A Travellerspoint blog

Day 15 Lyon, Samedi 21 Août 2010 - To Lyon

sunny 35 °C
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Our last day in Marseille and later today, in the afternoon, we head off to Lyon by train.

It is already 21 degrees at 8:20 am. You can feel the humidity as you start to perspire even though you just had a shower. That was me last night when it was cooler.

It was very hard to get to sleep last night as it was extremely humid and still hot out at midnight. The air conditioner was still not working and we had left the doors open as well as left the fan running much of the night. We forced ourselves to get some sleep around 1:00 am and set the alarm for 7:30 am. This morning we needed to get up, pack everything and get to breakfast promptly at 8:30 am. Our plan was to do some more sight seeing and some shopping before we had to lug all of our luggage to the train station. Amazingly, I got everything packed. I said to Margy I am just waiting for my suitcase to burp and then explode. I now have one extra bag due to the addition of three bottles of vino. Thanks Jason for your suggestions about more wine. I will just pay the tax.

We went to have our breakfast promptly at 8:30 am. We met our hostess who is a very nice lady and has only lived in Marseilles for the past 1 ½ years. We had our breakfast and packed up our last bits and pieces.

Took a few last pictures of our surroundings as the antiques were just great. Our hostess said that she couldn’t help herself and loved buying old things. I really understand how she feels.

They even have a smaller fridge made by Bosch and it looks like it is from the 50's or 60's and it still works. Our host was quite proud of this.

We left everything in their foyer as we were coming back at 1 pm to collect it all. We had to be there at that time as that is when the housekeeper leaves. Our host and hostess were away for the weekend and left just after breakfast.

We headed out at 10 am to Cours Julien which is the artsy neighbourhood. The word “cours” means courtyard. We had gone to the Italian restaurant on that street on the day that we arrived in Marseille.

Today it was quiet and a few shops were open. As well there was the odd person with a stand selling fruits and vegetables.

We ended up going into a store that is like a combo hardware and dry goods store called . At home it would be like an Army & Navy as they carried some quality products. Quite a few Mr./Mrs. Men items as well as underwear. They sold Dim as well as Shock Absorber. Thank you so much Laura E. for introducing Shock Absorber to me.

Got a phenomenal deal on Shock Absorber bras at 9.90€ each. They only had about 5 bras and two were in my size. Also got some Shock Absorber underwear at just 5.50€ each. Shopping luck!! The bras retail for $40 to $50 Cdn. back home.

We then headed back to Savonnerie Marseillaise de la Licorne for 11 am as that is when there would be a free guided tour of the soap factory. www.soap-marseille.com.

It was most interesting to see how the soaps are made. All their soaps are made with the old machines in the traditional way and in smaller batches. They export a lot of their product and also produce soap for weddings as the token gift to guests. They sold a wide variety of soaps as well as gift packages of soaps.

After the soap tour we walked towards the port and went to the tourism office to get a map of Marseille for me that was in English.

We also found a large food market like the one we frequented in Nice. This one had all the similar items as well but more food and less gift items. There were also some sweets that appeared to be Middle Eastern. Wasps swarmed everywhere even though much of the sweets were covered up with saran wrap.

At this market there was a large variety of ethnicities, all here for one thing, the freshest and best food possible.

After this we did pop into the Monoprix. Nice enough store. Did not find anything spectacular in this one. I expect that the Paris one will have more to offer. We have noticed that prices are much cheaper in Marseille than they were in Nice. My St. Tropez sandals which were a standard 39€ in Nice are 10€ cheaper here. It was just chance that I even saw them, as I never saw them in another store in Marseille, but they were readily available everywhere in Nice.

Stopped for a bathroom break at La Canbiere restaurant. Orangina for me and an espresso for Margy. This was a bit of an odd establishment as it had a bar as well as a tobacco shop.

Did more shopping and poked our heads into more stores before we got back to the Pension Edelweiss for 12:40 pm. The temperature was now a sweltering 35 degrees. When perspiring, the sweat would get in your eyes and burn just a bit.

We got to the train station at shortly before 1 pm. There were massive steps to get to the top of the train station but there were also escalators around the other side. With all that we had to take, we used the escalators. You would never know that the stairs led to a train station as there were amazingly beautiful statues and the light standards were decorated beautifully.

