The famous calanques or creeks, stretch north from Marseille, along the Med reaching a pinnacle at Cassis. However, some of those close to the main city are not too bad. Wally directed us along the Boulevard J.F.Kennedy and past numerous restaurants, bars and beaches to Les Goudos.

Les Goudos is secluded, has a tiny restaurant (closed out of season) on one of the little peninsulas and another pub in the village – and a few seasonal restaurants. Plenty of holiday homes.

A view of one of the calanques

 

A view of the village from one of the peninsulas

 

 

 

Inside he Notre Dame. The striped marble effect is reminiscent of many of the Cathedrals in Malta – it should be as it was some of the Knights of St John who moved from Marseille to Malta.

 

High up overlooking the busy city of Marseille is the Notre Dame de la Garde – the symbol of Marseille. Originally built in 1214, this version was consecrated in 1864.

It’s one heck of a walk up from the Old Port, but there are many  bus services and a largish parking lot for cars. We chose the latter, the Fort, MuCEM and surrounds had tired the pins out somewhat.

Sculpture of Christ in the Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille

 

A view from the hilltop of dense Marseille. The ‘official’ population of Marseille is only 859,000 – but closer research reveals that it’s the inner Marseille they talk about. Move out a little and it’s well over 1 million.

 

Another peep…..

The Fort has many passages leading to exhibitions, exhibits.

 

Visiting the Fort requires some stiff walking. Wally was heard to remark that we would have thighs the size of Arnold Swartzenegger when we finished the day!

 

Massive sculpture at the Fort.

 

Fort Saint-Jean was built on a site earlier occupied by the Military Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Saint John, from which the new building deprived its name. Fort Saint-Nicholas was constructed at the same time on the opposite side of the harbour. Commenting on their construction, Louis XIV said, “We noticed that the inhabitants of Marseille were extremely fond of nice fortresses. We wanted to have our own at the entrance to this great port.” In fact, the two new forts were built in response to a local uprising against the governor, rather than for the defence of the city: their cannons pointed inwards towards the town, not outwards towards the sea.

Two earlier buildings were incorporated into the structure of the fort: the twelfth century Commandry of the Knights Hospitalery of Saint John Jerusalem, which served as a monastic hospice during the crusades; and the fifteenth century tower of Rene 1, King of Provence.

In April 1790 Fort Saint-Jean was seized by a revolutionary mob who decapitated the chevalier de Beausse, commander of the royal garrison, when he was captured after refusing to surrender the fortress. During the subsequent French Revolution the fort was used as a prison, holding many famous French kings and aristocrats.

Inside the walls of the Fort, a tiny Chapel now used for exhibitions

 

View of Marseille Old Port from the Fort

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries Fort Saint-Jean was in the possession of the French Army, who utilised it as a barracks and clearing station for the Army of Africa. During the years when the French Foreign Legion was based mainly in North Africa (1830 to 1962), the fort was a final stop-off point for recruits for the Legion destined for basic training in Algeria.

Another Church with a view from the Fort, encircled by Marseille’s busy traffic

 

Inside the Fort

 

A particular favourite – the cloisters

 

Superb renovation, stone cleaning and repairs

During World War II Fort Saint-Jean was occupied by the German military in November 1942. In August 1944 during the liberation of Marseilles, the explosion of a munitions depot within the fort destroyed much of its historic battlements and buildings. Although returned to the French Army, Fort Saint-Jean remained in a neglected and disused state until it was passed to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in 1960. Classified as a historical monument in 1964, the damaged portions of the fort were reconstructed between 1967 and 1971.

To-day it is a masterpiece of renovation, history and culture.

 

Part of the entrance to MuCEM.

 

When it was announced that Marseille was to be ‘European Cultura Capital 2013’, there were a number of raised eyebrows. How could that dirty port, teeming with factional fighting and disjointed streets, become a ‘Cultural Capital?’ Marseille is one of civilization’s oldest cities, a melting pot of various cultures and influences, a huge harbour, a major rail junction, and, in nearby dormitory suburb of Aubagne, houses the (in) famous French Foreign Legion Headquarters. It is said that Gendarmerie will do anything to avoid a posting to Marseille – the gang fights are a bit violent for their sensitive stomachs.

Well, the City Fathers of France’s second city have proved their detractors wrong. And, what an asset to the community, they have developed.

After hearing numerous reports, we gathered up Wally and headed off for the Old Port and a spanking new parking garage which opens up on to a wide piazza housing the MuCEM (The Museum of Christian and European Civilization) and futuristic Convention Centre – all looking towards one of the four Notre Dame’s in Marseille, the ferry terminal and surrounded by the azure Mediterranean sea.

The Notre Dame – seriously spruced up. This used to be in the middle of a wasteland.

Grey coloured concrete bridges link this area with the Old Port Marina and numerous restaurants, and also the Fort of St Jean, a Marseille landmark, which itself has undergone a remarkable facelift. complete with sculptures, local herb-inspired gardens and decorative elements using the local materials. Talk about a renovation!

The Convention Centre from Fort Saint-Jean.

Concrete lattice work covers the entire MuCEM, and a glass walkway encircles the building.

The Old Port is somehow cleaner, more ordered and the restaurants have lifted the bar. We had often regarded them as a bit of a rip-off, serving pre-packaged boullabaisse at a hefty price. We went to the busiest restaurant, had a more than acceptable pasta and salad, were served by a friendly, charming waiter and a great experience was had by all.

Simon and Wally outside the MuCEM.

 

Typical fare at the St Remy-de-Provence market

 

Pure Provence

 

Bastide les Amis, Luberon.

We brought the rose – Chateau Fontvert Apolline. Madame was happy!

 

We braved the biting wind and popped into St Remy before the market wound down completely, with a view to visiting our favourite baguette and roast chicken man on the Town Square and then moving off to Clos St Paul for a much-needed picnic.

Initial disappointment at finding our friend missing in action – too cold, probably – faded as we  walked through the newly paved streets to find a new gourmet foods take-away: La Pintade Chaponnee. Situated in the main lane going into the old village, Rue Carnot, the shop is in a little cavern and boasts all kinds of delicacies to take-away, as well as some high end wine and olive oil.

As it was market day, we had to have the traditional roast chicken but a few more other sides………. delicious! This place is going to be very popular!

Our picnic spread. Chicken and salad wraps; roast chicken (small), bean salad, roasted aubergines and peppers.

 

Part of the spread in the shop

 

More of the display

La Pintade Chaponee – La Boutique des Gourmets. 57 rue Carnot, St Remy-de-Provence. Tel: 04 90 94 66 65. You can email your order to philomy@orange.fr if you wish.

A great little selection of chicken and quail eggs – Coustellet market, Luberon

Madame went a-painting. First lessons, and a great result.

The commencement.

 

How’s this!!! Brilliant!!

 

Another one. Acrylics have been purchased, the dining room table is in danger of being turned inot an art studio – watch this space!

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