La Canebière, Marseille
I wasn't sure where to put this tip - hotels, warnings or where.
My husband's USNavy ship was coming into Marseille, and I was meeting him there. We had met earlier in Valencia Spain, and I had taken a train from there to Grenada where I spent the night. Then I took the train back to Madrid, flew to Barcellona that night and took a train to Marseille from there the following day.
I didn't have a hotel reservation and I had been traveling for about 3 days straight. So when I got off the train, I walked, carrying my suitcase until I couldn't go any further and found a hotel, and checked in. But the hotel gave me an uneasy feeling. I wasn't absolutely sure that it wasn't a brothel or had rooms for rent by the hour.
Fondest memory: So I left my bag and went out and looked around a little more. Eventually I found the Hotel Bristol which was a three star hotel at 18, La Canebiere. I liked this hotel much better, and it was closer to the port where my husband's ship would be coming in.
The hotel porter came with me to translate (the people in the first hotel didn't speak much English and my French wasn't that good) and retrieve my suitcase from the other hotel. This is where we stayed during the time we were in Marseille.
I've done a search on current hotels, and there is no longer a Hotel Bristol and there doesn't seem to be any other hotel at this location.
Favorite thing: Or 'La Canebiere' as it's known. It is the Main Street Marseille, and leads you downhill to the Old Port. It is kinda grubby, but the shops are here. This is where the heart of the city beats, and is lit up extraordianarily at christmas, resplendant with epilepsy-unfriendly lighting.
Favorite thing: As preparation to your trip you should read Transit, the fabulous book by Anna Seghers. This book deals with an attempted escape involving hundreds of émigrés caught up in a bureaucratic nightmare in Vichy France as they frantically try to acquire the documents which will allow them to escape by ship from Marseille before they are seized by (or handed over to) the advancing Nazis. If you walk then yourself down the Canebiere (name of the famous main road leading to the Vieux Port) you will understand the book and Marseille even better.