I was interested to see how I would feel about Marseille as many people had told me it was a dirty, dangerous and depressing city, known for its skilled pick pocketers (is that a word?). However, with the sun shining and the girls in good form I enjoyed the atmosphere of the city as soon as we stepped off the bus. Nathalie took us to the Port where a local fish market added to the hustle and bustle of the locals and tourists trekking about.
As per usual the next call of duty was finding food which didn’t take long with the many restaurants surrounding the Port. Grace and I were keen to find a restaurant offering the Marseille specialty – Bouillabaisse. This is a traditional fish stew consisting of three different types of fish as well as other seafood such as mussels, crab etc, and vegetables. The Provençal herbs and spices used as well as the way the soup and fish are served separately is what makes this dish unique to the Provence region. Of course bread is also served, along with rouille – a delicious sauce made from olive oil, garlic, chilli and saffron. This was certainly a ‘pinch me’ experience as I had read about this dish back in New Zealand and here I was a couple of months later in the South of France trying it!
Next we walked to the MUCEM – Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean – to take in the incredible design of the building and stunning scenery of the Mediterranean coastline. After the Museum we were meant to take a direct bus up to Notre Dame de la Garde but there was a protest in the centre city which made getting a bus difficult. I was however, able to see the Gendarmerie (like the ‘proper’ Police) for the first time, who were keeping an eye on the protest.
Finally tracking down the right bus after a peaceful ferry ride across the Port, we arrived at Notre Dame. The Basilica sat high above the city and so as you can imagine the view was spectacular, with the red bricked roofs stretching out in front of us. The Basilica was huge and had an interesting striped pattern covering it,which I considered to be quite contemporary considering it was built in 1214 and then restored back in the 15th century.
To end the perfect day of adventuring around Marseille, I was invited to a birthday party at my French friend’s apartment (the one who did an exchange to Canterbury Uni!). It was great fun making more French friends and hearing their experiences of their year’s abroad,which is compulsory in French 3rd year! A cheeky late night Gelato on the way home topped it all off.