Back in 2000 I went on a road trip with my pal Gaz. Neither of us could afford a ‘proper’ holiday so we decided to drive down to the South of France, find a B&B soak up some rays, and explore the area for a while. We ended up in Marseille. It has an interesting history, named Massilia, a Greek colony originally, being founded around 600BC and populated by settlers from Phocaea (modern Turkey). It became the preeminent Greek city in the Hellenized region of southern Gaul. The city-state sided with the Roman Republic against Carthage during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), retaining its independence and commercial empire throughout the western Mediterranean even as Rome expanded into Western Europe and North Africa. However, the city lost its independence following the Roman Siege of Massilia in 49 BC, during Caesar’s Civil War, in which Massalia sided with the exiled faction at war with Julius Caesar.
Ships have docked for more than 26 centuries at the city’s birthplace, the colourful old port, and it remains a thriving harbour for fishing boats, pleasure yachts and tourists. Guarding either side of the harbour are Fort St-Nicolas and Fort St-Jean, founded in the 13th century by the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem and we took a boat trip out to see them.
Porte d’Aix (also known as the Porte Royale) is a triumphal arch in Marseille, in the south of France, marking the old entry point to the city on the road from Aix-en-Provence. The classical design by Michel-Robert Penchaud was inspired by the triumphal arches of the Roman Empire. The Porte d’Aix was initially conceived in 1784 to honour Louis XIV and to commemorate the Peace of Paris (1783) that ended the American war of independence. Following the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1814-15, the project was resumed in 1823, now to commemorate French victories in the Spanish Expedition, notably at the Battle of Trocadero, August 31, 1823. It was eventually completed in 1839, with a more general theme of victory. This is just the worst shot of it!
The port at night was gorgeous and we were treated to a lovely sunset
We sat in the square and had a glass of wine or two in the evenings, and watched the world go by
there was a chanteuse in the bar
and street musicians came round wanting money!
There was a beautiful old carousel in the town and I got a shot of it by day and night
It was a strange time, the Rough Guide, my travel bible at the time, warned that people in Marseille could come across as arrogant, and I certainly found that to be true. I speak passable French but if I went to a shop and asked for things in French, I’d be cut off and given short shrift in English. One night we went to a restaurant that had outside seating. One half had a few people seated but also a few empty tables, but the waiter seated us away from everyone in the empty half. After our dinner we asked for coffee and when the waiter came with it he pretended to trip and tipped the cups into my lap. Of course it was a shock as I thought the cups were full, but they just had sugar cubes in them. The waiter and everyone in the other half of the restaurant found it all very funny, we paid up and left.