Marseille | A French Fancy

As someone who has a tendency to be late, I try to factor this in to my plans and get to train stations much earlier than I need to, just to be safe. As I was leaving Barcelona, a series of small delays turned into the biggest stress of my travels so far as I missed my train. By minutes. And the worst part? I’d already run past the ticket gate I’d needed but had been too busy trying to follow signs to notice it. By the time I got back to it, I’d missed my train and had to pay an arm and a leg for another later train.

Not in the best mood, after hanging out in the train station for a few hours – I didn’t want to risk going back into the city and missing another train! – I settled in on the train and wanted to relax. No such luck, of course! Seconds after the train started to pull away from the station, a couple next to me realised they’d left something behind. Absolutely hysterical, I wondered whether it was maybe a person they’d forgotten, but once they started searching in their bags I began to assume it was something like passports or wallet. Another couple spent 20 minutes in the lobby arguing, and I was starting to think my bad luck day was just going to continue.

Thankfully things calmed down and the journey passed without much further incident. Once in Marseille, I took the quick walk to my apartment and began to notice that at this late hour there were many questionable looking men hanging around. In the short 10-minute walk, I must have seen hundreds of guys, and maybe one other woman. Once I arrived at the apartment and met the owner, she advised that this wasn’t really the safest place in the evenings and that’s why I had to pay for her to get a taxi home. Great. 

I woke up the next day with no real enthusiasm to explore Marseille. This was a stop over to avoid flying from Spain to Italy, and as I’d had no real desire to visit Marseille I really had to push myself to get up, get ready and get out. Eventually planning a few things to see, I made my way out of the apartment and towards the first ‘sight’ – . Although just a short walk from the apartment, I felt so unsafe with the number of guys just hanging around in small groups, and I took just one photo on my phone because I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself being a tourist. Moving quickly on, I took what I thought was the shortest route to the cathedral. Turns out I walked through the dodgy part of town, past a protest that had vandalised a hotel, and down towards the harbour. I was really not loving Marseille and thought I’d give it one more chance when I got to the cathedral otherwise I’d probably just have today as a chill day in the apartment. 

Turns out, I’d been too quick to judge the whole city based just on one part. Approaching the cathedral, I was slightly in awe. The church itself is huge, built with alternating stone colour stripes and with the harbour in the background, they picked a great spot to build it! Stopping in for a quick visit, because apparently I can’t ever resist a visit to a church, I carried on towards what I thought was the harbour and sat for a while watching the boats come in and out, rowers practicing and even a Hawaiian dance troupe performance. Not quite what I’d been expecting in the south of France, but a lovely surprise!

Carrying on to the actual harbour, I spent some time wandering around, stopping for a drink and a waffle to refuel before carrying on and deciding to tackle the hill to the Notre Dame Basilica. You can see the church high on the hill from many places around the city, and I had read online that there was a bus to the top or even a lift. But I figured I’d been walking for weeks, I’d been trekking up big hills, it’d be no problem for me, right? Ohh so wrong! I don’t know if I hadn’t eaten enough today, or I was just being a wimp, but that hill nearly killed me. I had to stop so many times to ‘take in the view’ aka catch my breath and rest my legs.

The hills were steep, the stairs seemed never-ending and I was tired. But, making it to the top and seeing the stunning views, I nearly forgot all about the epic climb it had taken. The church itself wasn’t what I was expecting, and had a strong naval theme with boat models hanging from the ceiling and lots of framed shots on the walls. But the real draw of this church are the amazing views that you can see from the terrace that wraps around the church. If the area surrounding my apartment was nicer, I’d have stayed for sunset because the view over the sea and the city would be absolutely stunning. 

But, solo traveller brain in gear, I wanted to get back to the apartment while it was still light so I didn’t feel unsafe, and so began the much easier journey down the hill and back to the harbour. I stopped in at a shopping centre on the way back, grabbing some food for dinner and realising that if I’d walked right instead of left when leaving my apartment that morning I would have had a completely different experience of Marseille. Oh well! I turned in early as I had an early train to catch in the morning, and a long day of travel as I made my way to Genoa, Italy. And you can bet I was at the station early after my Barcelona > Marseille drama!

< Barcelona | #19 | Genoa >

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