Tuesday, 8 May 2012


(I wore sailor stripes to fit in with the whole 'largest commercial port' and sea faring history aspect of things)

The girls and I booked a day trip to Marseille for Monday, and I naively didn't realise that Marseille is the third biggest city of France (after Paris obviously and Lyon).  I've never been to Marseille and have sadly only ever heard less than positive things about the city in the foreign press.  So I had pretty low/non-existant expectations of Marseille.  The girls and I really wanted to do some serious shopping because here in Montpellier it's lacking slightly so we spontaneously bought tickets on Saturday and left super early on Monday morning.

I was more than pleasantly surprised.  Marseille is absolutely massive, it has an underground and lots of tram lines.  The shopping was great and the city centre itself is quite pretty.  The old buildings are beautiful and the atmosphere is totally different to Montpellier.  It's livelier and more exciting.  We did some shopping and the in the afternoon we went up to Notre Dame de la Garde which is a basilica situated at the highest natural point in Marseille, a 162 m (532 ft) limestone outcrop on the south side of the Old Port. As well as being a major local landmark, it is the site of a popular annual pilgrimage every Assumption Day (August 15). Local inhabitants commonly refer to it as la bonne mère ("the good mother").  You could see all of Marseille and even the Chateau d'If which features in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.  We wanted to go on a boat trip to the Chateau d'If but sadly we'd run out of time but I'm so glad we decided to go up to Notre Dame de la Garde.  Despite not being very religious at all I love seeing churches and basilicas.  They atmosphere there is always very moving.

All in all I'm so glad we went.  We had perfect weather, it's been great to get out of Montpellier for a little.  The Provence region is absolutely beautiful, I'd really recommend Marseille to anyone wanting to get a taste of French life.  Marseille feels far more relaxed and genuine than Paris.  Even though it's one of my favorite cities in the world there is a lot of hype surrounding Paris that makes people have high expectations that might not always be right.  Marseille has been named the European capital of culture for 2013 so if that doesn't make you want to go then I don't know what will.


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