Travel

Calissons, Calanques and Savon de Marseille: chasing the summer mood in Marseille

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Have you ever heard about Marseille? You definitely did or at least watched the movie Taxi.

Marseille is a French city with a very bad reputation, that actually is on its way to change especially since it was nominated “Capital of Culture 2013”. Marseille attracts more and more tourists and I was really surprised how beautiful is the city and how many things you can do, see, eat, discover and admire there. I had no expectations and did not plan anything in advance as I was visiting a friend of mine who is so-called local and knows the best spots.

So, Marseille, j’arrive….

The first day we did a Marseille Free Walking Tour and were embarked on a panoramic walk around the main attractions of Marseille. The first stop was Marseille History Museum (Musée d’Histoire de Marseille). Entering the building from the city centre, you can see “Jardin des vestiges”, an open-air pre-entrance conserving archaeological remains of classical ramparts, port buildings, even a necropolis. We continued our walk and arrived at Le Panier – Bohemian Bourgeois (BoBo) neighbourhood of Marseille. Very bohemian, very bourgeois, very Mediterranean, very colourful and eclectic. The perfect spot to feel the local atmosphere, architecture and cultural traits. There are many little traditional shops where you can buy soap, petanque accessories or other traditional delights and souvenirs. One tour is not enough to taste Le Panier, so if you have more time, I would recommend to come back and enjoy the Marseille little colourful streets.

Next, we visited the Cathedral of la Major (Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille or Cathédrale de la Major) one of the main symbols of the city and a French national monument. The building is imposing and very very beautiful and is a part of a smaller and older cathedral which remains can be seen alongside the new part. The “New Major”, was built in Byzantine-Roman style typical for Marseille and should not be confused with the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, watching Marseille from above the hill.

Step by step we were approaching the Old Port and stopped over the Fort Saint-Jean and MuCEM. MuCEM or Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée) houses collections of European and Mediterranean civilisations. The building is situated at the entrance to the harbour, next to the Fort Saint-Jean. The two of them are connected by a high footbridge, 130 m (430 ft) long.

In the early afternoon, we came back to the Vieux Port (Old Port) and headed to If Castle to discover all the mystery around Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The Château d’If is a fortress (later a prison) located on the island of If, the smallest island in the Frioul archipelago. It became famous for being the place in which the action of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel The Count of Monte Crist takes place. The castle and the island itself are small and you can easily do it in one hour or in one hour and a half.

The evening was quite unusual as went to an International Fanfare Competition. That was once in a lifetime show. Fish smell, funny costumes, dancing and music, it was all about having fun the French way.

The second day, we visited Calanque de Sugiton. The natural park is just breathtaking. We were walking, climbing, enjoying the great view and swam in the crystal water. There is no real beach there, just stones and water. Pure natural delight!

The last day, we pay our respect to the most famous attraction in the city – the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde. It’s situated on a hill so the way to the basilica can be quite hard to climb. You can take a bus, or the little funny touristic train and do the way back by walk. The basilica itself is gorgeous. The panoramic view allows to see the entire city from above and to realize how big it is actually.

Oh, I was writing about Marseille but did not mention anything about neither the food nor the typical souvenirs from Marseille. Here are the best places to be:1. You should absolutely have a French breakfast at Noailles: old fashion typical French cafe. The coffee is mind-blowing, the croissants as well and you can buy typical regional sweets from there as Calissons. 2. Soaps: La Savonnerie Marseillaise here you’ll find real 72% olive oil soap. The shop offers perfumed soaps, but go for the smelly natural Savon de Marseille. 3. The oldest Hardware store (Quincaillerie) in France is actually based in Marseille. If you wonder what to buy as a present, just check-it-out Maison Empereur.

I am sure you already put Marseille on your bucket travel list and are checking the flights! Share your Marseillaise experience with me! Because happiness is better when it’s shared!

Thanks for reading!