Before I came to Marseille in France, most of the online reviews I read about the city didn't have much good to say about it. Although it's France's second largest city, it lacks Paris cosmopolitan, or Nice's glamour. So I really didn't have high expectations of it, not that it mattered, I was in town for a day only.
Our cruise bus dropped us outside the Cathedral, a stunning building. My plan was to come back to visit in the afternoon before I returned to the cruise ship. But as @grindle said recently "the best plan is not to have a plan", I never made it back here.
I wanted to go to the Grand Basilica first, the highest point in Marseille. It was a 3km 40 minute walk, and would make a nice walk around the city, passing by the Old Port first. The Old Port is a swanky marina with lots of shops, restaurants etc where people, probably mainly tourists hang out. It took us about 20 minutes to get there and I was quite tired by that time because of the heat. I checked my phone, it said there was a bus from here that only takes about 10 - 15 minutes. I found the bus stop and saw the bus pull up so we immediatley jumped on without thinking. As I tried to pay with my contactless credit card, the bus driver said something to me, which of course I didn't understand. He beckoned me to get on. I wasn't going to query why. Turns out Marseille wasn't that bad, you get free bus rides.
Now I will have to come back to the Old Port in the afternoon but that never happened either.
The bus ride took us up the hill (glad I didn't have to walk) turning into little steep side roads. It's always nice to see parts of where the locals live when you travel. We were dropped off at the car park just below the Basilica, she looks so majestic divine.
Being the tallest point in Marseille the 360 degree view was stunning. We were high enough to get a birdseye view of the spectacular surroundings, but low enough to see the buildings and streets of the city quite cleary.
A service was being held inside the Basilica (it was Sunday) and it would be another hour till visitors were allowed in. We decided to wait as it was still early and it was nice up here. And the hour wait was well worth it! As I, and all the other hundred of visitors filed in, all eyes were automatically drawn upwards to the golden nave. It wasn't as peaceful as the religious buildings normally are due to the sudden influx of people, but nevertheless still very impressive.
We decided to walk back down to town, we can manage that. It was a very nice walk and it reminded me of San Francisco. I love the grand terraces of European buildings, they look so strong and protective.
The reviews about Marseille wasn't too wrong (apart from the free bus thing which was nice). Once we got back to the city and wandered around, we didn't find much interesting to do, or maybe we didn't look hard enough or go to the right places. There was something about the vibe that didn't sit with me.
Someone must have had a great party last night
I wasn't even in the mood to explore this church and I'm usually up for it.
The saving grace for the day was a visit to Palais Longchamp, a place so nice that it deserves its own post.
After that visit, we caught a tram to Place de la Joliette to take the free shuttle bus back to our cruise. Place de la Joliette is in between the town and the cruise terminal that's why I never made it back to the Old Port or the Cathedral. The area used to be the old docks and is now regenerated into a busy shopping mall with rooftop views facing the sea.
One nice thing I heard about Marseille a long time ago is Savon de Marseille aka soap. There was a stall inside the shopping centre selling them. They were so colourful, and I couldn't resist not buying some to take home with me. Marseille smells nice everytime I wash my hands now, and that's a nice memory of the city to have.