Marseilles, France: What to Eat & Do
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Ancient Seaport of Marseilles (with Notre-Dame de la Garde atop the hill)
Lovely Shop with Lavender Products
Street Art from Bohemian Panier District
La Tarrasse du Panier (bistro)
Marseilles and the Juxtaposition of Old & New
While living briefly in Lyon, France, my husband and I had the pleasure of taking trips to many French cities via the train. One of my favorites is Marseilles, which has been inhabited for nearly 30,000 years! Located in the south of France and bordering the sea, Marseilles boasts an ancient seaport, known in antiquity as Massalia. Historically, this seaport was the most significant trade center in the region.
Along the seaport wonderful are open-air markets and shops, many of which sell bath products from the lavender harvested in Provence. You can also find a plethora of seafood restaurants, which offer fresh seafood and a view of the seaport.
Not far from the seaport is the oldest neighborhood in Marseilles (full of Bohemian flavor): the Panier district. Being an artist, this was by far my favorite part of the city. Funky artisan shops and tiny cafe bars (some with charmingly mismatched chairs) lined the crooked, narrow streets. Impressive graffiti is flaunted on the walls of crumbling historical edifices, creating an interesting juxtaposition between old and new. Do not forget your camera- every nook, every alleyway, holds a nice surprise!
Finding good food in Marseilles is easy, especially in the Panier district, which caters to may locals. Le Terrasse du Panier was our choice of bistro for fresh seafood. In addition to serving traditional Provencal cuisine, the cost was reasonable. What to order? SEAFOOD, of course! Two delicious choices to try: Loupe a la Provencale (European sea bass) and Daube de Poulpes (Octopus stewed in wine). My personal favorite was the octopus...so tender and flavorful!
No trip to Marseilles is complete without a visit to the magnificent Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure. The impressive 19th century cathedral was constructed in Neo-Byzantine style with a striped facade flanked by towers. To the side of this "modern" structure are the remains of the original Romanesque cathedral, built in the 12th century. Again we see the old and new juxtaposed in a way that invites us to compare and contrast the two distinct styles.
Finally- and this a MUST- you cannot leave the area without seeing the calanques. We chose Sugiton and it was a great choice. There is a bus that drops passengers off in the wooded area leading to the cliffs (about a 30-40 minute walk). If you wish to swim, you must scale the brush and rocks all the way down to the sea. Note: WEAR SNEAKERS or HIKING SHOES, suitable clothing over your swimsuit, a hat, and sunscreen. I cannot stress this enough. We received this precious tip from a fellow traveler and followed the advice. We saw many tourists in beach gear and flip-flops struggling down the rocks.
There are many photo spots along the way, so bring your camera! Once you reach sea level, you will want to jump into the very cold, crystal-clear water. Be aware that there is really no sandy beach at Sugiton- just rocks. The maritime pines and bigger rocks offer some shade, but not much.
Whether you spend a day (like we did) or a week, Marseilles is sure to delight and surprise you. If you want to try out the open air bistro La Tarrasse du Panier, here is the link: http://www.laterrassedupanier.fr/ Thank you for reading!
C. De Melo
Author & Artist
Snorkel in Sugiton
Crystal-Clear Mediterranean Water
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