We spent the Remembrance Day public holiday last Thursday in Marseille.
The second largest city in France and known as the Paris of the south, this town is big, bad and beautiful.
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.
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.
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).
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!)
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).
There was no room for dessert, sadly. I just squeaked in a teeny espresso. (And a calisson, it was waifer thin.)
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.
Then back to the harbour.
Where we took a little train ride. On a little train.
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.
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!
I really enjoyed the scenery when we got out of the CBD and saw the coast.
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.
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.
After a 20 min ride we headed up the hill to the Notre Dame de la Garde.
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.
Which you could choose to ignore and instead look for stars.
The outer walls of the church still bear the scars of World War II.
The basilica was built in honour of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and is considered to protect Marseille and its people.
Inside, the mosaics and gold leaf were stunning.
Marseille is a fishing town and I loved all the small touches reflecting this throughout the basilica.
There were a half dozen of this boat-garlands hanging in the church
I love the little anchors joining this burner to its supporting chains
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.
Cate Blanchett, well this one looks like Rachel Griffiths.
This painting also caught my eye.
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.
Past more beautiful buildings.
Back to the Old Port.
Once last look around the harbour as we headed back to the car, and that was that.
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!