Fun things to do in Marseille

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    Colorful Murals Adorn the Le Panier
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    Reformes Church (Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul WIP

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Dec 21, 2014

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    Located at the top or high end of the Canebiere, Marseille's main boulevard, the Reformes Church has an impressive Gothic exterior.

    According to Wikipedia the church was built on the site of a convent of Reformed Augustinians that was demolished in the early 19th century. . Beginning in 1855 it was rebuilt as a Catholic Church. The architect Francois Reybaud designed the church based on his liking of the Reims and Amiens Cathedrals. The church was completed in 1866. Its gothic design features sharp ogival curbs in the ceiling of the church.

    There is a pretty chapel, some beautiful stained glass windows, impressive bronze gates, and a very large pipe organ inside of the church. It is open to the public daily and there is no charge to enter the church.

    Reformes Church Front View Choir and Chapel of Reformes Stained Glass Window  -source Wiki

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    Walking the Old Le Panier

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Dec 13, 2014

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    Le Panier is Marseille's oldest residential neighborhood. It was the site where Greek explorers landed and settled in the sixth century B.C. The Greeks called the area Massalia and it grew quickly because of the excellent port and opportunities for trade. Over next two thousand years the area developed a labyrinth of homes and businesses and became France's second largest city. During World War 2 the Nazis found that the tiny streets made good refuges for the French Resistance. To end this threat the Nazis dynamited over 15,000 homes and thus reduced the area of the Le Panier significantly. The area slowly rebuilt after the war and today is only a small portion of the once vibrant area.

    The most popular attraction within the Le Panier is the La Vieille Charite, a former home for the poor that has been beautifully restored to its original charm. It is also the home of an excellent museum of the region's archaeology.

    We wondered into the Le Panier after seeing an excellent article about it on the, Insiders Guide to Marseille. There are many interesting shops and places to eat. The best way to see it is definitely on foot.

    Colorful Murals Adorn the Le Panier La Vieille Charite

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    Monument aux morts de l'Armée d'Orient

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Dec 6, 2014

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    Memorial for the members of the Army of the Orient for service in foreign wars. This is an entirely French army not to be confused with the Foreign Legion (Légion étrangère).

    The monument pays homage to the members of the French military who served in the eastern lands and orient during World War 1. The term Armee d'orient actually refers to the French army that was sent to Egypt back in the late 18th century that attempted to bar Great Britain's passage to its India colony. The army at that time was led by Napoleon Bonaparte. The army was reinstated in 1857 and again in 1914 as a force that traveled to fight in Eastern lands.

    The monument was completed in 1927. There is also a statue that looks out on the part. From the sea side of the monument there are great views of downtown Marseille as well as the off shore islands. Definitely a pretty place to stop while walking or driving along the well traveled Kennedy Corniche.

    There is no charge to visit the arch and there are no posted hours of visitation on the site.



    The Armée d'Orient (French - Army of the Orient) was the French military force gathered by the

    Impressive Arch
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    Check Out the Vallon des Affes

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Nov 27, 2014

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    Walking along the water south of the old Vieux Port towards the Kennedy Corniche ne comes upon several small creeks. The most spectacular of these is the Vallon des Affes which below a stone bridge contains some very colorful houses and fishing boats The brilliant colors of the homes and boats are in sharp contrast to the monotonous earth tones of the majority of the City. Thoughts of the Cinque Terre came to mind as I viewed the area from ground level. Its a shame that many high block apartment houses mar the view of Vallon des Affes fat eye level. Despite this according to folks we talked to and read the Vallon des Affes has retained its charming sea viillage character for hundreds of years and was not affected by the destruction of World War 2 that plagued so much of Marseille.

    To access the area you have to walk up the down a few relatively steep streets after passing the area. There are no beaches in the Vallon des Affes area only rocks and the creek. Even at midday there were several fisherman tending to their boats. The area is famous for the ropes and nets that have been produced here for hundreds of years. There are a number of fine restaurants in the area but given that it was early afternoon on a Sunday when we passed this area we neglected to sample any of the food there.

    A Surprise While Walking South of Vieux Port

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    Basiliique Saint Victor

    by TooTallFinn24 Written Nov 26, 2014

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    Walking along the water slightly north of Vieux Port the Basilique Saint Victor is easy to miss. The basiliique is the last remaining vestige of the Abbey of Saint Victor that was founded in the early 5th century. The abbey, actually two one for men and one for women, was constructed under the direction of the monk St. John Cassian. It was built to honor Saint Victor the saint of sailors and millers. Over the centuries the abbey was burnt, sacked and looted many times. In the late 18th century most of the church was destroyed and all of its religious relics sold or melted down for coins.

