Le Vieux Port
07.01.2012 - 08.01.2012 13 °C
Whilst I was a little unsure about driving into the middle of France's second largest city, it all went pretty well and we landed in an underground car park near to the hotel. I've discovered the value of the hazard flashers here. Although they are rarely used in our open spaces at home, in France putting them on allows you to put your car just about anywhere for a limited amount of time.
Marseille is a vibrant city in a spectacular location on the Mediterranean coast. We stayed in a hotel in the Vieux Port area which is in the very heart of the place. We went walking past all of the moored yachts into the main streets where one of the first things we encountered was a large group of young people doing some busking/street theatre/"flash mob" activity. It demonstrated the vitality of the city and was fun to watch for a time. After taking in some more of the night activity in Marseille, we dined at one of the many nearby restaurants selling bouillabaisse and other seafood based dishes.
The next morning, Marseille under a clear winter's sky was a very pretty sight. Although it is fairly gritty and seems to have a number of bars where damaged, weather-beaten, seafaring older male types give the appearance of having been rusted in for about 50 years, it is a very interesting place. There is a fortified harbour first founded by the Greeks in about 600 BC that is full of yachts and other smaller boats as well as dramatic churches, fortifications and monuments on the more mountainous parts of the city. All of this is set against the blue of the ocean and the whitish rocks of the landscape.
We took a little tourist "train" from the harbour up and around some of the main sights and this proved to be an effective and inexpensive way of taking it all in rather quickly. The tour went along the coastline and demonstrated the overall scale of the city very well. A dominant landmark that we visited on this circuit was a large church on a hilltop with an even larger gold plated statue of Mary and baby Jesus towering above it. It was reassuring to know that I am not the only one with some translation issues as the English version of the tour commentary told of the statue being of "the virgin and the kid". I think computer generated translations leave a little bit to be desired.
In the afternoon we took a coastal route on the regular SCNF train that was mentioned in the guide book. The train followed the sea for much of the way and, although it was difficult to stop the train-induced napping, the scenery was spectacular.