Saturday, November 20, 2010

I say, you say, Marseille.

We spent the Remembrance Day public holiday last Thursday in Marseille.

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The second largest city in France and known as the Paris of the south, this town is big, bad and beautiful. 
Big: over 800,000 1.6 million people (better to use metropolitan population).
Bad: a bit shady, there are places to avoid (no different to many other cities around the world).
Beautiful: let me show you.

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The basilica, Notre Dame de la Garde, looking over the Old Port of Marseille.

We arrived and went straight to lunch. (Priorities people!) We ate alongside the Vielle Port (Old Port), sitting across from the water in warm autumn sunshine. Marseille is known for its seafood so when I'd booked our table I'd requested bouillabaisse for the mister and myself. This traditional fish dish should be ordered in advance, otherwise you won't get fish bought that morning at market.

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Where we ate.

Every restaurant probably has their own way of serving bouillabaisse (and even the 'true' ingredients are disputed) but ours came as two courses. First up, just the broth, rich with fish flavours and saffron, served with toast rounds and dishes of grated cheese and rouille (a bit like aioli - think saffron and garlic mayonnaise, yum). 

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Bouillabaisse entrée. Sorry about the stripe, 'twas sunny. 

We weren't too sure the way it 'should' be eaten, but we buttered the toast with the rouille and then floated them on top of the soup and sprinkled the lot with cheese. The broth soaked into the bread and was just fabulous. With a nice crisp rose, all was right with the world. (We later noticed the French couple next to us stir the rouille directly into the soup and ignore the toast. Bad call guys, they were like giant garlicky croutons, delish!)

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The second course brought the waiter alongside our table with whole fish (which he deboned and then plated), eel cross-sections and potatoes. Once these had been prepared another waiter appeared and ladled over more of the broth. No toast this time, not that it was needed as I struggled to finish (the mister and his hollow legs helped).

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There was no room for dessert, sadly. I just squeaked in a teeny espresso. (And a calisson, it was waifer thin.)

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After lunch as we waddled back toward the harbour I couldn't resist popping in here for a few spice mixes. As expected of a port town, Marseille is a real melting pot of cultures.

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Then back to the harbour. 

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Where we took a little train ride. On a little train.

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It took us through the city and then up the hill to Notre Dame de la Garde.

We passed plenty of beautiful buildings on the way.

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A word has to be said about driving in Marseille. Not for the faint of heart. 

This guy scraped his side mirror along the side of the train. He was close. We almost did the same thing to a James Bond-type car idling at the lights. The guy behind me swore in French "Bleep, that was a Porsche". Exciting!

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I really enjoyed the scenery when we got out of the CBD and saw the coast.

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Below is the Château D'If on the island of If, just off the coast. It was built as a military fortress in the 1500s and later used as a prison. But its main claim to fame is as a setting in the Count of Monte Cristo, written by Alexandre Dumas.

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I just thought I should let you know that I've decided this is going to be my next house. So don't get any ideas.

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After a 20 min ride we headed up the hill to the Notre Dame de la Garde.

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Madonna and baby Jesus in gold leaf on top of the bell tower. 

Above the carpark is a viewing platform with spectacular views across all of Marseille.

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Which you could choose to ignore and instead look for stars.

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The outer walls of the church still bear the scars of World War II.

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The basilica was built in honour of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and is considered to protect Marseille and its people.

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Inside, the mosaics and gold leaf were stunning.

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Marseille is a fishing town and I loved all the small touches reflecting this throughout the basilica.

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There were a half dozen of this boat-garlands hanging in the church

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I love the little anchors joining this burner to its supporting chains

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Behind the prayer candles are plaques engraved with messages of thanks for answered prayers. 'Thank you to Our Lady for the healing of my daughter - 1969' one of them reads.

As we exited the church and passed the gift shop (of course) and cafe, they had some close up photos of recent restoration work completed on the mosaics. Look at this one of the angel over the altar.

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I thought it was strange how the angel in the Lourdes chapel looked like Cate Blanchett, well this one looks like Rachel Griffiths.


This painting also caught my eye. 

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You just know what Mary is thinking. If you kids don't leave me alone... 

By the time we left the basilica the day was at an end. The little guy managed to wet through his pants and had to ride the train down the hill in his underwear (wrapped in Daddy's coat when he stayed still). Bad Mummy for not bringing spare pants. 

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Past more beautiful buildings.

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Back to the Old Port. 

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Once last look around the harbour as we headed back to the car, and that was that. 

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And because it's Friday, a video! 

Did you know that Robbie Williams released a French version of Love Supreme? Me either, until I saw it on W9 the other day.  

