France - Marseille
The next stop on the fortieth tour was Marseille, I had been looking forward to my visit and being close to the Mediterranean Sea. I had a difficult time finding a place to stay in Marseille because the reviews I read about different areas were not the best. The reviews were mixed as they normally are; however, many talked about drug use and being unsafe. Finally, I found a lovely apartment in the Vieux Port that I was very excited about and the reviews were that this was the best area to stay. Our host could not have been nicer, I mentioned to him that it was my fortieth birthday and that was why we were coming to France. When we arrived to the apartment, there was a half dozen pink roses and a bottle of wine for my birthday. So sweet!! Our apartment was fantastic and the view of the Vieux Port and Notre Dame de la Garde could not have been better.
We were only in town for two nights and all very overwhelmed initially by the overcrowded city. Coming from Provence and visiting such small villages to being in the second largest city in France was a bit of an overload. We did our best to go with the flow but we were looking for a place to have a snack and a drink before heading to dinner. Every place was very crowded and many had a drink minimum (coffee didn't count). We finally gave up on the snack and went to the other side of the port away from the crowds, had dinner, then settled in for a full day of sightseeing.
The following morning we set off for Parc Borely. My dads seventieth birthday is at the end of the summer so we decided to have a little surprise for him on the trip. We found an Airbnb experience for a running tour, my dad runs fives miles a day. My dad and brother met with a cute French girl at the parc and went on an hour run along the coast and Marseille. My mom and I walked to the Mediterranean and then had breakfast at a cute cafe before stopping at a Boulangerie (bakery) and a fruit stand for some treats and fruit. We met back up with the guys after the running tour and had some of our treats. When my brother was communicating with the French runner, he mentioned that it was by dads birthday and that was why we were getting the tour. After the run, they had a fruit/vegetable infused water and she gave my dad a birthday present, a big bar of soap from Marseille. The French are the nicest!
After the running tour we took an Uber to Notre Dame de la Garde, he drove us up as far as he could to the highest point in the city. From there we had many steps to climb to reach the top where the church was perched. The views were stunning and the church was gorgeous. It had a maritime theme which surprised me and made it very unique. From there we walked down towards the port and stopped for an amazing lunch at a cute cafe. After lunch we stopped at an ATM for my mom to get some money and the machine swallowed her card. We still aren't sure why, she had used it in France prior and informed her bank. Luckily, it happened when they were with us as it was Saturday and we were all leaving Sunday. The bank was closed until Monday, my brother loaned my parents some euros and we were on our way.
We took a break from the sightseeing then ventured out to Le Panier, from what I read it was a cute artsy area that has shops and cafes. I was looking forward to visiting this area and thought it would be quaint and cute. I love good street art, even some bad street art, but this area was filled with more graffiti. I have nothing against graffiti but it can be a bit rough sometimes and in this case it was. We ran into one print shop that was very cute and a couple of restaurant/bars but I just didn't get a good vibe from this area and I felt very unsafe. I am one that can normally trust my gut instincts and more often than not my gut is correct. It was getting to be dusk and we were in search of the Marseille Cathedral before it got dark and then we were going to go back into the Le Panier area. I was already skeptical of this plan and on our way out of the area to see the Cathedral I saw a man doing drugs. I told my brother and we decided to head back near the port for dinner. In life in general, I am a very cautious person, I don't take a lot of risks and I am not very adventurous. If people want to do drugs that is on them, I just don't want to be around it and it puts me on high alert. This was only my experience in the area, a brief snapshot of what I encountered but I did not care for this area and would not return.
Once the Marseille Cathedral came into sight I was in awe, it was gorgeous. The sun was getting ready to set and the light on the Cathedral made it even more stunning. We were near the water and the setting was gorgeous. We watched the sun set and then meandered over to the Mucem to see the interesting architecture. We found our way back to the Vieux Port near our apartment to a restaurant the host recommended and had pizza. It was delicious and a good end to the day. We were all exhausted from our Marseille sightseeing day and it was close to midnight. We went back to the apartment to enjoy for one last evening before parting ways on the rest of our adventures.
Marseille had some nice sights to see, the people we had interactions with were lovely. The city itself seemed a bit run down, overcrowded and a little unsafe. I would not revisit and would not feel comfortable traveling here alone. I have traveled to Paris on my own and have never felt unsafe, so while I'm overly cautious there was just something off about this city for me. You can't like everywhere you travel, at least I don't think you can. This is just one for me that didn't do it.
I was eager at this point for our next stop, but very sad to be parting ways with my parents. We had such an amazing trip together, one we will talk about for the rest of our lives.