We went to sit in the very nice air conditioned waiting area. We then turn turns going out to purchase our lunch in one of the many restaurants in the Gare Marseille.

I had my first McDonalds in France and it was amazingly good. Maybe I was just really hungry but I don’t think so. The last time I had McDonalds was in Hawaii 2 ½ years ago and it felt like a lump in my gut. The fries were crisp if a tad on the salty side. Burger was good with meat not dried out, lettuce, cheese and a good hunk of tomato and Dijon like mayo/mustard combo. I had the New York burger. And just because I had a Coke Zero to wash it all down. Much better than I expected and I really liked it. Maybe I am a little hung over? Anyways cost was 7.20€ and had an Asian cashier even. There was also a McCafé right next to the McDonalds. The McCafé was not just any coffee shop, it was a gourmet French one. You could get several different types of macaroons as well as tiramisu. Check out pictures.

We then went to the baggage storage area to retrieve my one suitcase and carry bag. We were able to store the suitcase and carry bag at this train station as we were taking a train going in the same direction as the one we had previously arrived on. We won’t be able to do this in Lyon.

Now we had luggage, three suitcases, two backpacks and three smaller bags to carry. We were loaded down, and no they were not all mine although most were. I packed light for this trip but I have done a lot of shopping. I have stimulated the economy here in France as much as I have been able.

After that just chilling and blogging while we wait for our train to depart. Margy has gone to find out what platform we need to board from. We were boarding on platform H and at the very end of the train which was like walking a good 2 long blocks. Trains are very long here in order to carry as many passengers as they do.

Posted by Sydney324 14:47 Archived in France Comments (0)

Day 14 Marseille, Vendredi 20 Août 2010 - Chez Loury

sunny 26 °C
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We boarded the earlier ferry leaving at 6:50 pm from the Frioul Islands going to Marseille.

Our next destination is Chez Loury for dinner at 8 pm. Here is where we will have our bouillabaisse.

After we got off the ferry at the port we walked past a Nicolas which is a specialized wine and liquor store in France. We each purchased some wine. I bought a rose and a red to bring back home as well as a Cassis rose to have with Marc and Margy in Strasbourg or Durstel.

We arrived at the restaurant around 7:40 pm and were able to be seated earlier. We each ordered aperitifs. Margy ordered the pastis (anise liqueur) which is popular in this area. You drink it watered down as the taste is quite strong. I was a chicken and just stuck to a beer but I did try some of Margy’s. Too licorice for me. We ordered a bottle of white wine from Cassis which is a city not too far from Marseille to have with dinner. We shared the terrine which was a family recipe and fantastic. Perfect texture and consistency. Our main courses were bouillabaisse which was most tasty and enjoyable. Very reasonably priced here as well at 19€ for the basic one and around 40€ for the full one.

Originally we were not planning to order dessert, but after all my wine, I decided I would like something sweet. We asked for dessert menus and they never came so we decided to forget it. This came up when we were asked why we did not order dessert and then the waiter brought us a foursome of Provence sorbets (made with herbs) on the house. Very unique as the flavours were lavender, mint, thyme and verbena.

We walked home from the restaurant with our loot, wine that is, as Margy also purchased two bottles and we got back around 10:00 pm. Shortly to bed as we have our last day tomorrow am.

This is our last evening in Marseille and it was wonderful to see the other side of him. Marseille has much natural beauty that should not be missed, along with amazing manmade monuments.

Definitely worth the visit. Just because he looks uncouth from the outside does not mean that his soul is deep and well worth the investigation.

Posted by Sydney324 23:18 Archived in France Tagged food Comments (0)

Day 14 Marseille, Vendredi 20 Août 2010 - Chateau d'If and

Frioul Islands

sunny 28 °C
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We arrived on the island of Chateau d'If at about 2:30 pm.

It cost 5€ to go into Chateau d'If prison.

There is a verbal information session available in French only. Margy listened while I sat there, smiled and faked it.

Got to see the cell where Edmond Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned as well as that of the Man in the Iron Mask. Will now have to get to the movie on the latter as I have it but have yet to watch it.

Names of the other prisoners were noted above their cells. The brother of the King of Poland being one of them.

