I don’t remember how exactly Marseille found its way onto my list of places I wanted to go when I was a teenager, but it’s remained on my list for years. The south of France is so different from the other regions of France, and I was eager to visit and sample the Mediterranean-influenced food. When I found a great fare from Barcelona, I couldn’t resist.
On our first full day, we headed to the old port area and explored the various neighborhoods. I was really surprised at the large number of Middle Eastern and African shops, restaurants, etc. In fact, we had a hard time finding any restaurant serving Provençale food.
Eventually, we came upon a Senegalese place which seemed pretty interesting. Tigger was game, and we both really enjoyed the food.
The old neighborhoods and buildings were quite interesting. There is a lot of history in this area. We had planned a trip to see the Chateau d’If, an island castle fortress turned prison made famous by The Count of Monte Cristo. Unfortunately, because of heavy winds they had closed the castle.
During the rest of our time in Marseille, we continued to try to find a restaurant serving regional cuisine, and it was extremely difficult. The vast majority of eateries were places serving sandwiches, pizza, burgers, and kebabs.
Marseille felt so different from other areas of France that it, well, didn’t really feel French. It definitely felt Mediterranean instead.
We left Marseille to visit a friend living in La Garde. As we discussed our experience in Marseille, I discovered it matched theirs as well. Annie and her family had lived in Marseille for 10 months, and they had the same observations and frustrations that we did during our visit.
They do have a pretty good public transportation system which makes exploring the city pretty easy. We managed to to visit a few markets near the old town and that was really fun. There are also lots of places selling various flavors of granitas, and Tigger was quite happy about that part of it.
Overall, though, Marseille was just a meh experience. We’ve enjoyed the other towns in the region much more. It seems to be one of those places that people either really like or just didn’t care for, and the latter view seems to be shared by many of the people in nearby towns as well.
Have you been to Marseille? What was your experience like?
May 13, 2014
YUP, you summed it up pretty well. People ask me why i did not like Marseille and it was mainly because it wasnt what we went to France to experience. Maybe if i was single or working at an office job it would have been different but we were a family of five living in the 1 arrondisement in the middle of the most dense Arabic and Muslim community. We were looking like you to experience Provencal restaurants but only found pizzeria after pizzeria and kebab after kebab place. The restaurants around the old port were all over priced and not very good. Not a lot of wholesome kid activities like we have now in our town of La Garde.
SIGH, i could go on but i dont want to offend anyone.
May 18, 2014
I was so thankful to have your experience so I didn’t feel all alone about my. . . lack of appreciation for Marseille.
May 7, 2014
Hey, “meh” is better than a hot stick in the eye, no? 😉 I mean, each and every place we drop into can’t be mind-boggling, yes?
That said, it’s been a bazillion years since I was in Marseille (I lived/went to school in Avignon back in the… dark ages). But what I remember most was – we (my two dd’s then age 8 and 11 – about Tigger’s age, no?) took a ferry to Corsica and camped for a week. Highly recommended.
May 8, 2014
Definitely! Meh is better than it being bad, and if someone absolutely loves every place they go I want to know what med they’re on. 😉
May 7, 2014
Gutted that you didn’t see what we loved about Marseille, but you can’t love every place you travel to, especially after having travelled so long and so far. It just gets hard to be satisfied with the places you go to, as we’ve started to find out recently.
May 7, 2014
I can understand why some people like it, esp people who weren’t enamored with Paris. It just was a meh place for us.
I think the more we travel the more the general vibe of a place has an effect. We went to a small town near here and absolutely loved it. It was mostly the vibe of the place. The more places I visit, the more that vibe seems to have an effect.