We went over to Marseille for two days this week, to visit our friends who live on the outskirts near the hills and the sea. I don't find downtown Marseille very picturesque, frankly, although the area around the old port is very lovely. And maybe I'm being hard on Marseille as I haven't really had the opportunity to explore very much of it. That being said, what I have seen on drives through town between the train station and our friends' place out past the Prado is that the city seems run down and rather gritty. Ok, dirty. It looks dirty. And yet there are all these beautiful palm trees, tropical flowering plants, gorgeous blue skies, and the SEA. So... compensations for all that grittiness.
So here are a few photos I took over the course of our visit.
Why yes, that IS Michaelangelo's David and his bare butt, right out there in Marseille traffic at the end of the Prado. Why do you ask? Doesn't every French city have a reproduction Michaelangelo statue? David had a nice ass, though, don't you think?
Flowers and the lime tree in our friends' courtyard. Look at that sky! I love their courtyard, it's so quiet. If I were alone in that house for two or three weeks with nothing more than some bread, cheese, wine and pastis for sustenance, I'll bet I could write an entire novel out in that courtyard.
A very nice little beach within walking distance of our friends' home. Unfortunately, there was a brown cloud of sea-plant debris breaking right at the water's edge and it made swimming a bit unpleasant so we didn't stay long. I did find a lot of beautiful sea glass to add to my growing collection, though.
Same beach looking in the other direction. You can see the Chateau d'If.
The cliffs behind the neighborhood where our friends live. We played pétanque just near where I took this photo. Well, THEY played pétanque; my dodgy back was acting up and there were 5 of us, so offered to sit out with the family cocker spaniel, Reglisse.
This is an uninhabited island. It's forbidden to go there, but we were on a rocky outcrop just next to it. Way out on this outcrop are a few little houses, a cove, and, rather oddly, a restaurant called "Monkey Bay". The only way is to park the car and continue on foot. That is apparently where our friends decided to take us to a small, quiet beach on the cove. Me? I had no freaking idea.
The parking "lot" in the rocky wilderness. No trees grow there, just ground-cover and a few mangy shrubs.
We hiked over the top of a very rocky precipice where there was a pathway for part of the distance, and then for some reason we diverged to where there was NO path, and that's why I got nervous. Time was when I wouldn't have thought twice about scooting over those high rocks with a sheer drop to the sea (and no guard rails). I'd have hopped over the rocks like a little goat. But something about having already shattered my left leg once in my 40s, now being over 50 with joint pain, and the fact that I was wearing thong sandals because no one told me we were going to hike over a narrow escarpment where I could conceivably fall to my death with one false step (oh, AND there was a force 10 Mistral wind blowing, too)... well, you can understand why the only way I made it over that cliff and back again was because I didn't let go of Georges' hand the entire time, and I didn't even stop to take photos or enjoy the gorgeous views other than from the parking area at the start of the path.
Finally down at the cove on the flat safety of the little beach, looking up toward the restaurant. See those people up there? That's where we had to hike, only THEY were taking the path all the way to the restaurant while we, for reasons still unclear to me, went off-piste and at one point my ankle turned slightly on my not-hiking-appropriate-thongs, and for one split second I thought I was a goner. It just takes a little thing like that to throw off my equilibrium* these days... but while you're on top of a cliff is not the moment when you want that to happen.
(*Sidebar: When I was a toddler and my little sister was a baby just learning to stand, one time at my grandmother's house my sister lost her balance and fell down on her diapered butt. My great-grandmother, whose maiden name "Taylor" I use in my professional name along with my own maiden name because I like the sound of it, said to my mom: "Oh! Susan's lost her equilibrium!" And I said, "I'll find it Great-Grandma - just tell me where it is!" My grandmother was telling that old story until she was 95. She'd be thrilled to see it captured here for posterity.)
By the way, although it's not clear in this photo, there were TWO flags on top of that wall: the top one is apparently the Corsican flag. And then, just below it, edges tattered from flapping in the wind for so long... was an American flag. We have absolutely NO idea why those two flags were there. Together. Not in Corsica and not in America.
Anyway, we swam in the little cove, the Garçon had his snorkel and mask, the water was flat and tranquil and there no unsightly patches of floating plant life to get in our way. A number of boats were docked there as well. There were maybe 10 people on the beach and 5 of them were us. I couldn't believe people lived all the way out there but they have electricity and plumbing and the only downside is the hike back to where you can park your car. There's a village nearby as well (with a marina where our friend docks his boat). But this place is sort of like Land's End for this part of Marseille. I enjoyed the swim but mostly was happy to have survived getting there and back again.
One other interesting thing I saw, when driving between the cliffs and back to our friends' home, where these WWII bunkers left by the Nazi forces. They exist here and there along the rocky coast of France, although many have long since been raized. But those that are still intact have been taken over and used as storage garages - like this one with the brown doors.
And here's another; a man was just coming out of it and locking the doors as we drove by.
By the way, today (August 15th) marks the 70th anniversary of the US/Allied landing in the south of France, about 10 minutes from here at Cap Dramont. We're going down there later this afternoon to have a look around at the military vehicles, vendors selling memorabilia, and so on. It seems the right place to be today for this French-American girl. There is also a military flotilla that will pass by the Saint Raphael harbor and we all want to have a look at that. We've had a big Mistral wind the past 3 days that might put the kibosh on the fireworks tonight, though.