Displays were in what was once the prison cells. Televisions are set up showing clips from the various movies made of the Count of Monte Cristo. Another couple of walls tell you all about the places in the US and the world called Monte Cristo.

There was information on Alexandre Dumas, author of the Count of Monte Cristo.

At the very top of Chateau d'If is a dome made of stone that is quite flat. What is so remarkable about it is when you stand in the centre, everything you say echos, but only you hear it.

We got back on the ferry at shortly after 5:30 and got off on the island of Foulis. We didn't walk very far before we saw a sign directing us to a calanque called Morgeret. The calanque is like a cove where there are cliffs on both sides with a beach. It's rocky and there were several boats listing in the calanque. Margy went for a swim. I happily put my feet and legs into the water. I soaked up more sun, blogged and daydreamed.

When I was in my later teens I had a very vivid dream of sitting high up on very white cliffs overlooking a beautiful azure blue sea. I'm living my dream. I should be covered in bruises from pinching myself to see if it's real.

Bliss, pure and simple. Life doesn't get much better than this.

It is now 6 pm and Margy is writing some postcards. I just woke up about 10 minutes ago from yet another snooze. It is so relaxing and I can fall asleep anywhere. Just laid down on the rocky beach with legs in the water and dozed off.

We will head off soon as we have reservations for amazing bouillabaisse at a restaurant in the port of Marseilles.

Posted by Sydney324 15:20 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day 14 Marseille, Vendredi 20 Août 2010 - Notre Dame

sunny 28 °C
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We woke up without an alarm at shortly before 9 am. Got dressed and went to have breakfast with the other guests. And what a breakfast it was. There was coffee, tea or juice to drink, a large variety of jams including nutella. Yogurt and a really good granola that contained coconut, dried berries and tasted great. Fresh loaves of bread as well and two different types. I also tasted what a real croissant is supposed to taste like. When we arrived a father and his young son had just finished eating.

There was so much to look at as well. Our host obviously enjoyed collecting antiques and had a lot of vintage items such as salt and pepper shakers, pictures, china and furniture. He was busy in his kitchen which had all glass windows facing the dining room.

Shortly after, we were joined by an older couple speaking French. A short time after a younger couple. Breakfast was included in our stay and served daily from 830 to 10:30.

Had an uninvited guest, a bee that just didn't want to go. It went into my empty juice glass
where another guest put a glass on top and then set our friend free out the window.

We walked to port and before getting there I spotted a book I wanted to buy. Something special I did not expect to see.
Got to our bus stop and took the 60 bus to Notre Dame. Trip time was short, 10 to 15 minutes which was good as we were slow to get going. I couldn’t believe it but I happily dozed on the short trip there. I had had a good night’s sleep and felt rested. Maybe the heat as it was very hot and humid.

Arrived at Notre Dame just before 12 and so we were fortunate to hear the church bells ring.

Notre Dame is definitely the highlight of Marseille. It sits atop what must be the highest point in the city. You get a 360 panoramic view of Marseille.

Notre Dame de la Garde means "Lady of the Guard". "It was built in 1214 when Master Peter came to live as a hermit on the hill of the Guard. In 1218 he built a chapel which he dedicated to 'Our Lady of the Guard'". At the very top is a gold statue of our blessed mother carrying her son. The statue was added on June 21, 1931.

You can see the Notre Dame from everywhere in Marseilles.

Although a hot day and at least 27 to 30 degrees out, there was nice breezes as well as lots of shade.

Inside we saw the most beautiful church ever. Very lucky to be here for certain.

We also went to the crypt. Here it was stuffy and warm with all the lit candles. To me, it felt rather suffocating. You could feel the sadness and loss. I actually had a nightmare last night. I dreamt that I was in search of a yoga class but couldn't seem to find the right one. I didn't want to pay to go to my old studio and I couldn't sneak in. My surroundings were the old Woodwards on East Hastings and that general area. It was seedy and I met an old woman who inferred that she was there to grieve and feel sorrow. I said to her I was also grieving. She said that she could see my sorrow. In my dream I felt trapped and suffocated there, and couldn't wait to get away. Strange to have dreamed this.

It was another beautiful hot sunny day. Temperature here is much like Paris as it is also quite humid. Today it was at 83%.

Back to the port at 1:30 pm and then we got tickets to go to Chateau d'If and two other nature islands.