    Today the Basilique is the annual site of the Fete de la Chandeleur, a religious celebnration held on February 2nd. Green candles are blessed and given to pilgrims who come to the basiliique to honor the Virgin Mary.

    When we visited the chapel there were some beautiful reflections off the walls of the stain glass in the rear of the building. There is a large crypt and catacombs that is very well preserved and worth visiting.. Many ancient sarcophagi can be viewed.

    There is no cost to visit the basiliqie.

    Basilique Exterior Chapel Cour. Wiki Black Virgin of Saint Victor

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    Centre de La Vielle Charite

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Nov 26, 2014

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    La Viette Charite was constructed as a place and sometimes prison for the poor in the 17th century. At the time of its first operation beggars in Marseille were treated with great contempt. Those that were residents were sent to an almhouse like La Viette Charite and either imprisoned and children were given jobs as servants, apprentices, seamstresses and other occupations. At one time La Viette Charite housed over 1,000 residents. In the years after the French Revolution the poor were freed from the facility and the use changed many times over the succeeding three hundred years.

    By the mid 20th century the area had declined to a collection of dilapidated buildings. Beginning in 1970 and completed in 1986 the entire site was transformed into a representation of the original buildings. During our visit we observed a three story arcaded building that was built of pink and yellow Coronne stone. In the middle of the courtyard is a Baroque chapel with a unique ovoid dome.

    The building now houses several museums amd a poetry center. The most interesting of the museums is the Musee d' Archologie Mediterraneemme which contains an extensive collection of Mediterranean civilization artifcats. The grounds are very interesting to walk around and doing so takes around 20-30 minutes. The chapel was not open for viewing on our Sunday visit.

    There is no charge to enter and walk the grounds of the La Vielle Charite. There is a 2 euro fee for adults to enter the Musee d' Archologie Mediterraneenne. A modest cost considering the richness of the little museum.

    Centre de La Vielle Charite Courtyard Impressive Interior Walkways Chapel

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    Check Out The Fish Market

    by TooTallFinn24 Updated Nov 20, 2014

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    The fish market in Marseilles is located in the Vieux Port. It takes place every day of the week as fisherman bring in their catch from the adjacent waters and sell it to local residents and businesses. However we were fortunate to visit on Sunday when the market is much larger and the selection is greater. Watching boats unload their cargo and plop the fish down on the small blue tables was interesting. What was even more interesting was to see the selection of fish offered for sale. I was surprised by the number of stalls that were just selling fish heads. The squeamish may want to take a step back from not only the heads but the slippery groups of live eels that are sllithering on the table.
    Prices were either by the whole fish, kilogram, or 100 grams for some of the smaller fish. Prices seemed reasonable.

    Fascinating to watch residents argue over the price of fish with fisherman. Even more so to just stand back and think that this fish market has been going on in some form or another for hundreds of years.

    Sunday Morning at the Fish Market A Head of a Buy! Think I Will Pass on These Guys
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    Guided walking tour of the Panier district

    by Nemorino Updated Apr 25, 2014

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    The Marseille Office of Tourism offers a variety of guided walking tours of various parts of the city. The exact dates and times are listed on their website www.marseille-tourisme.com and in the folders that they publish six times a year. The price per person is nine Euros (as of 2013). Places can be reserved online or by phoning 0826 500 500 – and you should definitely book ahead because numbers are limited.

    The tour I took was called Vieux Marseille – quartier du Panier (Old Marseille – the Panier district). It was announced as a two-hour bilingual tour, in French and English, but fortunately nobody needed the English translations and nobody was in a hurry to leave after two hours, so in fact it was only in French and lasted nearly four hours.

    Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic. She had so much to tell us that I don’t know how she could have fit in the English translations and done the tour in only two hours.

    Here in the first two photos she is telling us about the history of the Panier and Old Port districts, and especially about the evacuation and destruction of 1500 buildings by the Nazis in 1943. Apparently large numbers of Resistance fighters, Jews, Communists and anti-Nazi Germans had taken refuge in this neighborhood during the Second World War, at least that was the justification given for evacuating thirty thousand inhabitants and sending two thousand of them to concentration camps.

    Third photo: The Hôtel de Cabre (or Maison de l’Échevin de Cabre) was one of the few buildings that remained after the Nazis evacuated and destroyed much of the Old Port area on January 23, 1943.

    Fourth photo: Historical sign showing how the Hôtel de Cabre was jacked up and rotated ninety degrees after the war. The reason for this was to widen the street called Grand Rue, in other words to make room for more and faster cars. This sounded all too familiar to me because earlier in the same week I had taken a similar guided walking tour in Toulon, where we were shown a large gate and historic façade that had been jacked up, rotated ninety degrees and moved to a new location for the same purpose – to make room for cars.

