France 2019: Around Marseille

After a few nights in Orléans and Lyon, our next stop for a few days was along the Mediterranean Sea in Marseille. Or to the Gulf of Lion if you want to get technical about it. Marseille is the oldest city in France, second largest in terms of land, and third largest in terms of population. Personally this was one of my favourite stops on our trip and I wish we could’ve spent more time just in Marseille alone. In terms of landscape I loved that it was a mix of hills and cliffs along the seaside.

By the time we found our hotel the sun had set. Our hotel was a cozy little villa not too far from the coast and just around the corner from the Old Port. I tried to take a picture of the courtyard but the lighting at night in the area wasn’t that great.

Just like we’ve done before when we arrived in a new town, we decided to go wandering out for the evening. We didn’t really stumbled on anything spectacular in the area so these pictures are just of the narrow streets in the area.

Driving to our hotel was not particularly fun. As you can see by the pictures, the streets were very narrow. At one point we missed our hotel and tried to go around a few blocks but the road was a dead end. With no room to turn around, I ended up backup up a few blocks. Fortunately I didn’t bump into anything.

Here’s a much better picture of our courtyard. Even though it was autumn and the morning air was a bit brisk, it was still relaxing to sit outside and have a warm tea and enjoy the morning.

Again, we had no plans or itinerary on what exactly to do while visiting there, so we decided to head down to the Old Port and have a look.

The Old Port is one of the main reasons Marseille was always a bustling place going back as far as 600 BC. It was a massive trade hub throughout history, but nowadays it is used as a marina and tourist area. There are a few reasons for this, but modern cargo ships being far too big to fit in the Old Port I would wager is one of biggest factors.

I could not find any info on this but it seems to have been an old church or monastery. I love when old cities attempt to keep ancient structures intact for artistic appeal.

This piece I did manage to find some info on. It’s a sculpture by Louis Botinelly entitled “Le Dresseurd’oursons” which translates to “The Cub Trainer”. The Wiki on this piece reads that Botunelly hired a bear to ensure his depiction was anatomically accurate. How one hires a bear, I don’t know. I imagine the bear took salmon or picnic baskets as payment though.

On the north side of the inlet leading into the Old Port sits Fort Saint-Jean which was built in 1660 by King Louis XIV. We wandered around the outside of the fort first and eventually went in as nowadays it’s a museum.

This model shows the fort connected by two bridges for visitors to cross. The one of the right side leads to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, while the bridge on the left connects to the Le Panier neighborhood.

Just a view from atop one of the bridges. When my friend took this shot I’m sure he was clenching his phone with all his might.

While there is a large museum attached directly to the fort across the one footbridge, the fort itself is also home to smaller areas that are used for exhibits. This one building house an Afghan exhibit called Kharmohra. It was dark for the most part so I didn’t take any picture inside, but if I recall correctly it showcased their culture but also the unfortunate state of their country after decades of unrest and war.

Here’s a bird photobombing a picture of Palais du Pharo in the distance.

Here’s a better picture without the bird. It sits opposite of Fort Saint-Jean on the other side of the Old Port inlet. It was built in 1858 by Napoleon III who was a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. Unfortunately we never did make it to the building so this is really the only picture I have of it.

After wandering around the fort and museum for the morning, it was time to grab a little food back near the Old Port.

The French love their food, and in doing so respect their chefs. As you can see by the empty tables all around us, the time we stopped for food was right during the majority of restaurants chef breaks. This is something we weren’t aware of prior to visiting France and definitely made us stand out as tourists. I tried to dig around on the internet if there is an actual term for this downtime but didn’t find one. From what we gathered, during this time other employees cannot cook meals for customers. They may be able to make you a cold snack if you’re lucky though. Also, during this time the other employees will not bother the chef if customers do come and therefore many restaurants are empty. It was close to the end of the chef break time, so we sat down and had some wine until we could order food.

Needless to say, the wait was worth it for the food we got.

After our bellies were full of wine and food, we grabbed tickets for the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour through the city. One of the first places it went by was the Marseille Cathedral, but we did not stop and go for a tour as by the looks of it there was construction work around it, most likely restoration work being done to keep it in good shape. In the pictures above, the building is actually the new cathedral, which was completed in 1896.

Parts of the old cathedral are still sitting next to the new one as you can see in these two pictures. The old cathedral was built sometime in the 12th century.

The tour bus eventually took us to a higher part of the city that gave us great views. However for whatever reason this was the only picture I took from up there.

Notre-Dame de la Garde is seen here from the bus we were on. While it did make a stop up here (the church is built on the highest point in Marseille) we did not end up getting off and exploring it unfortunately. You can also see it in the distance in one of the above pictures from where we were standing in the Old Port.

Just a couple of pictures around town while sitting on the bus. Wonderful examples of how terrible my photography skills are.

On one leg of the bus tour we traveled along the coast, which gave us a view of the Frioul archipelago. In the center of this picture you can see the old fortress and prison know as the Château d’If. If that name rings a bell it’s because it was the setting for The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Not the best quality since this picture is zoomed in. Had we had more time in Marseille, we would’ve checked out the Château d’If as I believe there are ferries that take tourists out there to explore the site.

You may have noticed that I like to take pictures of public artwork and buildings that have elegant details. As I’m sure I have mentioned it previously, I do love that artistic nature that the towns and cities have due to being so old and exquisite.

Then you’ve got artwork like this. I know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that but a statue of a cow on stilts? Sure why not.

Or this character that is placed on a coastal wall.

Or just a giant thumb. I found these are not my taste, but that’s just me. I certainly do not mean to mock the works or their creators.

As the sun was setting, we returned to the Old Port and got dropped off near the city hall. I thought the sunset made the building look even more elegant.

Before we head back to the hotel we decided to have one last drink as the sun was setting. A picture that I think turned out pretty darn well. Marseille was great, and I do hope to make it back there someday and spend a little more time exploring the city.