I booked a week off work during February half term so that my mum and I could go on holiday. We wanted to go somewhere on the cheap and after exploring many options, we finally settled on Marseille. It is the oldest and second largest city in France after Paris. It is located in the south, along the Mediterranean coast in Provence.
For a bit of context, my mum is from France so we both speak French fluently at home. In fact, we tend to transition from English – French – English without realising most of the time. We stayed at Citadines Castellane apartment hotel in the centre of Marseille so that we had access to a kitchen as we knew we wanted to cook our own meals. It was perfect for us two and there was a free coffee machine downstairs which we took advantage of everyday.
We wanted to explore as much as possible so made sure to buy a 72 hour travel pass called “Transtick” which allowed tram and bus use everywhere in the city. I managed to get mine for just 23€ because of my age. It was super useful and we were even able to use it to get out of Marseille and visit other towns.
We arrived in the late afternoon so decided to go window shopping as there is a large district in the centre, and also buy some ingredients to make dinner/breakfast with. We ended up having vegetable spag bol every night. I’m strange and had to bring my own block of cheddar from home because even in the land of cheese, I have very basic taste in that department.
It was pancake day so I insisted that we have crepes. When it comes to toppings, I am very boring and could eat lemon and sugar for every single one. My mum had butter and sugar which is the traditional choice. Give me crepes over American style pancakes everyday. Have this incredible unattractive photo of me eating.
The district we spent the most time in is called Panier and it’s the oldest part. It’s also the most colourful, full of street art and plants. People could compare it to Camden, London. We spent ages walking up and down winding streets of old houses to get a glimpse at as much graffiti as possible. Imagine visiting an open air art gallery and you’ve got a good idea of what it is like.
This is Promenade Robert Lafont, also in Panier. I thought the view was absolutely stunning and looked like something out of a video game. I’ve never seen anything like it. You could see right across to another part of the city as well as admiring the sea. The cathedral is from the 1800s and simply beautiful but climbing up its steps was a work out.
The Opéra district, including the Old Port area has an incredibly lively atmosphere. It’s where all the restaurants and bars are, not that we went to any of them as they are super pricey. On Valentine’s Day there was a huge event here in the evening consisting of a light show on the water, romantic music, fireworks and lasers.
We used our travel cards to make our way to this cathedral – another one – there’s loads of them in the area. This one was called Notre Dame de La Garde. I wish I hadn’t complained about the other set of stairs because these were monstrous. We climbed all the way to the summit to get the best view of the city. This was only one of the levels as the very top has a lot more trees in the way.
On our second to last day we took a coach to Cassis – a nearby port town. We started by finding the market, something my mum and I love doing. This is where I bought all of my colleagues a scented savon de Marseille, one of the products it is most famous for. There was also a beach there and we ate chips, fresh bread and homemade olive tapenade from one of the stalls. It was a strange experience to be sat on the sand, surrounded by palm trees, in February but a beautiful one nonetheless.
I would recommend visiting Marseille if you like doing tonnes of walking around and fancy going somewhere a bit different. I was really pleasantly surprised.