    Fifth photo: Plaque commemorating the victims of the evacuation and destruction of the Old Port area on January 23, 1943. For details of anti-Nazi Resistance activities in Marseille during the Second World War, see this account compiled by the Alliance Française in London.

    Next stop on our guided walking tour: Église des Accoules

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    Carmen by Georges Bizet

    by Nemorino Updated Nov 28, 2013

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    When I was in southern France in October of 2012, it happened that the opera houses in Marseille and Toulon were both playing the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet (1838-1875). So I saw this opera twice within three days (on a Sunday afternoon in Marseille and the following Tuesday evening in Toulon), which was fine because they were two different productions and Carmen is deservedly one of the world’s most popular operas.

    The one I saw in Marseille was a production that originated at the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse. The stage director was Nicolas Joël, who is now (2009 to 2015) the head of the National Opera of Paris. This is the organization that runs both the Opéra Bastille and the Opéra Garnier.

    In the cast in Marseille there was one singer I had often heard in the 1990s. That was the tenor Luca Lombardo, a native of Marseille who often used to sing in Frankfurt am Main. In Carmen he sang and played the role of Don José, Carmen’s unhappy lover who stabs her in the last scene.

    I have also seen Carmen in Bad Hersfeld, Bad Orb, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt am Main and Weikersheim.

    When I was a child, my introduction to Carmen was a snippet that I learned on the school playground:

    Toreador
    Don’t spit on the floor
    Use the cuspidor
    That’s what it’s for
    We grade school twerps found this hilarious, even though we had never heard the opera Carmen and had never seen a cuspidor. (Cuspidors aka spittoons had fortunately gone out of fashion before we were born.)

    Later in my childhood I acquired a phonograph record entitled “Carmen Murdered – Spike Jones Suspected”, which as the name implies was a parody by Spike Jones and his City Slickers. I no longer have the record, but I’ve just been listening to it on YouTube.

    When I finally heard Bizet’s opera many years later, I was surprised to learn that Carmen worked in a cigarette factory, not a bubble gum factory. And that she was not at all ticklish.

    Second photo: Here the orchestra conductor Nader Abbassi is applauding the cast and chorus of Carmen at the Marseille Opera. Nadar Abbassi is the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Cairo Opera Orchestra and the artistic director of the "Orchestre pour la Paix" (Orchestra for Peace) in Paris. In addition, he has been appointed Artistic and Musical Director of the Katara Culture Foundation in Doha, Qatar.

    Third photo: More applause after the performance of Carmen in Marseille.

    Fourth photo: Program of the opera Carmen in Marseille.

    Fifth photo: Bizet’s opera Carmen is based on the novella of the same name by Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870).

    Location and photo of the Marseille Municipal Opera on monumentum.fr

    Applause after Carmen Conductor applauding the cast and chorus More applause after Carmen Opera program book M��rim��e's novella
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    At the front of the opera house

    by Nemorino Updated Nov 28, 2013

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    The steps in front of the opera house are normally closed off by a fence decorated with bronze medallions in the Art Deco style that was popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

    These medallions, which are attributed to the architect Gaston Castel (1886-1971), are said to be allegorical designs on the topics of dance and music. I suppose the fourth one shows Orpheus with his lyre, but I don’t know who the lovely ladies in the first three designs might be. (Perhaps someone can help me out here?)

    Location and photo of the Marseille Municipal Opera on monumentum.fr

    In front of the opera house In front of the opera house In front of the opera house In front of the opera house
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    Seating and scheduling in the Marseille Opera

    by Nemorino Updated Nov 28, 2013

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    Currently the opera house in Marseille seats 1,800 people. It has three rings of boxes, two balconies and a gallery.

    Although Marseille is now the second largest city in France, its opera schedule is extremely limited. For example, the opera season 2012/2013 in Marseille consists of only eight productions, each of which is performed four or five times, so there are fewer than forty staged opera performances per year.

    In the same season, the Lyon Opera scheduled 71 performances of eleven different operas.

    The Frankfurt Opera, in the same season, scheduled 194 performances of twenty-eight different operas. So Frankfurt has five times as many performances as Marseille, of three and a half times as many different operas.

    These figures are for staged opera performances only, not including concerts.

    Location and photo of the Marseille Municipal Opera on monumentum.fr

    In the Marseille Opera In the Marseille Opera In the Marseille Opera
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    Opera Foyer

    by Nemorino Updated Nov 28, 2013

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    The ceiling of the opera foyer was painted by an artist named Augustin Carrera (1878-1952). The center panel of the ceiling shows Orpheus charming the world with the irresistible music of his lyre. The other two compositions represent Orpheus losing his lovely bride Eurydice, and Orpheus being torn apart by Maenads.

