January 20th 2018

«Back

Journey images

Click to view larger image Click to view larger image Click to view larger image
The Oldest City in France The Oldest City in France The Oldest City in France

 

Continent: Europe. Country: France. City: Marseille.

The Oldest City in France

By Susan Broad, Triangle Travel

I took a wonderful cruise aboard MSC’s Splendida to the southern Mediterranean in the summer. Splendida is a beautiful ship and I was lucky enough to have a suite in the exclusive, new Yacht Club. Yacht Club is a new concept in luxury and has been introduced on just two of their ships; the Splendida and the Fantasia which are sister ships and virtually identical. Yacht Club is designed as a VIP area on the ship; the idea being there is an area of exclusivity but with all the benefits of a large liner. The ship itself is stunning and huge; 137,000 tons, 333 metres long, 66 metres high and just over 3000 passengers at capacity. There are several restaurants, lots of bars and cafes, a huge Las Vegas style casino, five pools including a huge indoor pool with a sliding roof, all with hot tubs. There is a tennis court, squash court, an amazing spa and gym, a huge children’s area and a vast theatre.

One of the destinations that really stood out for me was Marseille, the oldest city in France, founded over 2,500 years ago. Sandwiched between the hills and the sea and clustered around its vast harbour, it really is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities in a stunning natural setting. With over 300 days of sun each year, the colours appear sharper, brighter and more vivid and the soft mistral wind which blows for 90 days of the year ensures the light is fantastic, which has attracted most of the best loved artists to the area over the centuries. Its history is long and varied as you can imagine over 26 centuries; the cradle of Christianity in Provence symbolized by the Abbey of St Victor, Chateau d’If, a tiny island about a mile off the Marseille coast which was the setting for the Count of Monte Cristo, the stunning Marseille Cathedral and the huge port that shaped and dominated Marseille’s economy in its role of linking the French Empire to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

It is a lovely city to simply wander around; the Vieux Port, the old harbour, is such a busy, bustling area of activity. Orange sellers set up tiny stalls on the pavements, fishermen prepare their freshly caught fish and sell it almost straight from the boat, children paddle around in tiny boats trying to catch crabs and shops, cafes and small restaurants line all sides of the harbour which is great for people watching. You can also stroll up to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde which sits on top of a hill overlooking the city, so the views are spectacular. The best part for me was strolling through the narrow lanes of Le Panier, the old quarter. Sometimes called Marseille’s Montmartre, it is a maze of small streets, little arty shops and workshops, boutiques, small churches and tiny houses. You don’t need a map, just follow your nose! In the centre of it, the lovely Cathedrale de la Major sits between the old and new ports and is absolutely beautiful with its stripes of white marble and green Florentine stone, giving it a very distinctive look. Further afield, you can travel the Corniche, the coast road, to visit Borely Parc, a little oasis of calm amidst the hubbub of the city with its castle set in botanic gardens with lovely water features and sculptures, or you can visit one or two smaller French towns, such as Aix en Provence or Avignon which are with within a hour and a half’s drive away and have a wealth of history and culture or Cassis which is four hours away and is famous for its huge white cliffs and beautiful port and of course its wines!

With 23 beaches, 14 marinas, 17 museums, 42 theatres and 7000 cinemas as well as major jazz, music, dance and sports events held here, Marseille is a busy, buzzy, eclectic city with an exciting atmosphere which has something for just about everyone. 

 

By Susan Broad, Triangle Travel

Keywords: Europe, France, Marseille, MSC, MSC Splendida