Marseille is the oldest and third largest city in France
city was built in just about 600 BC, well before the Romans settled the region.
It is documented by Roman travelers and Greek merchants that it was, that long
ago, the most important trading settlement of the Mediterranean
In the late Middle Ages, the Renaissance period, King
Francois 1 decided to protect this very important port from his enemies and had
two forts built. One was on the island
, part of the archipel of Frioul,
a group of small outcroppings about a mile or two from the entrance to the port of Marseille
. You may recognize it, below, as
the location where the fictional character; the Count of Monte Cristo by
Alexander Dumas was imprisoned.
You can visit the island and fortress by boat while in port.
The largest of the Frioul islands has stores, restaurants, beaches and houses
Another boat trip you can take is to the calanques, the
little coastal bays and cliffs along the coast east of Marseille. It’s a
stunning trip: there are many tiny villages that are only accessible by boat.
The water is turquoise and since Marseille is known for its wonderful weather
this would make a lovely day.
Speaking of the weather there are lots of beaches you can go
to too. The largest is The Prada.
You can also take a cute little train for just a few Euros
to Notre Dame de la Garde, high on the tallest hill. This church is dedicated
to the sailors, completely covered in gold leaf and has the best views in the
You will also want to explore the beautiful Old Port.
There are some very interesting neighborhoods and sites to visit around it. One
of the most special is the new museum called MUCEM, a museum dedicated to
Mediterranean cultures. It is situated on the edge of the Old Port
where the docks have been turned into a large park with walkways and benches.
One of the neighborhoods is called Le Panier and is the oldest part of
Marseille today. It is undergoing a huge gentrification, and many artists and
craftspeople live there. It’s very picturesque with cobblestone streets and
hills. There is also a market near there with a North African influence with
its exotic foods, Provencal fabrics and North African ceramics.
I also discovered that there is a free way to take a private
or semi private tour of the city. Much like Chicago Greeters and Charleston
’s Free Tours
by Foot, you can make a reservation for a tour and just tip your guide any
amount at the end. Guides are local and volunteers. http://www.marseilleprovencegreeters.com/en/
And remember! You’ll be in France
! So you must eat! The most
famous dish of Marseille is its Bouillabaisse, a very elaborate fish stew made
with lots of rock fish and some shellfish.
Also associated with Marseille are aoli, a garlic mayonnaise
(Rouille), tapenade, a spread made with crushed olives and of course olive oil,
which comes from the olive groves that grow all around the region. You may also
want to try its famous aperitif, Pastis, an anise liqueur whose recipe is kept
Some cruisers skip the city though and go into Provence
It’s only about 30 kilometers, so a very
short train ride. Aix is a popular excursion from here. (The buses to Aix have
free wifi – something travelers are always looking for!) And I can help you
with your plans to visit these other areas.
But if you’ve never been to Marseille, I’d suggest getting
to know that first. In 2013 Marseille received the City of European Culture
award. To be considered for
this honor they started sprucing the city up in 2012. And they’ve done a
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Labels: Mediterranean Cruise