisely ordered her own dish, but I accidentally ordered for Hans and myself the Plat du Jour, instead of the Salad du Jour. These are two entirely different dishes: one is a healthy Greek salad, the other a big fat French hamburger with French fries. We accepted the mistake, received a handshake from the waiter, and enjoyed the delicious burger and fries.

The courtyard of La Vieille Charité; Marseille

Up we went to La Vieille Charité, a Baroque-style building complex from 1749 that was formerly accommodation for needy people, and today a museum and cultural centre. There was an extensive exhibition of Picasso that pleasantly surprised us for the several large paintings that were displayed, which were unknown to us. The second part of the Picasso exhibition was at the modern museum Mucem, but the day had passed into early evening, time for a drink, on a terrace that happened to have a direct view on Mucem – Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations – that is located near the sea.

Hans en Cia in the Calanques de Marseille

The next day a hike through the Calanques de Marseille, to great spots with spectacular views. Amazingly, Cia who broke her left shoulder the weekend before leaving for France, which did not require an operation but remained painful nevertheless, could very well manage the quite demanding walk through often steep terrain. Remaining in movement helped fortunately the healing process. Time stood even more still here in the midst of wild nature, we covered quite some distance in one day in spite of being immersed in conversation.

At repose in the Calanques

Anchored boats at the Calanques de Marseille

A rewarding meeting for the three of us. France and the Netherlands are not too far apart to keep more regular contact, and we will. Meanwhile, time goes on … Hans celebrated his birthday here, and I will next month, and we will be of the exact same age, again, but we choose to stay in our timeless state.

Hans and I in the Calanques de Marseille, France (photo by Cia)