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29.05.2017- Travel Talk: A Day in Marseille

Whilst I don't get the opportunity to travel anywhere near as much as I would like, taking the time to get away from the hustle and bustle of an everyday routine is always worth it, especially if it involves seizing the opportunity to discover somewhere new. The week before last, after several solid months of anticipation, myself, Sophie, Michelle and Hannah spent a whistlestop long weekend visiting Elodie and her glorious hometown on the beautiful French Riviera. Our crack of dawn flight from Stanstead to Marseille (although a shock to the system!) touched down before 10am- giving us the whole day to explore the rambling streets and stunning seafront of France's second city- and, with a local as a tour guide, uncover some hidden gems in the midst of this bustling, sprawling harbour town:

After hopping on the coach from the airport to Marseille St. Charles Station, we began our day exploring the city by taking in some seriously impressive architecture in the shape of the Porte d'Aix- a triumphal arch which marks the old entry point to the city from Aix-en-Provence. Classically inspired design sprawls across the skyline, punctuated by colourful wooden shutters, combining to create a distinctly South of France aesthetic which is picture-postcard perfect. Our first shopping stop of the day is La Grande Savonnerie, which manufactures the famous Savon de Marseille- the bars of olive soap which have been produced in the city for over five hundred years. There's plenty to choose from here if you're in the market for some souvenirs, from lightly fragranced bars of soap to laundry detergent, and the staff are more than happy to advise you on the best purchases to make. 

Climbing uphill and away from the Vieux Port, we made our way to Le Panier, a historical district of the city woven together with the fabric of years of craftsmanship, and home to some beautiful artisan ateliers and independent boutiques. Yet more colourful shutters and sunshine yellow facades offer a real treat for the eyes, and weaving through the streets of this sector offers a fantastic opportunity to discover lots of hidden vintage treasures, as well as plenty of inspiration for your interiors thanks to the many second-hand furniture shops which Le Panier is home to.

At the heart of Le Panier lies the beautiful Centre de la Vieille Charité, constructed as a charity shelter in the 17th century by Pierre Puget. Now a museum, the complex incorporates a chapel surrounded on three sides by a covered courtyard- exploring this quiet corner of the city really does feel like stepping back in time. The peace and tranquility makes this the perfect space for secluded contemplation, especially when considering the history of the site. Flourishing olive trees stand sentry in the courtyard- offering a poignant tribute to the original purpose of this sacred space.

Keen to seek out a spot of respite from the midday sun, we make our way to the harbour for lunch- and our reservation at Le Poulpe. The set three course lunch menu offers excellent value for money at 23 Euros, and, as you'd expect, home to some seriously heavenly seafood. I opt for squid and pepper salad, beef meatballs on a bed of wild rice and a banana and chocolate sponge cake for dessert- all of which I could happily eat again in a heartbeat! After taking a leisurely couple of hours to regroup over lunch and take in the beautiful harbourside view, we adjourn to Vanille Noir just around the corner to indulge in a second dessert- their famous squid ink vanilla ice cream. With varying degrees of melting in progress, it's a deliciously messy experience- needless to say that friends who channel their inner goths together stay together!

We walk off lunch by taking a stroll around the harbour, stopping to snap the sights including the Ferris Wheel, and feeling all Inception-like underneath the Port Vieux Pavillion. From across the harbour we take in the spectacular sight of Notre Dame de la Garde, the highest point in Marseille, and resolve to make a visit when we're next back. Sauntering back along the harbour, we ascend to Le Mucem, where we sit and enjoy the sea views and refreshing sea breeze with a drink or two.

Heading back towards the main boulevards of the city, we pass  the breathtaking Cathédrale de la Major- and I, for a moment, feel as if I've been teleported to a Game of Thrones location! Originally constructed in the 12th century, the cathedral is a national monument- and another hugely impressive architectural gem. With some time on our hands before our dinner reservation, we take in some more shops, including Roy René for some sweet treats, and Maison Empereur- an Aladdin's cave of household goodies. Dipping in and out of some record shops and exploring the French African quarter of Noailles, the early evening hustle and bustle gives us the perfect momentum to wend our way to Au Bout du Quai, where we enjoy another seafood-centric feast as we watch the sun go down before heading back to the train station for the final leg of the journey for the day- back to Elodie's beautiful home- more on that soon!

Have you visited Marseille before?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)


  1. Ah gosh reading this has made me want to go back immediately Sarah!
    A Story of a Girl


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