There are not many cities that are polar opposites, but Marseilles and Paris are exactly that. Marseilles is dirtier, poorer and rougher around the edges but it has an almost mystical charm – and most of all it doesn’t have Parisians .
A Walk through the City
Walking down the Canebière, the main street going down to the old harbour, you instantly notice the people, cars and trams that create a happy disarray – in contrast to that of Paris’s grand boulevards and chic shop windows. Le Marché des Capucins, the old market, is a bustling kasbah style market offering vegetables, meat, pastries and house supplies. There is cheap street food such as the Tunisian Fricassée – a deep fried roll which is stuffed with tuna, eggs, vegetables and wonderful sauces (the pumpkin sauce is mind blowing). Afterwards you can laze in a café sipping an “express” or a traditional Arabic coffee.
Just past the market is Le Musée Cantini, a museum dedicated to Modern Art that houses works from the likes of Kandinsky, Ozenfant and Le Corbusier. Best of all, it’s free for students!
Midday by the Harbour
The old harbour is filled to the brim with fishing boats, sailing and motor boats and surrounded by an endless array of cafes, sea food restaurants and shops. Though they can be quite expensive, there is nothing better than sitting with a Pastis staring at the port. From here, you can see tourists snail by, and old buildings with their cracked roofs surrounding the port, a result of centuries of mistral whips.
A Mediterranean Afternoon
Walking down the gardens, the white beaches beckon with lukewarm water and soft sand. It is worthwhile looking for those relatively quiet ones with a marvellous view. You can also find more touristy beaches where the sand is clean and the atmosphere is more relaxed.
An afternoon climb towards the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, which overlooks the entire city, is truly breath-taking. Local gardens where groups of men play Pétanque and drink beer provide a perfect rest-stop.
A Night in Marseilles
Now we come to the subject of Pastis. Nothing says Marseilles more than the cream coloured anise-flavoured drink. At Jean Juares or as the locals call, “Le Place”, there are many bars where young hipsters sit, talking about art, football, eating baguettes and drinking. Next to it is Coures Julien, a trendy square filled with shops and cafes where you can drink wine under the stars. Or go to Espace Julien, an alternative music venue featuring local and international talent which is a perfect way of ending the day or beginning a Marseilles night
Marseilles is a ‘real’ city, a port city, where sailors and fisherman live, work and get wasted on Pastis. Whenever you hear a Marseilles’s ‘salut’ you can almost hear its real meaning: “thank God we’re not in Paris”.