13 Sep South of France Sightseeing
South of France Pre River Cruise Sightseeing
We love adventures and sightseeing. This one was prior to our last Avalon River Cruise adventure. We chose to fly into Marseille and experience this renown French port city before embarking on our river cruise in Arles.
On our first day we typically do everything in our power to fight jet lag by keeping ourselves very busy walking and exploring the city. We made our way from the train station, checked into our boutique hotel and headed down to the Old Port. This is a very busy congested port filled with beautiful sail boats and incredible yachts. While walking around the port area we found the famous Marseille soap and enjoyed a refreshing Pastis. With the port being directly across North Africa it was easy to find a great Moroccan restaurant before returning to our hotel for the night. The cruise didn’t leave for another day so we found a great tour with Viator and Air Canada Vacations.
The following morning we got up early. Had a delicious breakfast in the hotel’s outdoor courtyard and walked down to the Old Port to meet up with our tour guide. Along came our young feisty tour guide and chauffeur for the day and the journey began. We had a nice small group of 2 Canadians, 2 Mexicans, 2 Australians and 2 from Brussels so we all piled into a nice Mercedes van and away we went.
The day started with a road trip to Aix-en-Provence. I absolutely loved this village. One of my favourite places in the entire trip and a place I would absolutely return to over Marseille. Marseille is a beautiful city, but being the next largest city after Paris sadly we found it to be very dirty and oh so smelly. Our guide brought us through the quaint streets and market area. There we walked around the quaint shops and found local favourites such as the famous Olives en Chocolat, then Calissons a traditional French candy and the famous Navette (a harder biscuit similar to the Italian biscotti but this one in the shape of a ship). We also found delicious gourmet sandwiches for our lunch we would have aboard a boat.
We then drove to the coastal village of Cassis. We quickly walked around found a few bottles of cold rosé that the region is known for and boarded a small boat for a tour of the calanques. These are narrow, steep-walled inlets found along the Mediterranean coast. Many had beautiful little beaches nestled in them. A great afternoon on the sea with our new friends. Yes this was one of the perks on the tour. We met travellers from all over but we also made new friends.
Our guide then took us back towards Marseille where we stopped into the city’s best-known symbol. Notre-Dame de la Garde, is the Catholic basilica in Marseille, overlooking the Old Port. We then headed over to Le Fort Saint-Jean and Le Mucem. This fort was built in 1660 by Louis XIV at the entrance to the Old Port and now houses a beautiful museum. We then walked over to Cathédrale de la Major and then north to Le Panier one of the oldest quartiers in Marseille. The area is known for its artisty vibe, hidden squares and great cafés. Lots of interesting street art and graffiti lined some of these streets.
Our tour ended but the journey continued with our new friends. We hopped into a taxi and made our way to the famous Chez Fonfons for Marseille’s best bouillabaisse restaurant. Such a gem in the 1st quartier Endoume.
We said goodbye to our new friends but not before exchanging contacts and connecting on social media. One day we will visit them in Mexico City! This brought to an end our visiting of Marseille and the area. Next we took the train to Arles where we met up with the rest of the travellers joining us on our north bound river cruise to St. Jean de Losne.