After a long, and very beautiful, train ride up the Mediterranean coast, I arrive late in Marseille, France. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to see here, other than Chateau d’If a minor fort on an island turned into a prison which is unremarkable except that it was made famous in Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. I just finished watching Gankutsuou, an anime remake of The Count of Monte Cristo, which has a lot of references to Chateau d’If and Marseille in general, so I’m excited to be here for mostly fictional reasons, but the beauty of this part of the Mediterranean will make this perhaps my favorite stop on my travels.
I don’t see much on my first night with my late arrival, Uber to my hotel, and right to bed, however in the morning I’m greeted with a fantastic view of the Mediterranean out of my hotel room window, including the Chateau d’If on a little island in front of more of the Friouls, a small island chain and national park. I take pictures of the sunrise every morning…
Finding no information on any mass in English in Marseille, I decide to start my morning by heading to the renowned Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde, for Sunday mass and some tourism. To my surprise, Uber says there are no cars around, nearest car is an hour away, but I need to be there in 37 minutes, which is exactly how long Google Maps says it will take to walk there, so walking it is!
Google Maps, however, does not realize what I soon realize – there’s a lot of elevation gain between my hotel, sitting right on the Mediterranean, and the Basilica, which I later discover is clearly the highest thing around.
I arrive not too late, but entirely exhausted from the hurried climb to the top of the highest point in Marseille. The views from there are fantastic, and I can see Chateau d’If out in the sea.
The inside of the basilica is nice, however some side chapel seems to be decorated in a way that reminds me of nothing as much as a boat-obsessed child’s bedroom.
I next head down to the Old Port area, to explore a bit and book my boat tour heading to the Calanques. The port is full of private sail boats, and a few ferries and chartered boats for tours.
For dinner, my first choice is a Cambodian restaurant I saw while walking around earlier (Cambodia was once a French colony, so that’s kind of like having French food, right?). However, it is closed on Sundays, and I find some highly reviewed French place that is quite nice instead, where I have some kind of beef stew.
In my room in the evening, the views of the sunset over the Mediterranean are breathtaking. I take pictures of the sunset every evening…
I expected this, from what I’ve heard of France, but I find that almost no one speaks English. I don’t think any of the employees, whom I briefly interact with at my hotel, speak more than a couple words in English. During one lunch, which I have in a place with a fantastic view right on the Mediterranean, my first waitress speaks a little English, but after I place my order, she must have gone off duty, because my second course does not come, and I try to communicate this to the two remaining waiters, but their English is not sufficient, and my French completely non-existent. Luckily, Google Translate on my phone works fantastically, even when offline, so after typing a phrase in there, my next course arrives in moments. I suspect it had been prepared, and was sitting somewhere, and the current waiters had no idea who it was for until then. The food and views are both good.
There is a nice beach right near my hotel, and I spend some of a relaxing morning on the beach, soaking in the sun, taking a dip in the Mediterranean (still rather cold this time of year), and listening to a book. No pictures of the beach, since this is Europe, and there were topless old women everywhere, and I will not subject my viewers to that.
For my second dinner in Marseille I make it to the Cambodian restaurant, which I am excited to try since one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, Chez Sovan, is Cambodian. The egg rolls (also a favorite at Chez Sovan) are as good as I’d hoped. The Lemongrass Coconut Milk Chicken is not as good as the Cha Kroeung Moin at Chez Sovan, but is still pretty good.
Most of the best views I had while in Marseille were while on a boat or while out on the islands, and those will be covered in my next blog post, Marseille by Sea!