Marseille: autumn again??
When I got off the train in Marseille it was freezing! I’ve officially been through a complete year in a week a far as weather goes! On my way to my host I got a bit lost and some very kind old man helped me back on my way.
Couchsurfing in Marseille
There had been a misunderstanding between me and my host the previous day and I almost didn’t go to her place but I’m glad I did because we got along very well and we had a lot of fun. We talked for a while when I got there and it was really nice and felt very natural like we’d known each other before. She also helped me plan my next day since Marseille is not in my guidebook!
Friday morning I woke up in time to leave with Marion as she went to work and I saw Marseille in the early hours. It was cold still but it’s a different experience to see people in their daily routines of going to school or work. What I was soon to discover is that Marseille is built on hills.
Port of Marseille
As I walked I came to the old port of Marseille. On my way I saw a closed christmas market but that’s what you get when you get out this early, most shops are still closed! The Tourism center was also closed so I walked along the port for a while and enjoyed the sun rising and lighting the buildings little by little.
I also went to walk in the neighbourhood called Le Panier, the oldest most typical part of Marseille although a bit dangerous at night. So it was fine visiting at 8 in the morning. Although I didn’t know exactly where it ended and started I like the general area of small streets going up, around and down again. With small squares or back alleys.
The port of Marseille is a rectangle of water (and boats) surrounded on 3 sides by the city. The small opening is framed by two strongholds: Fort St-Michel and Fort St-Jean. At sea is also a dike. I walked on the right side of the port all the way past Fort St-Jean and enjoyed the sea for a bit though the wind was very strong.
Going to Notre-Dame de la Garde
When I got back to the center part it was past 9 so I went to the tourist center and grabbed a map. Then I headed for the hill on top of which stands the big basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde. Going up I thought I would pass out. It was a very very steep hill and very long also.
Panorama of the city
When I finally reached the top I stopped for a while, tied my hair because the wind was way too strong and cold up there, and admired the view. The city has a few islands that could be seen pretty well from there. We also got a 360 view and with the haze from the sun it was very beautiful.
Notre-Dame de la Garde
When I found the courage to go up the stairs to the basilica I entered first the crypt which was very underwhelming. Then I went up some more stairs and saw the interior of the church. It was tiled with gold and had a lot of mosaics. It was very pretty and reminded me of the church in Lyon. I’m starting to think the impressiveness might have something to do with the rank of the church. Basilicas are the most important ones so maybe that’s why they are so decorated!
After going back down the hill I went back to the port and up (yes up again haha, my legs feel it today) the Fort St-Michel and enjoyed the view from the old watch spots. It also had a memoriam to fallen soldiers and heroes.
Down I went once more and a bit further I went UP the Pharo hill, a hill with an old castle that looks more like a nice mansion. I walked around the castle and at the back there were a lot of construction going on so most of the site was closed.
Going down to the sea side
From the top of the hill I found a path that was going to the water on some rocky uneven steps. I walked down hoping I would be able to walk around the hill on the sea side (which ended up impossible) but the view was still very nice and we could hear the commentary from a touristic boat going out of the Port.
As suggested by Marion, I then found my way to the sea side and walked along the southern coast. It was very windy wince more but oh so pretty. Did I say I liked the sea yet? There were various monuments along the way and at large we could see the islands.
At some point there was a part of land going further into the sea and I walked the small streets hoping to get to that edge that was closest to the islands. There was a stupid military ground that prevented me from reaching it but on the other side we still had a very good view of the 3 islands. The reason I wanted to see them so much is that the smallest of them all is the island on which Edmond Dantes was imprisoned in the Count of Monte Cristo. Sadly the castle is under restoration until the 21st of December so I couldn’t go there by boat but I really wanted to see the place for myself. It was one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Marseille in the first place.
La Corniche bis
Then I walked some more along the sea side and sat every now and then to enjoy the waves and the nice view. On the opposite side the buildings got more and more rich. I passed in front of a plastic surgery clinic to give you an example. When my feet couldn’t take it anymore I took the bus back to the center and then the metro back to the flat.
Cooking with Marion
When Marion got home we went grocery shopping and then we cooked some chicken with sauce and vegetables. The vegetables were supposed to be just that but since they were sticking to the bottom of the pan we added some water and Marion said that if we had added Eggplant it would have been called Ratatouille. Whatever it was called it was very good but I think we spiced the chicken too much cause our mouths were burning.
After eating christmas chocolates we went out have a beer or two. We almost went to a wine bar but it was dead so we sought a more lively place. We ended in an irish pub! And the second one had Kriek beer. And yes we did try it and yes it was good and fruity. Whatever the roman people might say!
We had a very nice time and this morning we slept late. It was a very comforting 2 days and I think couchsurfing alone at girls places is the best thing ever. There is no better way of making new friends 🙂 Now I have 15 days left, 4 new cities (and Paris again) and then I’m coming back home. Time is flying by!