While waiting for our boat going to Chateau d'If we bought Donair Kebabs at a place called La Mediterranee for 4.80€ each. Not bad for fast food but the meat which was moist and juicy lacked seasoning. At least it was not over salted.

Posted by Sydney324 14:45 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day 13 Nice, Jeudi 19 Août 2010 - To Marseille

sunny 28 °C
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I am now just a day over half way through my amazing trip to France. Blessed is how I feel and am.

We got up very early today as our train leaves Nice at 8:35 am.

Had some raspberries, tea, piece of bread and cheese. Margy finished off milk with muesli and had raspberries and tea. Ate our last two tomatoes, cheese and slice of bread on train.

Tough getting up so early but I remind myself that I can and often nap. Napping is something I never did until I had children. With children you learn to adapt and so when they slept, so did I. When my oldest was about 2 years old, I napped while he went through my jewellry box, put on purple eyeshadow and tore record albums. I learned to stay awake when he was.

Anyways, I digress. At shortly after 7:30 am, we checked out of Hotel Paradis, which was a great place to stay. Walked our luggage to the tram and then it was just two stops to the train station. We arrived at the train station just before 8 am. Lots of time before our train to Marseille leaves.

This train was a little tougher to board as it was higher than the platform and had a couple of steps up. Margy enlisted a young man wearing a lavender polo shirt with a matching purple suitcase to lift our two bags up.

We did have the option is using a porter, as there was a guy with a red t-shirt indicating who he was. It seems that elevators at the train stations are virtually non-existent and sometimes not even escalators.

We were lucky he came along and also that we didn't have to go to a different level to board the train. It was right outside the door.

Margy is sitting a little further ahead and I am at the back to guard our luggage. It's probably safe, but why take the chance. It's quite comfortable here. The trip is making several stops and will arrive in Marseille in about 2 3/4 hours.

Sleepy as I type this blog. It is now almost 9 am. Read, slept and looked at where and what I wanted to see in Marseille.

Train arrived at station. To save wear and tear on us we left one of my suitcases as well as a bag at the train station in the baggage storage. You choose either a small, medium or large storage and pay a flat rate for 3 days. Our cost was a mere 4€ for a time saving solution. All the luggage is scanned by machine before it is allowed to be stored. Great security.

Margy then figured our way out of the train station and I followed. We walked about 4 or 5 blocks and then found the Pension Edelweiss. Just 4 guestrooms above the owner. Very nice rooms and beautifully decorated with antiques. We are most spoiled to be staying here. Everything is clean, nicely furnished and well thought out. Our host showed us where we have breakfast and gave us information on what to do while in Marseille as well as where to eat. He even kindly made reservations for us at two restaurants. One of which we went to tonite.

Marseille is the second largest city in France and the country’s number one port. It has been called France’s New Orleans. I have never been to New Orleans, but there is definitely a different feel in Marseilles than in either Paris or Nice. It does not even feel like we are in France. Many of the parts that we have walked in are dirty and slum-like.

The energy in Marseille is different and I cannot quite put my finger on it. There is more of a sense of urgency and an air of unexpected. An almost underlying bad boy attitude. It is a don’t mess with me attitude that you feel.

The population in Marseille is quite the melting pot and perhaps that has something to do with the dynamics of the city. A quarter of the population is of North African descent. It appears that there are a lot of mixed races here and the people are more vocal and less reserved than in Paris.

Many of the streets are much wider and although there are many narrow streets, there are also enough wide ones and they are not all covered in furniture and restaurants as they were in Nice. In Paris you had so many cafes.

As it is much dirtier here in Marseille, you see a lot more dog poop on the ground. You would think people would worry about disease as a result of all this poop. I don’t know, I just don’t get it, I never dreamed that France would have so much poop. I knew that it is a nation of dog lovers, but I assumed that the nation would clean up after their animals. How could the country with such beautiful fashion ad so much glamour be so dirty?

At about 1:15 pm we arrived for lunch at La Goulette which is about 6 blocks or so from the hotel. This is the place to go for couscous as recommended by our host. Margy had a vegetable one and I the lamb. Jer, you would have loved it. Lamb shank with a flavourful stew on the couscous. Carrots, cabbage, radish were the main, if not the only vegetables in it. Sauce came separately in a bowl with a ladle so that your couscous did not get soggy. Had water for a change, with our meal. We didn’t have a choice as there was no alcohol to be purchased here. Both could not finish as the couscous was too filling. Meal was very reasonable at 7.50€ for mine and 6.00€ for Margy’s.

