Read about the 10 things I loved doing while on vacation in Marseille.
On Couchsurfing Marseille there is a list of things to do, while in Marseille, suggested by locals and travellers. The list has since grown to 200 over suggestions.
One of the places which was a must-visit was the Old Port, known as Le Vieux Port. “Have a café at La Caravelle” was the suggestion.
We decided to have a café at La Caravelle, a restaurant with a small balcony overlooking the boats that were docked just right in front of us. What a good suggestion!
What do I enjoy most about travel?
It’s about getting lost, and finding things you never even thought about finding.
Being in a place for the very first time, I don’t really need an agenda or a walking guide. I used to be nitpicky about this aspect, always, always looking at Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor, travel forums and printing out or buying a street map. When friends ask me about ‘Why this place or the other? What’s there to do?’ I would always be able to reply that I would be going there to: Ride an elephant/ go to the night bazaars/ just lie on the beach, etc. Especially for weekend trips, the short time in the destination meant that you had to plan a day of doing something.
I love to wander around alleyways and street corners, entering into interesting shops not found on tourist maps, often conversing with the locals or admiring the differences, the strange trees, the different ways the people carry themselves. In any case, you don’t know what to expect, or where to go since you are there for the first time. And finding things on your own becomes more significant than following a map of must-sees and must-dos.
Walking around the city centre near Le Vieux Port, we stumbled upon an interesting statue. It was a man of marble, in the classical style, with his ass being attacked (bitten) by a lion. Whaaaaaat? ‘Julien, why is there a sculpture in the square of Marseille, of a lion biting a man’s ass?’ Julien, my companion, immediately grounded to a halt, and whipped out his iPhone.
Okay. Let’s Wikipedia that!
Reading from the french version of Wikipedia, Julien informed me that this sculpture was supposed to be a legendary six-time winner, Olympian Milon de Crotone — back in the ancient faraway days where they used to do all kinds of sports naked. The story of his infamous death was where, he was walking in the woods one day and decided to test his strength by priying open some trees using his bare hands. However, he had a muscle cramp and stood there unable to move. Thus he was reputedly devoured by wolves, and died. Legendary!
(I’m not sure if what I wrote is truly accurate as I can’t really read French.)
So why depict a lion instead of wolves? There are no lions in Europe, informed Julien.
Apparently it was considered a romantic classical style back then to use lions. And why is Mister Milo in Marseille, and not, one might assume, Italy as he originally hails from? Well, the sculptor was a well-known artist, Pierre Paul Puget, born in Marseille. Aha.
We spotted, on other days walking and driving around the city, some other morbid sculptures: a random giant foot without its body, standing in a hotel courtyard, a finger (could be a thumb, and creepily looking very similar to Julien’s thumb), sprouting from a traffic roundabout, both sculptures made from the same cast-iron material and seemingly by the same artist.
I may consider to document all the sculptures and their interesting history the next time I visit Marseille.
But I’d rather build a large sand turtle on the amazing mini-beaches scattered around the coastline!
So here’s a few things on my list I would definitely enjoy doing again when I return to Marseille.
1. Having a café at La Caravelle.
2. Take a ferry to Chateau d’ If.
This is the small island and prison where the classic book ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ is based.
3. Le Corbusier – Cité radieuse.
Julien was surprised that I knew about this place, an odd apartment building made of rough concrete that does not seem like anything special. Jerome, a friend who was from Marseille had informed me about the place as a must-visit, and this is one of the most famous architectural projects of Le Corbusier.
4. Lunch in the restaurant in the garden facing the Old Port (Vieux Port). Little sparrow looking birds will come and snatch your breadcrumbs. We lured one for a photo-op.
5. Calanque de Marseilleveyre (and Sugiton). Amazing white rocks that turn salmon pink in the sunset.
So many Calanques, so little time! Don’t forget to soak up the sun on the white pebbled beach or take a dip…
6. Notre Dame de la Garde — The church on the hill with a golden statue.
*7. Abbaye St. Victor — enter into one of the oldest churches in Europe, dating from the 5th century! I just spent my time there running my fingers lightly on top of the chiseled designs on the olden sculptures, signs, and tombs and wondered how they stood the test of time.
8. Watched a football match at Stade Velodrome!
It was the UEFA Europa league and the atmosphere was electrifying even for non-soccer fans, I was just staring, open-mouthed at the burly and super powerful looking, armed-to-the core gendarmes stationed at every entry point, they looked so suave!
9. The Corniche area — great views of boats, houses overlooking the coastline, white rocks. This is a long stretch of road on the waterfront where many people can be found doing a morning jog.
10. Well, just get lost walking the streets!
I spotted cute laundry, amazing street art, chic French ladies, many dogs, and old buildings with historical significance.
In the Notebook:
La Caravelle is at 34, Quai Du Port, 13002 Marseille.
Couchsurfing Marseille’s FB page
Sculpture of Milo of Croton by Pierre Puget
All photos taken by Rachel using Lomography Sunset Strip, Lomography Color 800, Rollei Black and White, Lomography Redscale; shot in Marseille, France.
Camera: Vivitar UWS (Superheadz)