We just got back from Marseille, France this morning. We had a whirlwind adventure in France, starting early on Friday morning (our flight left at 7:30AM) and ending back home in Rome early this morning (our flight left France at 6:25AM). We used Ryanair which offers some of the cheapest flights in Europe. Marseille is a Mediterranean city, built around a harbor. There are open fish markets in the mornings and the harbor is full of multitudes of boats. We arrived in Marseille at about 10:30AM and since we couldn't check into our hotel until 2:00PM, we decided to explore the city.
Our first stop was the Church of St. Vincent de Paul. We didn't know this at the time, but St. Vincent spent some time in Marseille before his conversion. It was comforting to see a "familiar face." I felt like St. Vincent was taking care of us.
We then decided to head towards Musée Cantini. Afterwards, we went to the Musée d'Histoire de Marseille. We managed to translate some of the information into English. Amy remembered quite a bit of her French which was a big help getting around the city. Most people in Marseille do not speak English, but are patient with tourists. I kept trying to speak Italian (which made me happy that Italian is becoming more of a habit, but it was the wrong language for this city!)I would say things like, "Si, oui. Grazie, merci."
The next day we began the morning with a stop at a local pastry shop. I instantly fell in love with almond pastry. Heaven in a bite! After consuming our breakfast, we visited Chateau d'If, the island where the Count of Monte Cristo takes place. The sun was luminous, blindingly bright and warm. The water was enchanting and exhilarating. I can not use enough adjectives to describe the island. It was a intoxicating place, magical and serene. We explored the castle and then sunbathed on the rocks. We had to take the ferry back to Marseille (unfortunately).
The literal summit of our trip was Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde which is 161m high. We were rewarded with spectacular views of the city and mountains. Later that evening we heard mass in French at the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and cooked up a delicious dinner (soup, couscous, "vin," and serious amounts of chocolate.)
Marseille was an interesting comparison to Roma. There is much more ethnic diversity in Marseille, maybe because it is more south as well as being a large port. Amy and I enjoyed a nice meal at local Indian restaurant. People in France are equally clueless about lines as Italians. It seems to be an European epidemic that people act like kindergartners lining up to receive free ice cream any where lines would be routine in the USA. Dogs walk off leash up and down the streets in Marseille and France.
Marseille hosts a large fishing community and is surrounded by the sea. I loved watching the boats, hearing the gulls and waves. The colors of the homes reflect this nautical feel; the colors are cooler in general than the warm pinks, corals, and yellows of Roma. This magical port is a beautiful, enchanting little city.