Escapade in Marseille

After our unusual summer we sneaked off for a few days rest and recreation in Marseille. We flew Ryanair. The tickets cost peanuts, and since we were going for only four nights, we took small rucksacks that we could stuff under the seats in front.

Ryanair thought it entirely reasonable to try to extract more money from us by sending us encouraging emails. 

"You want to choose where you sit, don't you."  

We found no such desire in our hearts.

"You want to sit together, don't you."

We did, but not to pay more for it.

"With random seating you could end up sitting apart."

Yeah, right.

So it was that on the way out Patricia was sat in seat 3A with no-one beside her, while I was in seat 10F, again with no-one beside me. Really!?!?

Coming back it was similar, except now Patricia was right at the front and I was right at the back. We couldn't even SEE each other if we tried. 

We are undaunted. So are Ryanair.

After alighting from the plane we found our way to the Terraces du Port, where we met my nephew and his fiancé, the latter for the first time ever. They're due to marry in a couple of years. We then scuttled off to our lodging while they returned to their cruise ship.

Our flat was about 100 yards from the beach, surrounded by restaurants and the bus stop for the city centre was just at the end of the street. It was ideal - clean, comfortable and convenient. (Sorry, but alliteration now just comes automatically. I have to try not to...)

We quickly made our list of things to see and do. Then we went for a glass of red on the street opposite the beach to watch the sun go down. The Bordeaux was served ice-cold. 

Tuesday, call on some friends. we walked first to the Vallon des Auffes, a Marseille beauty-spot dominated by a restaurant that serves bouillabaisse for 60€ a bowl. We resigned our hopes of eating bouillabaisse. Then to see a couple who moved from Bordeaux to Marseille to open a café / church plant. We ate lunch there and hugged and chatted. Some other friends had invited us for supper. There we ate like kings and watched the sun go down from their high rise apartment on the edge of the city. We declined invitations to a mens breakfast on a boat in the Med, and so on.

Wednesday - Cathedral followed by lunch at a place recommended by our landlord. It was super, and we chatted about Paris, Marseille, Rochefort, France, Britain, politics, ecology and generally remade the world with a couple sitting next to us. "Vous parlez drôlement bien français" was her opening remark. She's the second person to say that to me, and I'm still not sure if it's a compliment and, if so, if it's back-handed... Lunch was wonderful, then we boarded a Little Train to make the ascent to Notre Dame de la Garde, the church sat on top of a rocky crag. Known as "La Bonne Mère", the Pope had just the previous weekend proclaimed it very beautiful, and so it was. We had intended to watch the sun set from up there, but it would have meant an hour sat on a wall, followed by a twilight walk back to the flat, so we gave up on that idea, walked home, then watched the sunset on the beach.

Thursday we headed by boat to the Île Frioul, one of a little archipelago in the bay of Marseille that also has the Château d'If. We didn't feel like clambering over a rocky fortress, preferring to scamper through the perfumed air of an island where seabirds reign supreme and where the wild thyme and alyssum make everything smell sweet. We watched dragonflies, observed old WW2 gun emplacements, then ate grilled sardines in the worst café on the island. In the evening we again watched the sunset from the street by our flat.

Friday we had a couple of things left on our list of things to do : Le Panier (the old quarter), Cours Julien (a trendy area) and Pizza Étienne, a Marseille institution. We headed off with our bags for Le Panier and marvelled at the graffiti street art and the steep streets. Some were beautifully cared for with shrubs and tables and chairs. Others looked somewhat less attractive. Then to Etienne's, a pizza place where they cook the same two pizzas for everyone - anchovies or cheese. We ordered a half-and-half - they serve the slices onto your plate - followed by one portion of lamb brochettes on skewers of twigs of rosemary. It was all very reasonably priced and so, so good. The lamb was served with little sautéed potatoes - we couldn't eat them all. Then a quick joyride on the trams, off to the airport and our flight back. 

As you know, we fly separately now, but on the same aircraft. Thank you Ryanair. It doesn't matter as we fall asleep almost immediately the plane takes off and only wake up when it lands.

Marseille is a wonderful city. We didn't visit any of the amazing museums. We only went to two shops - to the local Carrefour and to a chocolate shop for a birthday gift for a friend. We barely scratched the surface of the city. But we had a magical time. 


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