Interesting facts about Marseille:
1) It’s the oldest city in France- 2600 years old
2) Its in the top 5 most dangerous cities in Europe (10 people have been murdered since the start of the year… I still like my chances)
3) It has a certain smell about it- one of sewage and human pee
4) The old prison off the coast of Marseille is the setting for the story of the Count of Monte Cristo.
5) Being one of the main gateways into France, Marseille is a melting pot of cultures. Surveys once showed that 40% of children under 18 had at least one immigrant parent.
I’ve grown increasingly fond of the idea of solo travel. However, put a group together with the right dynamic…. et voila… you have the recipe for a good time. There’s a lot to do and see in Marseille and we only had 2 days. It was a jam packed 48 hours. My first instinct was to make sure we were sorted in terms of accommodation. I’ve always maintained that where you stay can have a profound effect on the success of your trip andHostelworld.com never fails. Its true that you can find some hotels with private rooms and bathrooms for a cheaper price than backpackers or hostels. But who wants that when you can mingle with 20 something other travellers? Hostels are like a magnet for interesting people and conversations. At Hello Marseille I got to meet people who share the same love of Steamboat Springs Colorado, a rare kind of Chilean who spoke perfect English, An Indian who is proud of his lack of strong Indian accent, Swedes who taught me things about their Viking land and more vegetarian Germans (which I seem to find all wherever I go).
On the outskirts of Marseille is a National Park with a must-see coast line. We were discouraged from visiting and hiking in our flip flops but luckily we chose to ignore this piece of information from people in the know and took the 21 bus out of Marseille to The Calanques. I’m glad to say that we couldn’t have made a better decision than pressing on with our plan despite the lack of appropriate foot ware. The trek was doable (for us at least) in our flip flops and the rewards were worth it. A little picnic followed by a swim in the crystal clear water and then it was time to ascend back to the starting point.
One of the city’s main attractions is the Marseille Cathedral with its panoramic view of the city below and Islands in the distance. Now, I knew before-hand that Marseille was a windy city. But I got to experience it first-hand upon an excursion to watch the sun set from the elevated Cathedral. The wind picked up and then it blew, and blew and then blew some more until it chased us away. But fantastic photo op while it lasted!
Marseille is 2013’s European Capital of Culture. Every year, a different European city is awarded this title, which is highly sought after and chosen based on a submitted project. Basically what this means is that if you walk around Marseille in 2013 there is in-your-face art, culture, music, theatre, heritage, cuisine, technology and more. The project is 12 months long and is widely visible throughout the city. So on our last day, to make use of the few hours we had left, we took a closer look at the city’s dedication to this project. There are plenty museums, some free some that charge an entrance fee. And a lot happening in open spaces, available for all to see.
Someone once asked me if I consider myself a ‘traveller’ or a ‘tourist’. And while I’d like to say that I’m not ‘one of them’, the kind that you can spot from a mile away and come in their masses to see what there is to see. Sometimes I am that person. Camera around the neck, map out for everyone to see. I think there’s an arrogance in thinking you’re not a tourist. Sometimes the truth hurts.