After the excitement of the London March for a People’s Vote the day before, on Sunday 21st October I met up with my cousin Teresa, and her teenage son Harvey, at St Pancras station to take Eurostar to Paris, and from there to travel onwards by train to Marseille, for just three nights. With the exception of problems at the Gare du Nord, (trying to buy metro tickets for the Gare de Lyon from a machine that was only taking coins, and then forcing those tickets through the unco-operative ticket barriers), the journey went entirely to plan, and we emerged on the classic (I’d say ‘iconic’ but the word is so over-used) very long flight of steps at Marseille St-Charles station late afternoon. We decided to walk the kilometre plus to our lodgings, which, in addition to the steps, proved to include lots of ups and downs. With more luggage than the other two, I resolved there and then that I would return by the metro on Wednesday morning!
We knew in advance that our chambre d’hôtes, Un Mas en Ville, was not in the chic-est part of the city, but it was very near the heart of it. It was an amazing old building, entirely renovated about ten years ago in the style of a Provencal mas, or farm. Having settled in our rooms, single ones aligned with each other on the first to third floors, each with its own teensy private bathroom on the landing, we went out to find a meal, and chose the first open restaurant we could find having headed towards the centre of the city. This turned out to be a popular Chinese one, where we enjoyed a good meal. Or rather Teresa and I did, as Harvey was feeling under the weather, and not up to eating much, a state in which he sadly remained, though improving, for the rest of our short stay.
Breakfast the next day was taken in a room semi-open to the small but perfectly formed swimming pool, an addition to the original building. What fun the designers must have had in creating this, and converting the original building! All the transformational work had been done by local stone masons, though the stone they used came from Normandy, as we learnt in due course. (As the water in the pool was unheated, there was absolutely no question of my trying it, neither did the others.)
We set off on foot for the Vieux Port, via the tourist information office, and over a coffee made plans for the day.
The church of Notre Dame du Mont, which gives its name to the quartier where we lodged
It being Monday, we could not, as we had hoped, go by boat to the Château d’If, so we booked instead to do the three-hour trip with the same company along the coastline of the Calanques national park. Before this we had time to follow one of the tourist office’s suggested walks.
Hotel de Ville/City Hall
Taken from the Fort Saint-Jean
This lace-clad building was so new that it appeared on neither of the maps we were using.
From it, the Cathedral, and two very modern buildings, each of which was completed within the last few months. (They featured in this article in the French national newspaper, Le Figaro, two days after our return!) The right-hand one changes colour depending on whether it is in sunlight or not.
Having crossed the footbridge to the top of the building, we found a café on the next floor down, but didn’t stop.
We continued on down via slopes and steps. The building appeared to house and be about to house offices and meeting rooms.
With time running out before the boat was due to leave, we didn’t hang around as we returned, past the Cathedral front and the Hotel de Ville to the port, but I did notice this on the side of one of the old buildings near it. Subject to correction, I think it means that all citizens of a given commune are collectively liable for damage done to people and property of that commune.
The serendipitous discovery of an organic sandwich bar near the port provided our lunch, which we started eating as the boat set off. It was a very enjoyable trip in very pleasant weather.
Ours was the green circuit (no stops).
The lacy building and the Fort Saint-Jean
Close-up of the Château d’If
The basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, which we had first seen from the steps of the station, dominates the city.
The limestone is very fossiliferous, as we had seen on paving stones and other buildings in the old town.
This is a close-up, but…
… this is not, and the size of the people gives an idea of the scale of these cliffs.
There were a few little villages along the coastline. In WWII, according to the commentary, these hills provided hiding places for the resistance.
I snuck this photo of Teresa
and she got her revenge
For geologists – evidence of karst formation, I believe
Just turn left…
…for turn round point – Port-Miou
The old quarries, which provided stone for most of the monumental buildings in Marseille
In the evening, Harvey, again not feeling like a proper meal, stayed behind at our lodgings, snacking on provisions we had bought at a health food store near the tourist office. Teresa and I this time turned in the opposite direction from that we had chosen the night before to find something to eat. We ended up in a Japanese restaurant in the Place Notre Dame du Mont, which had particularly advertised its vegan dishes. Having ordered the soup and a main dish, when the soup arrived we saw that it was a meal in itself, and were able to cancel the rest of the order. The huge bowl of soup was delicious and filling!