Sunday, April 19, 2009


Marseille is just a few hours south of Lyon. It's right on the Mediterranean in the heart of Provence, where it is always sunny and warm. So of course when George and I arrived in Marseille it was pouring rain.

Actually, when we first got there it was just cloudy. So we took our time getting from the train station to our hotel, and grabbing a nice lunch on the way there.

Marseille has a really cool train station.

After getting lunch and checking into our hotel, we decided to head out to explore the area. That was just about the same time the monsoon rolled in. Our hotel was located in the super touristy Vieux Port (old port) area, but instead of heading straight to the area most exposed to the elements, we decided to explore the city north of us a bit and keep the buildings around us to protect from the wind a bit. This was probably a mistake.

Neither of us knew anything about Marseille expect that it was on the sea and was famous for soap. Well, for a city famous for soap Marseille sure is dirty! The streets were covered in trash, the buildings covered in grafitti and falling apart, and the stench was pretty bad at times. Maybe it was the monsoon blowing over trash cans or something, but whatever it was, our first introduction to Marseille was not starting good. We ended up getting subway for dinner and taking it back to the hotel, because we were a little bummed with the environment.

The next day the weather cleared up a bit, and the rain turned to a light on and off again drizzle, so we headed to the cool part of town. The old port area of Marseille is pretty cool. The port is tiny, but it has these awesome forts at each side of the entrance to protect it, and the area is clean, nice, and full of great restaurants.

one of the cool forts protecting Marseille

The Food in Marseille is awesome! Being a port city, Marseille is more diverse than Lyon, and the old port area being the main tourist area, is probably even more diverse in its food offerings. Chinese, vietnamese, indian, tunisian, american, etc., the food choices were many. We had awesome seafood, some really good indian vegetarian food, a nice Louisiana style cajun dinner--everywhere we ate was awesome.

After exploring the port area for a bit, we took the touristy train ride up to the church on the hill (apparently all French cities have a church on a hill over looking the city, usually named Notre Dame). This Notre Dame isn't as cool as the Notre Dame overlooking Lyon, but it might have had a better view. Although the city of Marseille is a bit ugly IMO, it is located in a really cool coastal area surrounding by water and hills/small mountains (kinda like Los Angeles in that respect).

Everything in Marseille has a lot of steps leading up to it

The church was cool and the views of the old forts were awesome, so we decided to head down and get a closer look at them forts.

The forts were awesome, and the weather, although still cloudy, was starting to be okay, so our second day in Marseille was turning out much better than our first. We strolled this fort for a bit, and then walked all the way around the harbor to see the other one (can't the make a bridge or something?). Afterward, we had a good seafood dinner and went to a bar to see the local Marseille soccer team take on our local Lyon soccer team. Despite ending in a tie, Marseille took a one point lead over Lyon for first place in the league, so the Marseillaise were quite excited.

Our third day in Marseille began with me squinting as I woke up to the unfamiliar sight of the sun coming thru our hotel window. As mentioned above, Marseille is located in the beautiful south of France right on the Med, so we decided to hop a boat out to the sea and check out the surrounding areas.

Awesome Cliffs!

The cliffs and coves and beaches around Marseille are spectacular. The water is unnaturally blue and very clear, and overall just beautiful. When I go back to this area, I want get outside the city and do some hiking and kayaking of my own. Or maybe rent a sailboat and explore the area at my leisure.

Despite our rough introduction to Marseille we had a good time. The port area is cool, the area by the church is nice, the food is awesome, the people were great, and the natural setting is amazing. When you have a chance to go to Marseille, avoid the area north of the old port, eat a lot, and be sure to get out on the water. Oh, and buy some soap!

To see more pics of Marseille, click here.

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