The Marseillaise leg of my spring break trip began and ended with crepes. The usual (and unusual) hoops accompanied with getting to the airport, passing through security, and physically flying Ryanair were jumped through before Julie, Nora, and I landed in Marseille Provence airport, exhilarated for the relaxing days ahead on the French Rivera.
We arrived in the city quite late so after a good 30 minutes of frantically searching for the hostel in the dark, Cubby Bunny (our suitcase) in toe, we asked a bartender who luckily gave us pretty solid directions even though he spoke very little English. Upon checking in, the incredibly friendly receptionist from an undetermined European country gave us a nice tour around the hostel, which was on the third floor of a building with no elevator (I bring back up Chubby Bunny), in addition to telling us all the places we should see. This was incredibly helpful since the three of us barely prepared for any activities. Once we got settled in, we decided to walk around Vieux Port, literally the Old Port, which was about a block from out hostel in order to search for food. We discovered a place called Collins Bar that had all kinds of crepes, savory and sweet. I roughly translated some words for Nora and Julie, both of whom speak zero French, so that we were all satisfied ordering our savory ham and/or cheese crepes (even if we sufficiently embarrassed ourselves by significantly over tipping, well actually tipping at all. When will I learn?)
The tourism office lady was kind enough to inform us that there were no more boats that day because of the wind, but there was a three hour boat tour that passes the chateau in addition to exploring the striking coast line around Marseille. Since the boat leaves at 2, we decided to walk around a bit and grab some lunch at a sandwich shop. This sandwich was literally a half of a baguette. Luckily for breakfast the hostel provided us with baguettes and jam so I sufficiently ate an entire baguette on Sunday. After popping into a boulangerie (bakery) for dessert, we headed to the boat where we just missed sitting on an outside seat. Simply turning around to snap the same picture 18 times was easy enough and the partial cover was truly a blessing in disguise due to the wind and waves. On the boat we saw lots of cliffs with people hiking along them and little inlets with houses scattered about; pretty much the same stunning view over and over again and I never got bored once. There was a narration about what we were seeing but alas my French is not that good (or good at all). Despite the spectacular views, this boat ride wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.The next day we were excited to take a boat to the Chateau D’If, which is the setting of Alexander Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The wind really rocked the boat all over the place and while we were heading back, massive waves would come up over the side and soak anyone sitting outside. We were protected for a while, until the water from the top deck started to down pour on top of us. I went from basking in the sun to a drowned rat in a matter of minutes. Regardless of the chilly ending, I really enjoyed the boat ride. It was absolutely beautiful and relaxing. For dinner that night, we went to an Italian restaurant where I had a delicious calzonnette before we naturally retreated to O’Malleys Irish Pub for a bit of familiar pub culture. Being Sunday night, there were maybe 10 of patrons but it was still a fun evening.
We had big plans for Monday. After a minor debacle regarding a lost public transit card (Nora…), we walked around a totally bizarre market. One table would be selling jewelry, the next African carvings, the one after that sheets and linens, and the one after that various tubes of mascara and pots of foundation. While I had my eye on a bracelet, I didn’t purchase anything from the weirdest market I’ve ever been to (and I lived in) China for three months. We had lunch at the cutest sidewalk cafe that was situated right by the roundabout, Place Castellane, with a great view of this obelisk! One of my more expensive Marseillaise meals, the bruschetta was absolutely worth it. After lunch, we walked up a mountain (or really just a steep hill) to get to Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille’s resident basilica on a hill. Definitely worth the hike, the view was insane. Truly panoramic, every side of the basilica offered a different view of the port, the Mediterranean, the mountains, and the surrounding towns. One couldn’t help but have a photo shoot, or twenty, here. You know it’s a great view when you don’t need Instagram to make your pictures look awesome.
Post mountain climbing, we stopped by our favorite boulangerie for a treat (and a Diet Coke for my caffeine headache) before heading over to a park that was near the beach. This appeared to be the gardens in front of a palace but there was a lot of construction going on and no signs so we simply enjoyed our pastries in ignorant bliss looking over the port. After eating, we walked over to the beach where we could play in the sand, collect shells, dip our toes in the water, self time some pictures, and watch the sun set over the Mediterranean.A mupload furry quickly ensued the moment we arrived back at the hostel for some casual Facebook humble-bragging before eating dinner at Oscar’s Bagels and Sandwiches, where we’ve been dying to go since arrival. That evening we ended up back at Collins bar after a fruitless (no pun intended) search for crepes led us to where the trip started. To wrap up the evening, we once again went to O’Malleys for some Carlsburg 2 for 1s, before we were creepily hit on by old French dudes. We went to bed rather early that night.
We departed for Brussels on Tuesday which naturally involved all the same craziness of getting to and from the airport. But Marseille really was lovely. Perhaps not the most glamorous city on the French Riviera (we can’t all be Saint Tropez), but I definitely have a special place in my heart for the city. Until next time,
Au revoir mes amis,