Marseille and Cassis - "The beauty by the port".
Updated: Nov 10
Tell me please, which images are popping up in your mind when you think about Marseille?
The city in the South of France -Marseille, is famously worldwide for its tremendous port.
I heard many stories about Marseille before arriving there, which fueled my imagination. Mainly to do with its port, it has somehow created images of a city where sailors and fishermen are roving around the city, aiming to reach the sea and prepare to sail... I portrayed it as thrilling and rough and inspiring for writing.
I happened to be in this port a few years ago to take a cruise. I wrote a review about this.
I saw these unique huge ships ready to depart and the blue sea, in the horizon, but the city's structure, architecture, and culture remained a mystery.
Marseille - A Flamboyant city
End of September, in Paris, it was rainy and chilly all of a sudden, and I was pleased to know I would reach a hotter city.
I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I would have liked to discover the multiple facets of Marseille and learn about its creative tendencies.
I was especially interested to see the "street's art quarter".
I was advised to start my visit in Marseille in "Cour Julien" the alternative, arty district with variety of street art paintings.
After I dropped my suitcase in the charming hotel -Maison Montgrand, in the street of Montgrand, I headed to this trendy part of the city.
Marseille proclaimed its creative, psychedelic atmosphere: Narrow streets with walls covered by inventive paintings, loaded with vibrant energy, alternative shops, and cafés alongside traditional brasseries. I could easily picture Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali sharing a bottle of wine in one of these layback arty coffee bars.
It is a combination of Kreuzberg in Berlin and the hip quarter of Canal Saint -Martin in Paris. Maybe this is the reason, why so many Germans are attracted to Marseille, besides its lovely weather. ( I heard a lot of German on my weekend in Marseille and Cassis).
I had lunch in a distinctive restaurant, yet welcoming, with a cozy and warm courtyard, where it was most pleasant to sit and have the meal. (delicious food and a divine dessert). "La table du café " If you wish to open your visit to Marseille in a great restaurant, you will have some enjoyable moments there.
Marseille doesn't represent just an alternative art but a balanced fusion of old and new, wild and tidy. It is an historical city, charged with significant monuments
If you like the chic fashion shops, they are all in rue du Paradis, which leads you to the port.
The port of Marseille is pretty amazing. Not only did I see these vast cruise massive boats, but walking there, it felt that the heart of the old city lays here.
Walking around, I reached two imprtant Museums: The Mucem( Museum of the European civilization and the Mediterranean )and la Grotte Cosquer
The Museum Mucem has multiple exhibitions on different topics. I saw about Mediterranean cuisine and its origins.
The architecture of the building is very impressive, it is authentic and original. It is worth walking on the top, with a few dramatic sights of Marseille and its hills.
La Grotte Cosquer: This is an exhilarating prehistorical cave that the diver Henri Cosquer discovered in the '90s.
It is a fascinating witness to the human presence of two periods- 33,000 and 19,000 BC.
The complete reconstitution of the cave is breathtaking. This adventure is great for children and adults. It feels like going to an incredible adventure under the sea.
If you like to experience these sensations, it is a must.
Stepping out from the underground to a vision of a light blue sky encouraged me to explore this city and its sites even more.
With a little train, I went with other cheerful tourists. (Everyone seems to be in a good mood in Marseille) people were chatty and friendly.
The journey all along the sea provided some beautiful scenery.
The train took us to the Basilique " Notre dame de Garde" The beauty is so mesmerizing inside and outside that it leaves a strong impression. It has accompanied me during my stay.
We all have a favorite quarter in a city that when we discover it for the first time, we feel like Colombus finding America.
It was Le Panier in Marseille, just behind the port. I already liked the name Le Panier- it also means a basket.
You can imagine this district like a basket full of goodies. And there is in the entrance a very good and original artisanal Ice cream that you might consider to try- La Vanille Noir.
From alternative bars and shops to even a few charming boutiques of the well known soaps of Marseille, wine bars, a creperie, and an excellent coffee place all gathered in Le Panier.
There are original street art paintings abundantly displayed between the houses and on every street's corner. They are not only concentrated in the Cour Julien but also in Le Panier.
I loved the brave choice of the painters and artists. All styles are allowed ,Le Panier explodes of creativity.
I think Marseille could easily win the contest of being the city with the most smashing street art paintings in France, and maybe in whole Europe.
One of the most exciting buildings in Le Panier is: la Vieille Charité .
During the 17th century, it was a hospice for the old and the beggars. It turned into a museum with exhibitions of different painters over the years.
You would probably enjoy it even as I did, just sitting in the Café and absorbing this extraordinary atmosphere.
Especially when the sun sent its soft ray of light on a warm autumnal day.
