Le Petit Tour de France: Marseille

After an embarrassingly long hiatus, the blog is back! Although, I suppose it’s not fair to call it a “blog” any longer. That implies a level of timeliness and immediacy that is clearly not my strong point – my sabbatical year is over in a week, after all (ummm… oops). From now on, let’s call it my “Post-Sabbatical Report.” There. Problem solved.

 

So in an effort to get through SEVEN MONTHS of material within the next few weeks (sheesh), I’ll cut back on the writing and pack the posts with pictures – that’s what everyone seems to enjoy most, anyway!

 

But first, a quick introduction: My last entry described the end of my two month residency at the CAMAC Centre d’Art in the tiny village of Marnay-sur-Seine, France. It was the beginning of November, and I had three weeks left in France before my return to the States. My original plan was to live in Lyon during this time and apprentice with a gilder to learn about gold-leafing (slightly random, yes, but interesting!)… unfortunately, though, that plan fell through. But you know what they say, “When a door closes, a window opens!” I decided to take advantage of those last three weeks by exploring more of the country – I would go on my very own “Petit Tour de France.” First stop: Marseille and Cassis.

 

Marseille is my favorite city in France. Its Mediterranean coastline is absolutely stunning, the weather is amazing, the food is incredible, it’s culturally and ethnically diverse thanks to the large immigrant population, and there’s just enough ‘grit’ to make it feel real – the city doesn’t seem to get wrapped up in ‘putting on a show’ for tourists like Paris does. The walls are covered in street art and graffiti, neighborhood kids wheel through the streets on bikes, laundry hangs drying from clotheslines and windowsills, smelly fish markets abound, and you can find yourself on a bus with people hailing from just about every nation under the sun.

 

The city is teeming with life and energy, all to the soundtrack of city traffic, a cacophany of languages, and crashing waves. What’s not to like?! Surpringly, though, many of the people I met in France warned me away from Marseille, saying it was too dangerous, too ‘gritty’ for a young tourist like me. I suppose some people would say the same about Philadelphia here in the States, but clearly crime and ‘grit’ don’t deter me!  I thought a lot about the characteristics that Philadelphia and Marseille share during my visit – there are surprisingly many – and I think this is why I can so easily picture myself living in Marseille one day. (One day IN MY DREAMS, of course, but I think it’s a good test of how much you like a place – deciding whether or not you feel you could live there and be happy).

 

I spent two lovely days wandering the streets and coastline of sunny Marseille. Here are some of the things I found…

 

The view as you exit the train station, Gare St. Charles…

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And the gorgeous steps leading up to the station…

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The building where I rented a small studio apartment for my stay…

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From the sixth floor, the view of the main drag through central Marseille – La Canebière…

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Le Vieux Port (The Old Port)…

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Le Vieux Port with Notre-Dame de la Garde in the distance (also called “La Bonne Mère” – “The Good Mother”)…

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A fisherman’s union building…

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And le Vieux Port as seen from Parc du Pharo…

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… which, by the way, had one of the strangest signs I’ve seen in quite a while.  It reads: “Play with Ballons and Dogs Prohibited”  Ummm, okay… that’s oddly specific, don’t ya think?

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La Vielle Ville (The Old City), also called Le Panier or “Bread Basket”…

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The gorgeous Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Major…

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The neighborhood called Cours Julien, or “Cours Ju” if you’re really in the know, is funky, gritty, and covered in street art…

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I believe actual down feathers were used in this piece of street art – love it!

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Noailles and le Marché des Capucins – the lovely neighborhood and open air market with a delightfully international feel…

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And in other parts of the city…

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La Place Castellane…

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You might remember these ladies from my post about the street art scene in Paris…

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Walking along la Corniche, a road that runs along the coast with gorgeous views…

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Along the way, I ventured down to visit this small fishing port, “Port des Auffes” (seen here from the bridge on la Corniche above)…

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…And then back on the road…

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Looking down into the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean…

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After walking along la Corniche for about four miles, I made it to Les Plages du Prado, separated from the busy road by a lovely green park…

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And for all the readers with kiddos, some of the coolest playground equipment EVER can be found on these beaches…

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My last morning in Marseille, I ventured to the top of the hill to visit “La Bonne Mére,” Notre-Dame de la Garde…

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This basilica was built into the foundations of an ancient fortress…

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Many boats are blessed here…

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I had read about the great view of the city from this hilltop.  Unfortunately, just like on Poon Hill during my trek in Nepal, I was greeted by clouds…

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…BUT just like my visit to Poon Hill, I was lucky once again and the clouds cleared!

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Check out this VIDEO that shows how far I walked along la Corniche the day before…

The basilica as seen while walking down the hill…

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And that about wraps up my wonderful two days in Marseille… stay tuned for pictures of my day trip to the nearby town of Cassis!  À bientôt!

One thought on “Le Petit Tour de France: Marseille

  1. i love marseille too and we will be there for a couple nights in july/august. did you see the glass house of crutches up at the top of the hill at the cathedral? did you have bouillibaise? love seeing your pix! e

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