Gawking at history in France

Published: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at 04:26 PM.

We visited Marseille. At every port on our cruise, I spend a lot of time simply gawking. This city produced extra gawks.

There’s no sense trying to tell you what I saw because I honestly don’t know. Every building, alleyway, square, road and fountain has its history.

Our guide rattled off who built what and why, who designed this and that and pointed out the Roman walls and fortifications that remain woven into more contemporary creations.

The use of "contemporary" simply means thousand-year-old buildings built around and connected with 2,000-year-old walls and fortifications. I’ve always liked history but thought of the past as separated from the present.

In this part of the world, that’s not the least bit true. Mediterranean cities seem to flow their history directly into the present. Like standing on a mountaintop with a view of a thousand miles all around, these places present a seamless view over two millennia deep.

We traveled along cobblestone streets over which merchant carts rattled a thousand years ago and our bus rattled today. Even some very old structures seem almost "young" because builders often incorporated the use of ancient walls left by occupying Romans.

And the Romans really knew how to build walls. My knowledge of the subject is limited, but I’d like to check out Hadrian’s Wall in England. And let’s throw in China’s Great Wall while I’m adding to my "wall" bucket.

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