Postcards from Sunny
by Michael Morcos & Natalie Ayotte
Through rolling hills of charming design and a classic, distinctly French aura, Marseilles has just as much clout as Paris and perhaps even a little more beauty. It’s difficult not to feel completely at ease strolling the city streets, as the spirit and ambiance of this fantastic destination is almost always sophisticated, relaxed and aesthetically beautiful. Recently names the European Capital of Culture, Marseilles offers travellers a perfect introduction to France and all its culinary, artistic and entertainment facets.
Seeing Le Panier by foot
Steeped in historical magic, this old quarter of Marseilles boasts beautiful old-world features that can give a new guests a great overall feel for this city. Best experienced by foot, La Panier has been around for centuries, undergoing several transformations during world wars and changes in local culture. Today, people can roam the streets in search of art, admiring religious masterpieces of architecture and simple witness the world float by in a cozy café.
Not only is walking around Le Panier a wonderful time in itself, this neighbourhood is also bursting with boutique shops, stores and places to pick up souvenirs. Purchase some French fashion or artisan chocolates, then wander into one of the ice cream stories to indulge in a leisurely afternoon.
Noted modern touches
Most travellers venture to Marseilles for its traditional look and feel, but this award-winning destination is also making leaps and bounds in the world of innovation and progression. Although massive churches, enclaves, museums and independently owned restaurants are still the norm, nestled between these staples of Marseilles are new skyscrapers changing the overall city landscape. Piers once abandoned are now home to glass buildings and futuristic silhouettes.
A classic cuisine
When it’s time for a full meal, this city presents locals and tourist alike with a wide range of delectable French cuisine, as well as many other options in various disciplines. However, if a fan of fresh seafood, the traditional bouillabaisse made with five types of fish is a must-try on any Marseilles getaway. Pair this at the beautiful harbor side Miramar restaurant with starters such as foie gras with truffle or a dessert of dark chocolate mousse. Finish with some hearty local wine and choose from a selection of cigars at your leisure.
France is full of old chateaus and stuffy inns that are centuries old. While experiencing these might be worth it for a few days, Marseilles also had plenty of more modern selections for the artistic traveller with a keen eye for design. For instance, Mama Shelter has everything guests need to have an unforgettable and cozy stay, from on-site fresh restaurants to free movies. Rooms have been created in simple design to promote a flair for present day Marseilles and its love of stylish, yet uncomplicated space. Catering toward couples, families and everyone in between, Mama Shelter is an ideal choice for a new kind of accommodation in the city.
Immerse in artistic expression
No real French holiday can be complete without a visit to the local museum, often full of incredible masterpieces from around Europe in beyond. Recently, the National Museum in Marseilles, or MuCEM, has had a restoration and now sits on the waterfront and seems to blend in with its naturally beautiful background. Design allows for lots of natural light that seamlessly highlights the collection of paintings, statues, artifacts and more form around the Mediterranean and the world. Not to mention, the new part of the building is connected to an old fort, further illustrating the great strides this city had made to connect old with the new. Leave a bit of time for the lines to enter this museum, then don’t miss each special section, including architecture, religious icons, domestic items and much more.
The Marseilles Cathedral
One of the best ways to experience a new place is to get an overall lay of the land. Climb to the top of Marseilles Cathedral and soak up panoramic views of this giant urban sprawl. Those who have visited Notre Dame in Paris will be delighted to see no long lines and instead will have ample time to explore undisturbed.
Marseilles nautical side
It would be a shame not to climb aboard a sea-faring vessel at least once while in Marseilles. This can be done in the harbours or along quieter sides of the waterfront, but for a real adventure, sail out to the Calanques. These tower limestone rock formations cut through the blue sky and turquoise waters to create iconic looking natural wonders. They can be reached in a day through a guided boat tour. Upon arrival, soak up the sun and majestic views that stretch nearly 20 kilometres along the city’s water edge. Those feeling more adventurous can try some snorkeling or scuba diving nearby to catch a glimpse of the amazing marine life that call the calanques home. While above the water, keep an eye out for other forms of wildlife, such as the largest lizard in Europe- the Montpellier snake.
Out all night in Cours Julien
Touring, dining and boating during the day is a thrill, but Marseilles also shines bright at night. The trendiest spot to enjoy fun after the sun goes down is Cours Julien, where guests can spend hours marveling at all types of offered entertainment. Live music and theater are some of the biggest draws, either in large venues features popular rock bands or at more intimate fringe preforming spaces highlighting more local talent of the stage. DJs and other acts spin well into the night at bars and clubs, celebrating the city’s subculture among its young people. Although it’s mostly off the beaten path, more chefs, artists and other creative types are turning to this neighborhood to showcase their skills.
If in the neighbourhood during the day, make some time to peruse the markets full of fragrant flowers and other wares. Small streets also are covered in some impressive street art, splashed with incredible colours and creativity. Make sure to buy some signature olive oil soap as well in La Licorne that is a specialty in the area.
Libation-themed day trips
Of course the city has so much to do there is no reason to leave – besides the copious amounts of scenic vineyards that make for excellent day trips. Travellers can learn about the different varietals and the process winemakers have been perfecting in this region for years. Try areas such as Coteaux d’Aix, Luberon and Provence.
Marseille’s reputation is ever evolving, with many die-hard travellers falling in love every day. Experience best of both French world with centuries old decadence as well as amazing modern feats of present-day constructions. Most locals have a great sense of pride in their city by the water, which spills over into the hearts of its visitors as soon as they arrive.
Air France has daily flights to Marseille from Paris and departures from major Canadian cities. Air France and the SkyTeam Alliance offer 15,000 daily flights to 1,024 destinations in 178 countries and connections from the best hubs in the world. www.airfrance.com