Currently in Marseille there is an exposition called “Cool Globes – Marseille 2010”. It is a series of globes that have been done up with a theme. Similar exposition back home and it was neat to see one here. We found at the port, all the places where you can take a boat to see Chateau d’If as well as other islands. We also found the little train that took tour groups around. Also found the place where the buses are.

We then went to walk down towards the Vieux-Port. Large number of boats, but different than the other ports, as these appear to be full of working boats and we also saw many sailboats. The harbour was overflowing with boats.

Along the port is a semi faded red line and if you follow the red line it takes you through the highlights of the old part of Marseille. The line breaks off here and there and we followed it as much as we could.

We also walked along La Canebière which is the main street. My Frommer’s guide book says that during World War II it was known as “can of beer” by the GI’s. Also that it is the heart and soul of Marseille, and that it is the seediest main street in France.

While we were walking along the streets we came upon La Compagnie de Provence where we bought some soaps and lotion products made in Marseille. Afterwards we needed a break and went next door to a little cafe called “Cup of Tea” for a Corsican beer each. I had a white one and Margy had a regular one. Both were great and hit the spot. Temperature at this time was a breezeless 27 degrees or higher. It was hot.

We then walked up the winding streets to get to La Vieille Charité which is a historical monument. It is one of the loveliest works by Pierre Puget built between 1671 and 1745. Originally used to house the poor and homeless, then as a hospice during the 19th century and as military barracks in the 20th century.

The central chapel is one of the most beautiful French baroque buildings. It is made from rose coloured stone. Here there were some lovely marble statues inside. It houses some permanent and temporary exhibits. As well there are a few museums on the grounds.
On the way back to our hotel we passed a lot of shops as well as restaurants. Quite a few on one block were Asian businesses.

We walked past one alley and there was a market there that did not resemble anything I have seen in France. It looked much more like it was something out of an Indian Jones movie. I was just waiting for Indy to jump out from behind some carpets with his whip and hat.

We wound our way back to our hotel by following the tram line in part, had showers, got cleaned up and headed out for dinner at about 7:30 pm. I put on a new dress bought in Nice with my silver St. Tropez sandals.

We had dinner at La Cantinetta which was a good and reasonably priced Italian restaurant recommended to us by our host. It was about 6 or 8 blocks from our hotel. Our host kindly made reservations for us for this evening at 7:45 pm. We shared a roquette and parmesan which is an argula and parmesean salad. Good salad and I guess as Margy said, like a Caesar salad but without the heavy cream dressing. Excellent breads as they were all homemade and still warm. There was a long plastic package of Grissino Torinese which are thin bread sticks. We each had one at our place setting upon arrival.

A half carafe of red wine to go with our main courses. Margy had the lasagne and I had the gnocchi. My gnocchi was one of the better ones that I have had, but I still think the one that Margy had in Nice was the best gnocchi I have ever had. It was the perfect texture and lightness. We enjoyed our wine, meals and conversation and it was the right portions. I had the tiramisu and it was one of the best ones I have had although I have to say my own is pretty fantastic. This one had enough coffee and chocolate in it and it wasn’t too creamy.
Dinner was reasonable. Our entrees were 14€ and 13€ with our salad at 6€ and tiramisu at 6€ and our wine was 8€. Total including tax and tip was 47.00. Staff were most efficient and food came fairly quickly but you were never rushed to leave even though the place was full.
One thing I neglected to mention but is most important is that we sat in the garden in the back of the restaurant. There were tables in the restaurant as well as a fair sized garden out back where we sat and enjoyed our meal. We had to walk down a flight of stairs to the garden. It was quite lovely. If staying longer in Marseille we would probably go back.

Back to the hotel by 9:40 or so and relaxing and figuring out what we are going to do for tomorrow as that is our only full day in Marseille.

After writing everything above about Marseille I now have an apt description of Marseille. Marseille is an angry teenager that just wants to be understood and loved.

Posted by Sydney324 14:26 Archived in France Comments (0)

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