Friday, July 15, 2011

Provence - Day 4

All my other friends had a flight back home in the evening from Marseille. I was staying on for an extra night in Marseille and had my flight the next day. It was quite unfortunate that we had planned such a short trip this time. There were a few more towns and villages which we want to visit. But I guess, this would make us come back to Provence. 

We checked out from Aix early in the morning and reached Marseille in no time. A's brother and his wife took a bus tour of Marseille and the rest of us explored the city on foot. An interesting thing in Marseille was that the tourist department the city had marked a red line on the city streets which act as a trail guide for tourists. People can just follow that trail and it takes them to all the major attractions of the city without a map or guide. I found it to be a pretty novel idea. We then decided to follow that trail to see the city.

Marseille is an old port town with its history dating back 30,000 years. It was a port city founded by the Greeks and is today one of the largest cities of France. I think I will skip the history lesson and focus on the town. Marseille today has a large part of its population as immigrants from other countries mainly from North Africa. I would be frank in stating that some parts of the town were not really too great. They were dirty and not well maintained. But the main part of the town was clean and looked lovely. Here are some of the snapshots from the city: 

One can always notice the Cathedral of Notre Dame on a hill in the background from many places along the port.

A building (pic below) which caught my attention while walking on the streets of the main part of Marseille.

And the picture below from the labyrinth of the old part of the town. The old town had many interwoven small streets which I guess would be hard to even put on the map.

Now, coming from the Hindi speaking part of India, how could I not take a picture of this :) A theater sign which was pretty unique ! It amazes me sometimes how same words mean different things in different languages. And which can sometimes even be hilarious.

After lunch, the others left for their respective cities. I went to my hotel for check in. Apparently, my hotel was not too far from the basilica of Notre Dame. We did not visited it before since it was located almost out of the main touristic places in town. So, after taking a nap in my hotel, I hiked up to the small hill on foot to see the basilica. The basilica is situated on top of a hill overlooking the complete main town of Marseille. Unfortunately, by mistake I took the long path which was meant for cars although there existed a shorter path for people on foot. But, it was okay since I had no special plans after that.

The panoramic view from the top was breathtaking. I took some rest on a bench at the top, admiring the view of the port and around Marseille.  

The basilica was as beautiful on the inside as magnificent it was on the outside. High ceilings with domes and hand painted pictures of ships and voyages with beautiful mosaics. It was pretty unique. It also had some toy ships hanging from the ceilings which I found pretty cute considering that it was a basilica near a port town.

This is one of my favorite photos of the trip. There is something majestic I find about this composition. The unique cross with an anchor on the ground, the city of Marseille on the foothills with the vast sea in front of it and the light from the sun doing its tricks.  

The basilica had a huge open space around it with benches which give visitors a 360 degree view of the city from the top. After checking out the church from the inside, I decided to sit for a while on one of these benches. It was near the statue of the Passion of the Christ which seemed to have been carved out of a single stone. The expressions carved out on the stone were out of this world. I could not help but admire it for a long time.

After spending some time there, I headed back to my hotel. This time from the short cut !

P.S: It is quite a coincidence that the Lonely Planet bought by BBC now is also doing a feature these days on Provence here.


Neha said...

I was there a couple of years ago. The city was beautiful, lovely azure blue waters, sunshine but the locals were quite unfriendly and sadly, I am still stuck with that memory. said...

ohhh ... that doesn't sound too good. But what actually happened and where ? Just curious to know because we never felt that way. In fact this one time we stopped in the middle of nowhere with farms on both sides to buy cherries being sold by a guy sitting under a tree. To our surprise he was speaking good English and we had a nice chit chat with him :)

Neha said...

The incident happened at the Vieux Port area. I politely asked a man (in French) if he could take a photo of me near the water side and he rudely said something to me and then gave me a look like I was the scum of this earth and how had I even dared to speak to him.

And that's just one incident. said...

woaaaahhh ... that was a pretty rude behavior by the guy .. but I agree some areas were pretty shady .. specially walking from the train station towards the Vieux Port area :| I hope the memory of the scenic beauty of the place overtakes such harsh experiences of yours soon :)