Marseille is significantly cultural.
Another highlight of the city is the palace Longchamp.
A short drive with the tram, and you reach this monumental royal waterfall. I entered the Museum of Beaux Art beside it and saw some beautiful paintings, most of them are from Painters who lived in Marseille in former decades and painted it with passion and devotion, Many of the paintings treated the theme of the pest, from the periods of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, that affected especially important port cities such as Marseille.
Cassis - a cinematic town
If Marseille has these edgy and alternative vibes, Cassis is marvelously romantic and is made to be filmed. If Marseille is the sailor, Casis is his Mermaid...
Casis is a fairy tell town.
When i strolled there, it is was as if i watched a movie at the same time.
Cassis, this melodic and appetizing name, in French, when you pronounce the letter s, at the end, means blackcurrant. The trick is that you don't vocalize it when you refer to Cassis, a gorgeous town, (40 minutes drive from Marseille). It doesn't mean the fruit but still it has a lovely association to it.
As the bus approached the town, the picturesque landscape was revealed - The arrangements of the vegetation and the elegant houses, along with the sea's scenery.
We dined in an excellent" Clos des Aromes" restaurant in the evening, with a festive court and sophisticated dishes of French refined cuisine.
During the day, I explored Cassis, there was plenty to discover.
It is interesting how a port can have several "moods" through out the day and night. It was constantly moving and changing with the colour of the water.
In Marseille, it is massive, and in Casis, it is an impressionist drawing.
One of the must-see sights in Cassis is the Calanques.
There are regularly boats that take you to see them.
They are like rocks in different geometrical shapes in the sea. It is fascinating to watch them, as each has its specific character. I loved the journey in the sea and discovering them one by one.
Walking in the center of town is very relaxing. The houses are lovely, and often they would be decorated with flowers and plants. I loved to walk slowly in these romantic lanes.
It is pretty compact, and you can stop in a shop to buy local products. I bought a delicious honey. There are many kind of sophisticated boutiques.
Each Friday morning, there is the market, and it is multicoloured and lively.
There are various specialties choices, and it is also pleasant just to look around.
I got a lovely ornamented basket, typically Mediterranean. It would remind me, Cassis with its cheery green and blue colours, The market is an occasion to bump into the locals or into the many tourists who visit Cassis.
The Art Museum of popular traditions is right besides the market.
Located in the square Baragnon, it has archeological pieces as paintings. They bring the sunny and wholesome universe of the Mediteranean.
When I visited this Museum, there was an exhibition of the painter Jean Dries, a French painter from the 19th century. (It is still running till the 29 of October
You can see the influences of Van Gogh or Cezanne in his drawings.
The Museum always has contemporary as permanent exhibitions, and I loved the contemplative world it offered me beside the busy market.
Heights and Cassis Wine
Do you sometimes feel slightly drunk, being in an uplifting spirit, after having a few glasses of wine? you suddenly loose the attachment to the ground.
In Cassis, I literally experienced it.
We drove on the road called " la route de Crêtes." It is a path that takes you up to the highest point, where you can have a panoramic view of Cassis.
It was a spiritual adventure.
I visited a winery, located on the way, named poetically , " La Dona Tisagana".It was the first stop.
The adorable Canelle Tisagana, whose family owns the domain, explained, with lightness and knowledge, the procedure of making the wine, showing us the different rooms and the containers of the wine.
The specialty of their wine is white, so I put aside my love for red wine and immersed myself in the white wine's flavour. Its sweetness corresponded very well with the soft flair of Cassis.
We reached after the visit the pic of the cliff that allowed me to get this incredible scenery.
I noticed a couple standing below nearly on the edge, clinging to the rock, weren't they afraid? and a mountain climber crawling with ropes to reach the top.
I was content to stay in safety with a bit of a distance and enjoy the nature's masterpiece.
The sun continued to spread its warmth and brightened on the last day.
The port and the sea were sparkling in the mid-day sunshine. I had a delicious lunch in a traditional restaurant, " la Vieille Auberge." they serve traditional hearty French cuisine, with a variety choices of fishes in the menu.
They are famous for their dessert, a baked apple with caramel sauce and ice cream, which was a gratifying closure for my stay.
Marseille and Cassis - They are renowned for being famous seaside cities, but after reading my review, I hope you will experience all the prosperity they offer.
Accommodation in Cassis. I stayed in au Coeur de Cassis. Right in the center, A renovated hotel, where you will feel very comfortable and relax. The stuff are attentive and caring.
A special thanks to Christine Francia- The Press manager of Cassis Tourism Office
and Anne Dallapotra - The press manager of Marseille Tourism Office.
Here are two more lovely coffee places where, you might have a pose and relax.
Pictures credit- Niva Josef