Marseille in panorama
Time was a precious commodity for us on this trip, so not so surprisingly we didn’t allot enough time for Marseille, only the second-largest city in France. Our plan to visit Aix-en-Provence and return to Nice along the coast via Marseille with detour in Cassis and la Ciotat was overly ambitious at best and impossible at worst. Nevertheless we managed to see a lot of Marseille (if seeing from a distance counts, that is :) by heading straight for the Notre Dame de la Garde, the highest structure in the city.
Marseille seemed more industrial than other cities in France that I’ve visited. Yet even though the densely packed buildings and structures possessed a bland conformity typical of modern architecture, the city still managed to exude a warm, cheerful Mediterranean charm. Particularly in the golden glow of the setting sun, when the red and beige seemed to blend harmoniously with the undulating mountains in the background, the city appeared very inviting indeed.
Despite our sojourn in the man-made maze of Marseille, we didn’t forget that we were still in Provence, where natural wonders are just an arm’s reach away. After being stuck in Marseillais traffic and getting lost in the meandering seaside roads, we found ourselves on the coastal road to Cassis. Along the way were these amazing cliffs (falaises). The tallest is Cap Canaille, which at 416 meters is also among the tallest in Europe. I had hoped to get a good sunset shot, but thanks to our being lost, the sun had already set by this time (around 21:30). The road was one of the most scenic I’ve driven on; it eventually surmounts the top of the cliff where one gets a sweeping panorama of the Mediterranean. The winding, narrrow mountain road was also one of the more treacherous, particularly if one were driving in the dark and hoped to get to Nice at a reasonable hour :) Needless to say we were out of time and could not make it to la Ciotat.
From Marseille harbor one could take a boat to the Chateau d’If, made famous in Alexandre Dumas’s Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. As a side note, it bears some similarities to the other island prison of Alcatraz. Even though the prison is supposedly escape-proof, someone ended up escaping :)
On the road to Cassis
Notre Dame de la Garde
Despite its classical appearance, the basilica was completely relatively recently, in 1864. Because of Marseille’s connection with the sea, it held special significance to sailors and fishermen.
Last visit: 2004 In a nutshell: The other side of Provence