Marseille is only about three hours from Paris on the high speed TGV train, but it's a world away in attitude and atmosphere. Every region of France is different and even though I've traveled extensively throughout France, the character of this notorious port city lives up to its press, both the good and the bad. The locals are warm and helpful, offering smiles freely, but some areas are also rough and seedy, especially at night around the main port. Do not leave your phone on a table in a cafe, or sling your purse over a chair unless you don't mind getting them stolen.
Arriving at Saint Charles, the main train station, and connecting to the metro downstairs is easy, but be prepared for two flights of stairs or a wait for the tiny elevator. Buying a ticket at any of the machines is easy with cash or a chip and PIN card, but if you want an unlimited weekly pass (13.70 Euros or about $15 USD), you'll need a color photo, and a wait at the ONE window with a human, only open during limited hours. I gave up after waiting in line for an hour at the human ticket line and bought a rechargeable 2 trip card (3.10 Euros or about $3.50 USD) at a machine to just get me to my AirBnB accommodation before nightfall. I learned that I could buy a 3 day unlimited pass (10.80 Euros or about $12.50 USD) at the machines without a photo or a ticket agent, so I did that the next day and that worked out perfectly.
When I told my host that I write this blog and wanted some suggestions for places to eat and visit, he gave me some excellent recommendations, and the first one on the list was a place hidden away that only locals knew about. It was so well hidden, I couldn't find it the first day (but I did eventually, so there will be a later post on it). I ended up walking to Le Pharo, which had a beautiful panoramic view of the port.
The building on the left is Fort St Jean.
The boats range from small pleasure and fishing boats
to larger sail boats and yachts.
This sculpture at Le Pharo epitomizes the nature of life at sea,
while this sculpture shows the juxtaposition of modern and historical elements in the city.
You can see Notre Dame de la Garde looking over the port on one side
while the other side is guarded by Fort St. Jean and Mucem, the national Museum.
Yes that is a yacht parked next to the Mucem, and behind the Mucem, the Cathedral of Saint Mary Major.
I made it back to the Vieux Port center
just in time to see the sun descending.
A video of the port (sorry about the noise; it was windy) viewed from Le Pharo:)