Friday 7 October 2016

Mediterranean Sunshine, part 2:
Exploring Marseille

Swordfish steaks on sale direct from the fishing boats at
Marseille quayside
Breakfast at the Grand Hotel Beauvau in Marseille was in the room adjacent to the bar where we'd had supper and had a similar view of the quayside below. Before breakfast I had taken a stroll along the quayside looking at the well-known fishermen's market with fish on sale the like of which we seldom see caught around England: huge slices of tuna, swordfish and shark, for example, and some unidentified shellfish, too. There was no fish in the continental breakfast but we did have lots of fruit and, of course, croissants and coffee. And then off for a walk to explore Marseille.

Marseille would be the only place we would stay for more than one day and we'd had no plan for it on our arrival but reading the information provided by the hotel had set us up for the day's activities, although we would, as we usually do, allow them to develop as we explored. One disappointment was was that MuCEM -  Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée - was not open on Tuesdays, sot hat would have to await a future visit. There was, however, no shortage of other things to see. We began by walking along the north quay of the Vieux Port, amazed at the size and sophistication of some of the super yachts moored there and interested by the architecture of the flats overlooking the marina. We climbed steeply up to explore the old Panier district with its narrow streets, and walked around the outside of the Cathedral but did not, on this occasion, venture inside.

MuCEM museum with the cruise ship terminal beyond
We had lunch at one of many little restaurants built in the vaults under the cathedral and accessed from the road running along the quay, and we went down to the modern quayside where there was a substantial cruise ship moored and where the museum was located. All of this part of the town is quite new, some built on reclaimed land, and has been part of what has lifted Marseille from its reputation for crime and squalor to the smart tourist destination that it is today.

One place we had to visit, mainly for the view, was the church of Notre-Dame de la Garde on the other side of the Vieux Port and on top of a very high and steep hill, a building which dominates the view for miles. It was a long way up and the weather was very hot, but there is a bus, and it starts from a stop by MuCEM which was, as the museum was closed that day, not busy ... so an easy ride up the hill!

From the level of the car park and bus stop there were fairly breathtaking views over the city and the sea, but the church itself involved a climb up many more steps and the view was greater still. We visited the two shops, one spiritual and one souvenir, at the church and spent some time admiring the views from all around. Like all decent churches with lots of visitors, this one had excellent catering facilities and we enjoyed a drink and a snack lunch here before walking back down into the city.

The view over the city from Notre-Dame de la Garde
The walk back took us through a park and back to the quayside where we'd been the night before. We wanted to visit the soap museum gift shop to buy souvenirs for people at home, and we found all we needed here - real souvenirs of a part of the life of Provence and Marseille that we'd discovered while here. We'd bought our postcards in the city centre in the morning, and we returned to out hotel to write them and then posted them just before the post office closed in the hope that they might arrive back in Lincolnshire before we did (they did).

Although we had read a few menus while out we ended up back at the hotel bar for another salad supper, paid our hotel bill and did all the packing we could before retiring to bed, because our next train was another early morning one! This time we would have time for breakfast but only if we were completely ready, and took our cases into the dining room with us (I've never done that before!). We waited for the doors to the dining room to open, went in and sat in the window and enjoyed another great breakfast before walking back to the Gare St Charles, and so begins the next chapter, which I'll post in due course!

All my photographs can be seen on Flickr, and the Trip Advisor reviews can be found by following the link in the right-hand column.

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