    The story of Orpheus and Eurydice was the topic of what was probably the world's first full-scale opera, L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643).

    Actually Augustin Carrera painted two ceilings in the Marseille Opera House. The one in the foyer is still visible, but the one in the main auditorium no longer exists because it collapsed during the night of February 16-17, 1969, after a performance of the opera Otello by Giuseppe Verdi.

    Second and third photos: Views from the Opera Foyer.

    Fourth photo: People in the foyer during the intermission aka interval.

    Location and photo of the Marseille Municipal Opera on monumentum.fr

    Opera Foyer View from the Opera Foyer View from the Opera Foyer People in the foyer during intermission
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    The Municipal Opera House

    by Nemorino Updated Nov 28, 2013

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    The first opera house on this site was the Grand Théâtre de Marseille, which was begun on July 14 (the French national holiday) in the year 1786.

    Over 133 years later, on November 13, 1919, the theater was practically destroyed by a fire which spared only the front columns, the outer walls and the frieze surrounding the stage.

    Reconstruction of the theater was begun in 1920 under the direction of the departmental architect Gaston Castel (1886-1971). He preserved the eighteenth century colonnade, but added elements of the Art Deco style that was popular in the first quarter of the twentieth century, so now the building is an unusual mixture of the two styles.

    Unfortunately the Marseille opera house faces north, so the façade is nearly always in the shade.

    Location and photo of the Marseille Municipal Opera on monumentum.fr

    Second photo: Side view of the opera, with Art Deco elements.

    Third photo: Rear view of the opera, from Rue Lulli.

    Fourth photo: The stage entrance on Rue Corneille. What interested me particularly about the stage entrance was that it had a typical feature of Marseille, namely loose electrical cables dangling around at odd angles. I also noticed this later at the ice cream shop on Place de Lenche and at several other places that I neglected to take pictures of.

    Fifth photo: People entering the opera house for a Sunday afternoon performance of the opera Carmen, by Georges Bizet.

    The Municipal Opera Side view of the opera house Rear view of the opera house Stage entrance People entering for Carmen
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    Fort Saint-Jean

    by Nemorino Updated Jul 31, 2013

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    The last stop on our guided walking tour of the Panier district was Fort Saint-Jean, one of two forts built at the entrance to the harbor starting in 1660 on orders of King Louis XIV.

    The alleged purpose of these forts was to defend the city against foreign invaders, but in fact most of the cannons were pointed inwards in hopes of intimidating the citizens of Marseille, who had been in revolt against the authority of the king.

    The fort was used as a prison during the French Revolution.

    During the Nazi occupation of Marseille in World War II Fort Saint-Jean was used to store munitions, some of which exploded in 1944. This caused large amounts of destruction to the fort. The damaged parts were eventually reconstructed, but not until 1967 - 1971.

    When we visited in 2012, considerable construction work was again going on in and around Fort Saint-Jean, to prepare for the opening of a new national museum of European and Mediterranean civilizations (MuCEM). This new museum is scheduled to open in May or June of 2013, during Marseille’s year as the European Capital of Culture. It will be housed in the fort itself and in a large new adjoining building.

    Update: This new museum was opened on June 7, 2013. The architect was Rudy Ricciotti, the same architect who re-designed an old industrial flour mill for use as the main building of the Diderot University in Paris.

    Fifth photo: In this photo, Fort Saint-Jean is the one on the left, i.e. the north side of the harbor. The one on the right is Fort Saint-Nicolas.

    After the guided walking tour: Place de Lenche

    Tour group at Fort Saint-Jean Tour group at Fort Saint-Jean Bulldozer on Fort Saint-Jean, 2012 Fort Saint-Jean from the boat The two forts
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    European Capital of Culture 2013

    by Nemorino Updated Jul 31, 2013

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    When I was in Marseille in October 2012 (ten weeks before the beginning of 2013), there were numerous construction sites related in one way or another to the fact that Marseille and vicinity (Marseille-Provence) had been chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2013.

    The red fence in my first photo is at the stock exchange in the center of Marseille.

    On our guided walking tour of the Panier district we asked our guide about all this construction. She just laughed and said the closer we get to 2013, the more holes there are in the ground.

    Second photo: Construction at Fort Saint Jean of the new National Museum of European and Mediterranean civilizations (MuCEM). This new museum is scheduled to open in May or June of 2013.

    Update: This new museum was opened on June 7, 2013. The architect was Rudy Ricciotti, the same architect who re-designed an old industrial flour mill for use as the main building of the Diderot University in Paris.

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