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Bonjour Marseille et Nice Encore (Hello Marseille and Nice Again)

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
This will be a shortish trip report. I am writing it after the fact and I don’t take notes during a trip. I travel with my mobile not a laptop.

When the opportunity arose for a quick trip to Europe, I leaped. Ron was in Maastricht, Netherlands so we decided on a return trip to Nice once his work was finished. We hadn’t been back since spending a month there 6 years ago. I kept a blog then which many of you have read but have gotten lazier about writing. I decided to spend 3 days in Marseille on my own and then meet up with Ron in Nice. I had wanted to go to Marseille for some time. As France’s second largest city and a major port, I knew it was different from Paris. Grittier and livelier in some ways. I truly didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised. I booked myself into a small hotel facing the port. I chose the tiniest room up 4 flights of steep stairs. The window opened to a lovely view of the port. Despite warnings on TA, the elevator worked and after the 1st night, I took it going up. It was a godsend as the neighbourhoods are steep. The hotel had a small cafe where breakfast was served. In the evening, it was a lively bar frequented by locals. Although it served only bar food(bread and cheese, cold meats, etc), I had my evening meal there. It was easy and I couldn’t cope with keeping track of restaurant hours.

I enjoyed my stay in Marseille. The port was a busy place frequented by locals and many tourists. There were tons of boats in the harbour. Some fishing vessels and others pleasure crafts. It wasn’t as gritty as I had anticipated. I walked around the waterfront several times and saw fisher folk bringing in their catch and repairing their boats on one side and hotels and restaurants, tourist trains and tour boats on the other side. I walked up to the Le Panier neighbourhood, just behind the harbour. It is an older neighbourhood being gentrified with many cafes and artist studios. I was surprised at how late shops opened in Marseille. I was desperate for a coffee and had to wait till 10am before I found an open cafe.

What was a revelation was MUCEM.(Museum of Mediterranean and European People). Infused with EU money, it opened in 2013 when Marseille was designated the cultural capital of Europe. It is housed in a simply stunning building built of “stone, water and wind.” It is at one end of the harbour that connects to a 17th century fort. It is a remarkable structure making incredible use of its location facing the Mediterranean. There is a long footbridge built over the sea connecting the building to the old fort. There are many different seating areas also facing the sea. I spent the entire day there and felt I could go back. I didn’t even see all of the museum as I enjoyed the many outdoor spaces so much.

All in all I enjoyed my short stay in Marseille but was also happy to board the train for Nice.

I had booked a small apartment through Airbnb in one of my favourite areas, close to Garibaldi Square and the Port. I later learned that our street, Bonaparte, is considered the hippest in Nice. Lol, we’re such hipsters. It was certainly chock a block with cafes. Thank goodness our bedroom was in the back and we didn’t get much carousing noise. On our last trip, we had visited many of the towns and villages you could get to by public transport. This time we decided to stay in Nice and return to our favourite places. Number one was a return hike along the coastal path to Villefranche-Sur-Mer. The recently completed trail meanders through through a protected wilderness area, across wooden foot bridges and large rocks. The tourism board calls it “a sporty hike.” We arrived in Villefranche ravenous, just as lunch hour ended. Naturally! But we went to the lovely seaside restaurant we had dined at 6 years previously and were the last to be seated before closing. We were able to order a La carte rather than their more moderately priced fixed menu. We ended up chatting to a couple who were in the process of renovating a home in Villefranche. They said we had chosen the best seafood pesto in town. On our coastal walk we bumped into another couple. We got chatting, as you do, and found out that not only were they from Ottawa but lived 2 streets over from us. I love those random connections and coincidences one encounters travelling.

On another day, we booked a bike tour to a local winery. What fun. This was my first experience with an electric bike. You need them on those hills unless you’re a Tour de France competitor. You still have to pedal. I was less interested in going to a winery than in simply getting out in to the countryside. We spent about 1.5 hours riding up, up up to an organic co-operative, the only winery within the city limits. It sure didn’t feel like we were in the city. We had a lesson in wine making and several samples. Then it was mostly downhill back to Nice. We thought we wouldn’t need the extra power along the Promenade but the wind was incredible. Even our leader said she peddled with help.

This time, I was struck, by the amount of parks, gardens and public spaces in Nice. A couple of standouts were: the Monastery Garden in Cimiez near theMatisse Museum, Promenade du Pavillon, a green walkway through the city with children’s park, water feature and a myriad of plantings, Albert 1 ER, the one of the city’s oldest garden stretching from the sea to Place Mason with art installations, arbors and palm trees. In addition, there is of course, the beautiful Promenade along the sea front. Great for strolling and people watching.

I can’t forget to mention the wonderful cafes and bakeries. We were about 2 blocks from a wonderful bakery. A local in the line up told me it was the best in the south of France. Based on Amy’s trip report, I booked a lunch at Jan’s restaurant. This was about the best meal I’ve ever had. As I said to Ron, “ There may be meals that equal this one but I don’t think there will be a better one.”

Suffice to say, I still love Nice and would be happy to return. Off season. We left on Easter Monday and the crowds were incredible. Didn’t bother going to the old town. July and August must be murder.
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Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Some images of Marseille. A bird's eye view of MUCEM. The walkway over the sea from the museum to the old fort. Reputed to be the longest of its kind in the world. Pleasure crafts in the harbour. Street art in the Le Panier neighborhood.




Last edited by a moderator:

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
It seems Marseille(s) is spelled both ways. When I checked the spelling online, it is w/o the e. Maybe with the s is the french spelling.


500+ Posts
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Marseilles with an s is a traditional English spelling that's gone out of favor: now it's generally written (and appears in Wikipedia) without an s, the way it is in French. It's similar for Lyon vs. Lyons.

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Marseilles with an s is a traditional English spelling that's gone out of favor: now it's generally written (and appears in Wikipedia) without an s, the way it is in French. It's similar for Lyon vs. Lyons.
Thanks, Andrew. I've been spelling it w/o the s and then noticed on the plaque (last) photo it had an s. But the plaque was in english(odd ) so what you wrote makes sense.

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Some selective photos taken in Nice. I don't take many pictures and just use my old android phone.

view from the balcony of our apartment on Bonaparte street, allegedly the hippest in town.

view from our bikes en route to winery.


Vintner and our cycle guide

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