There are a lot of administrative steps to becoming the proud owner of a titre de long séjour and they're all basically unavoidable. I hate to imagine asking for a long stay visa without the help of a government institution like the regional school board (or similar). I have not had any snafus yet (crossing fingers), so the forms to fill out are less of an evil than a number of other things I can think of--like smoking in an enclosed area where there are small children (seemingly also unavoidable in France).
Marseilles has the reputation of being a rough-and-tumble sort of place. By that, I mean there is a lot of mafia and gang violence, not to mention petty thieves and mainstay small crimes. It is also one of the most diverse cities in France, as well as an active seaport. All of these factors have built the city quite a reputation! The European Commission must see the good side of all this, because Marseilles has been named the European Capital of Culture for 2013.
Aside from running into a Nigerian woman at a bar who chatted us up and then had no money to pay for her drinks, nothing out of the ordinary happened to us while we were in Marseilles. The train ride from La Ciotat is about a half hour, which makes it quite a nice little day trip. And, since there is a lot of construction going on to gentrify the city for its honorific Capital of Culture year, I am glad I'm not living there, for the moment being. Aside from being annoying, I wonder how it will improve the city.
Pictures to come! I did not bring my camera this time, but I have a medical appointment in Marseilles at some point (immigration stuff) and will return to the city...certainly for other reasons as well!
*In French, the name of the city is written without an "s." Can anyone tell me why an "s" is added in English?