27 October 2009

Marsilles: Mixing Business with Pleasure

WE HAD TO make a semi-emergency trip to Marseilles today to visit the American Consulate. We decided to make a full day of it and explore the city a bit. I'm not sure why we haven't yet visited France's second city, especially since it's only two hours away (we've been to Bologna, Italy twice -- and it's 5 hours away). I think in many ways Marseilles gets -- or at least has had -- a bad rap for a variety of reasons. It's dirty; or it's too crowded; or it's kind of rough; or it's not charming; or there's too many immigrants (let's be honest).

But for me it is precisely these kinds of 'imperfections' that give cities their identity, their feel. I want cities to have texture and flavor, and want there to be more to it than what the glossy postcards show at the souvenir stands. It's one of the reason why I prefer Nice to Cannes. Maybe I have these feelings because I hail from Washington, DC -- one's of America's most flawed cities in many ways.

So you might guess that we really like Marseilles, and we did. Sure, the drive into town is pretty dumpy (what big city has beautiful suburbs?), but the old port and village were beautiful. We were only there for 5 or 6 hours and it's hard to really get to know a city in that amount of time, but we liked what we saw. Here are some of those things:

The old port -- which is really old. Marseilles dates to 600 b.c. and is the oldest city in France.

Kerri and Henry then went for a spin

Between Consulate visits: lunch. Kerri went for the Niçoise salad.

P&J had pasta and I opted for...well, you can see my plate.

As usual, Henry just ate a bit of everyone else's food.

Watched some skateboarding while having coffee in the late afternoon.

The visited the stunning Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.

Patrick tries to get a better view of the harbor.

I just wanted a picture of the Chateau d'If (the famous prison on the small island in the center). And yes, I loved The Count of Monte Cristo.

Climbing in trees.

Marseilles through the trees.

We made a mistake by not visiting Marseilles sooner. It was beautiful on top of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.

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