Marseille, Mon Amour

All too soon, our time in Marseille was drawing to a close and it was time to bid farewell to the merveilles of Marseille. (How is it that time always speeds up when you’re on holiday?) After packing up our belongings and making the obligatory stop at a nearby boulangerie to pick up breakfast essentials (and some extra supplies for Laurence’s flight), we set off on foot to explore Marseille’s street art scene.

Cours Julien (or “Cours Ju” if you want to sound like a true Marseillais) and the surrounding warren of narrow streets and alleyways is a characterful neighbourhood on the slopes of one of Marseille’s many hills. Home to Marseille’s artists, musicians and bobos, the vast array of technicolour murals is a testament to the creative juices which run through this quarter. (For argument’s sake, we’ll overlook the presence of the decidedly less creative tags amongst the murals.)

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Every shade of Dulux has been accounted for: from the minimalist frescoes in monochrome to the psychedelic paintings on the façades of the quarter’s bars.

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It’s impossible not to end up with a favourite – and mine was this next one. I couldn’t help but find these little aliens rather adorable, even if they appear to uncannily represent those of us left feeling dismayed with the current state of affairs.

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Though a little grimy in places, Cours Julien is a must for street art enthusiasts – and a gem if you’re on the lookout for budget-friendly activities in Marseille.

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Time was marching on, so in the interest of squeezing a little more sightseeing into our remaining time in the city, we left Cours Julien behind and set off for the Palais Longchamp. Built in the middle of the nineteenth century to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, this ornate structure, complete with neoclassical columns and an elaborate fountain, is a sight to behold. Both the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle are housed here, but we opted to soak up the sun outside instead of venturing inside.

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After a brief stroll around the adjoining Parc Longchamp, we ambled back towards the Vieux Port. Weaving our way through the streets leading to the port, we stumbled upon the Marché de Noailles. Stalls ran the length of Rue du Marché des Capucins, with produce piled high and sold for prices I can only dream of in Lyon. Naturally, I took advantage of this and made a few small purchases – which I was only too glad of when my train home was delayed!

We then continued on to the Vieux Port to scout out a reasonably priced hot chocolate and watch the world go by; the imaginatively named Le Vieux Port, on the corner of Rue Pytheas and Quai des Belges, did just the trick.

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As Laurence’s flight departed mid-afternoon, we headed up to the Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles a little after midday. After waving him off, I wandered back to the Vieux Port; my train wasn’t until late afternoon, so I intended to make the most of the glorious weather. I bought postcards (both to send and to add to my collection), sat in the sunshine with a jambon-beurre and had a browse in Galleries Lafayette before making my way back to the train station.

True to form, the SNCF were running late – though this time due to a mechanical fault, rather than a strike – and the train left Marseille almost an hour later than scheduled.

Having been European Capital of Culture in 2013 and a host for the UEFA Euro 2016, Marseille has benefitted from a lick of paint and some serious sprucing up in recent years. As a multicultural melting pot, a visit to Marseille is a markedly different experience to other cities along the Mediterranean coast: here, traces of France’s colonial past (most notably in the form of dozens of boulangeries tunisiennes) and Provençal traditions exist side by side. There’s an understated charm to Marseille – and I for one am under its spell.

Tips:

  • Cours Julien is one of Marseille’s liveliest neighbourhoods – but not in the morning (save for the local markets). If you want to see the quarter in its element, venture over there in the afternoon or early evening.
  • If you’re travelling on a TGV and your train arrives at your destination more than 30 minutes late, you’re automatically entitled to compensation. Depending on how you bought your ticket, this can either be claimed online or by filling out a form distributed by station staff.
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14 thoughts on “Marseille, Mon Amour

  1. I love your photos of the street art! I remember wandering into the Cours Julien area the last time I was in Marseille and loving all the colors — I think there’s a really colorful staircase above a metro stop unless I’m mixing it up with another place. I’ve never been to the Palais Longchamp but it looks magnificent!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s Marseille – though as we walked over and didn’t take the metro we didn’t come up that way. There were some really cool pieces, I’m not used to coming across whole neighbourhoods devoted to street art so it was nice to see so much of it in a relatively small area. The Palais Longchamp is an impressive structure – I couldn’t help wondering what the interior was like, but time constraints (and sunshine) meant I never found out!

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      1. I love coming across those neighborhoods, it’s like a gallery on the street! I think that sometimes it’s nicer to enjoy the sunshine in peace than to try to squeeze in seeing lots of things 🙂

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      2. Sometimes you just have to take advantage of the sunshine and do not a fat lot 🙂 At some point I need to take another wander round Lyon to find more of the fresques!

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      3. Yes! I regret not finding more of them — I discovered a whole list of them right after I moved (I think I saved the page on Pinterest). I used to walk right by the big one in Croix-Rousse at my first job in Lyon and then I lived by the yellow one in the 1st, so I completely took them for granted! I hope you’ll find more and take pictures
        🙂

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      4. I’ve come across several lists, so now that term’s coming to a close I’m going to commit to venturing out a bit further and finding more of them! I love those two fresques; I also noticed after Christmas that there’s one by Montluc which I need to go and check out properly at some point.

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    1. I completely agree with you on that front, it beats Paris and Nice (and a host of other cities) for me too! I’m not a bouillabaisse fan either, but the abundance of fresh fish compensates for that! Something for all tastes 🙂

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