Marseille - interesting city
We originally planned to stay in Marseille for at least 2 nights, however such are the plans of mice and men that our trip was shortened by one week and we needed to reduce Marseille to a scant 24 hours - including travel times by metro to and from the main rail station. After our short visit we would like to return - one day.
We arrived at the "Kyriad Marseille Vieux Port," (see tip) which is almost adjacent to the old port, checked in and almost immediately started to explore the port area. From what we had read, Marseille was one of the major ports used by the Germans and during the re-capture by the Allies suffered extensive damage and so the city is mostly post WW11 buildings. The old port area is dominated by an adjacent steep hill and the magnificent Notre Dame de la Garde - the cathedral for Marseille (see tip). We caught a local bus to the cathedral and were sitting in awe - not at the increasingly spectacular view, but rather how that bus driver managed to navigate his way through the narrow, twisting, steep, vehicle clogged streets. It was a relief to get off that bus at the entrance to the cathedral.
We entered the grounds of the cathedral and took in the great view overlooking the old port, much of the city of Marseille, the nearby islands and the Mediterranean Sea. There is a wide pedestrian terrace that surrounds the cathedral and while we were walking, saw that one of the cathedral walls had large pock marks in the stone work. We read that the cathedral suffered minor damage during the battle for Marseille in August 1944 and it was the Virgin Mary who saved the building.
Into the interior of the building and all the trappings of a cathedral befitting a city the size of Marseille. Then we saw some of the model ships presented to the church by the sea faring members of the congregation. After the models hunger had overtaken us (again) so into the cafeteria of the cathedral. Old world charm with a great view and reasonable prices. Judging by her manner and dress we suspect the waitress from England was a novice in the church. I offered to go a couple of overs each in cricket, but sadly the young lady could not play the game - perhaps it was for the best as I could almost read the headlines, "Aussie bully trounces novice Pom!"
We returned by bus to the old port and wandered into the shopping pedestrian area of the lively city. I'm a bit of a fan of buskers and noticed a marionette (see photo) controlled by a guy. The twist was the iPod connected to the speakers sewn into his pants. The call of nature and aircon was strong, so we wandered into a La Fayette department store, found the free loo complete with chilled drinking water dispenser. Supposed to be for customers only but we had been window shopping.
In the evening we dined at one of the many outdoor restaurants (see tip) and for the first time enjoyed the traditional Marseilles dish of bouillabaisse (fish stew) served with crusty toasted bread and a savagely hot sauce Rouille. Sadly the local beggars also flocked to the restaurant and my guess is that they didn't intend dining there.
Via a outdoor night market where we stocked up on candy peanuts as a French fathers day gift to me and then back to the hotel to use their included in the price internet and a reasonably early night.
The next morning we checked out of the hotel and returned via the metro to the rail station and a 3 hour trip to Nice and the Cote d' Azure, however in the metro station close to the hotel I was struggling with 2 heavy suitcases up a flight of stair. A beggar took pity on me and helped out - and then put his hand out for a few coins. I was feeling less than benevolent, so the next struggling tourist will have to continue struggling while the beggar looks the other way.