Apologies to the Americans out there (Robbie Williams? Who in the what now?) He is a British popstar who is rather famous in Europe and *ahem* the colonies.  


Have a great weekend!

16 comments:

  1. Kirsty, I loved this post. And you're dead right, lunch is always my first priority. I've got to go down there and try some of that....and the SUN!
    Also totally pleased you put in the littlest with his wet diaper, yours truly has been guilty of same.
    Robbie Williams? Of course. Ireland taught me a thing or two.
    a x

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  2. Wow, what a gorgeous post. The pictures are stunning! I am forwarding this to my sister so she can see that Basilica. Wow! That's all I can seem to say. :)
    And thanks for the Robbie video. I adore him (and I'm American). ;)

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  3. Aidan - Oh, of course, you'd know all about him! Hope you get some sun this weekend. We've got sun but it's not real warm, I think the days of sitting outside in cafes are over 'til Spring :( I better go get a glass of Minervois (supermarket bought), your last post has made me thirsty.

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  4. Oh so beautiful! I know we're flying in to Marseille, not sure if we get to spend any time there though, the first night is in Nice then onto Arles. It will be so nice to be able to put all these places in perspective once we've been, seriously can't wait!

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  5. What a fab day out at Ma-say !! now i'll remember how to pronounce it. Love your yellow house on the rocks ~ can you imagine the views from there ~ oh! and that bouillabaise looks so... delish.
    Je vous souhaite une bonne week-end
    Dianne xx

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  6. Love all these pics but had a good giggle at the one of your star-gazing son. Kids - don't ya love 'em!

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  7. Beautiful photographs, Kirsty!! I can almost taste that bouillabaise!
    The church scenes are stunning!
    Love the video!

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  8. Love the title. It looks like you had a wonderful day in Marseille. Love all your photos especially the interior of the basilica, and the pic of your next house!!!!

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  9. Wow, fab blog. I will add you to my blog list. Nice to see your lovely travels and life in France with an Australian twist, Tamara x

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  10. Reading your post has been a good way to start the day. And the description of the Bouilabaisse makes my stomach grumble...may be en lieu of coffee?

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  11. Thanks for the tour of Marseille- brings back memories of when I was there on a flying visit in 2008. Must get up to the Cathedral next time. And Bouilabaisse - YUM!

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  12. Hi Kirsty
    I'm so glad I found your blog via Nato.
    This is a great post and I can feel the ambiance of Ma Say!!!
    In St Tropez last year we sat having lunch at a restaurant overlooking the harbour with a very similar view!!
    We stayed two weeks at a beach close to Le Lavandou - loved it and we travelled into LL on "Le Petite Train" most days!!
    I've joined your followers as I don't want to miss any of this!!
    Do come and visit me and I'll get out my prettiest teacups and make you very welcome!!
    hugs
    Shane (feminine version and mother to my darling daughter who lives en France too)!!!

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  13. Gorgeous photos - I spent 11/11 in a very cold, wet and closed Liege!! Still I did have the best frites in the world in the evening.

    One day I will get that far south - one of my favourite singers comes from there (as does one of my Paris friends). A very bad video I took in 2009 of Patrick Fiori singing about his home town

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuxqT9hk4pE

    We have tickets to see him in Paris next May - and my aussie friend is coming over for the shows (she joined us this year to see Garou!). Now if I could just persuade my other favourite Patrick (Bruel) to do a show the next night it would be an amazing trip! Much as I love listening to PF (possibly one of the best untrained tenors! And a great friend of Roberto Alagna) PB has been a fav of mine for a long time! (and we are on the 2009 dvd filmed at casino de paris)

    My fav PB song from les enfoires

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E577Rq-2JKk

    Did I mention I adore Garou? 8 days till I see him in Paris and counting!

    Pretty sure Robbie was quite big in the US at one time. My fav was always Gary!

    Eli
    x

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  14. Uh? What is it about Australian actresses and French church mosaics?! Uncanny!

    Your pictures of Marseille are beautiful, I'd like to see the Château D'If some time myself, I've always loved the Monte Cristo story (never read the book, though ...).

    And that bouillabaisse looks soooo delicios!!!

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  15. Notre Dame de la Garde is one of the most beautiful sites I've seen here so far. Of course the walk up was something I'll never forget! And will never do in the middle of summer again.

    And that mosaic totally looks like Rachel Griffiths!

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  16. Gorgeous Gorgeous Gorgeous and now I need to add another city to my 'must go and see' list in France *sigh* is 10 days going to be long enough?

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Hi there, I love getting comments, so let her rip! I do my very best to reply (by email) so please make sure your account is set up to show email, so that I can get back to you. Cheers, Kirsty

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