Last July I had the opportunity to visit Marseille for the first time.
As it was in the family, we decided Didier and myself not to dive this time. To be sure not to break our promise, we have therefore left our certification cards and other dive gear at home.
After a stop in Tain-l’Hermitage to taste the wonderful wines of the region, we arrive in the “Cité Phocéenne” where we catch the children who join us by plane.
The sky is blue and the temperature outside is close to 32°C or 90°F.
Just to get used immediately to the country, we go to a small bar on the “Prado” beach sipping a pastis (actually, a Mojito for me as I hate the aniseed-flavoured taste) while waiting until the time our rooms are clean and neat at the hotel.
The sea in front of us spreads out and stretches like a call to the divers we are. We push the curiosity up to Les Goudes … the atmosphere is good and makes us want to go in the water but our luggage is still tidy in the trunk of the car.
This first evening, to set the tone for our Marseilles stay, we will admire the sunset from a magnificent point of view to the south of the city called la Gineste.
The five days that follow, we will visit Marseilles without yielding to the temptation of the sea. To be honest, I must admit that, resisting with difficulty, I proposed Didier to go for a “try scuba” with a local dive shop.
Needless to say, he wondered if it was the sun or the aperitifs that really knock me down to propose him this option. OK, I will have tried 😉
Once accustomed to the particular rules for driving in Marseilles; the traffic lights are not for two-wheeled vehicles (bicycles, motorbikes, …) and pedestrians must confuse them with decorative objects, … we decide to become real pedestrians during a few days 🙂
But what can we do in Marseilles if we do not dive?
Day 1 : Neighborhood of “Le Panier”
Take a walk, get lost a bit, have a drink all together, hang out in small shops, chat with shopkeepers specializing in soaps, make the waitresses of the restaurant smile with our Belgian expressions, …
Then head down towards “La Major” cathedral and enjoy for a moment its freshness and the view it gives to “Notre Dame” basilica on the other side of the port (and on the Planier in the distance … ah, bye bye, Chaouen, Dominique and other wonderful wrecks that are so close).
Then join the MUCEM and its incredible architecture so special. Discover the exhibitions disseminated in its modern building, drink a refreshment on the terrace of the top floor.
Take the MUCEM footbridge to the Panier district to taste a surprising black ice cream with lightly salted (iodized) vanilla at Vanille Noire, one of the most surprising ice cream shop in Marseille.
Day 2 : Beach of the Catalans and surroundings
We could watch the “Tour de France” that prevents us from leaving the area where we are staying.
We could get around in the heart of Marseille in a good-humored atmosphere, to climb up to the park of the “Pharo” and to admire the old harbor trying not to lose our caps because of the high wind named “mistral”.
We could visit the “Saint-Victor” abbey, go up to the “Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde” Basilica, climb thousands of steps (there were perhaps a little less) in this heat. Let our gaze get lost in the magnificent sunset by taking an improvised rosé and sausage aperitif.
And imagine the diving spots that just wait for us at the “Planier” or on the “Ile Mère” and dream of it.
Going back to the Pharo and eating in a magnificent little restaurant: the Baron Perché was surely one of our beautiful culinary discoveries of Marseille.
Day 3 : Visit the calanques
Bad luck for us, we were in Marseille when the fires were raging around “Bormes les Mimosas” and “La Monde les Maures”. As a security measure, all the creeks were forbidden to the public. We then decided to join Cassis and finally, instead of visiting the crowded city, we decided to hang around in a mini calanque near the creek of “Port Miou”.
The water refreshed by the Mistral sweeps the blood, some kids jumped from the rocks into the water, and we enjoy the picnic under the pines with this incredible view of the Mediterranean sea.
At the end of the day, we returned to Marseilles and get off at the old harbor in a Corsican restaurant Le 20260 with dreadfully good specialties.
Day 4 : Go on for an excursion on the “Frioul” Islands
Book the boat ticket the day before on the internet to avoid lining up. Sit outside to feel the wind and smelle the water. Watch Marseille from the sea and forget that we do not go diving. Feel the swell (but not too long of course). Dock on the islands and decide to walk up to the “Pointe de la Crîne” creek (magnificent stroll) rather than reach the more crowded beaches of the North of the island.
To picnic with local “Marseillais” and their singing accent.
To bathe protected from the wind and observe all these fishes (of course I had taken my mask with me). Return to the port to catch the boat and go back to Marseille. Finally decide that we have time and sip a Bloody Mary (Pastis for others, I still do not like aniseed-flavoured taste) quite expensive but so good along the dock.
In the evening, taste a wonderful “Bouillabaise” to recover from all this, just great time….enjoy !
Day 5 : Discover La Plaine
La Plaine is a well-known place of Marseilles. In the maze of narrow streets scattered around Place Jean-Jaurès, decide to go and have our last meal there. Go through the small squares and get lost in the streets. Stop for a moment to listen to the street musicians. Enjoy the smells of all the cuisines offered by restaurants as varied as colorful. Discover that we begin to catch the southern accent … but maybe not that much. Admire the many tags that color the fronts and walls of buildings. To sit a few steps of the “Cours Julien” in the restaurant l’Arôme and spend an absolutely unforgettable evening with a waiter as funny as professional who makes the show all by himself while we enjoy a meal worthy of a starred restaurant . Watch the sea one last time at night.
But was it really possible to resist diving while being in Marseille?
I am surprised myself but the answer is YES. For the first time, I spend a holiday by the sea without diving and, better than that, I was really happy to discover this city which seduces me.
Finally, this experience made me think that this destination is also of great interest for divers who travel with non-divers who will not have time to be bored during the stay 🙂
It is already time to leave. We take our luggage, leave the children at the airport and say good bye to this magnificent city of Marseille.
For sure, we’ll come back … for sure, we’ll dive there.
Good bubbles and do not forget to be happy 🙂
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