Friday, January 28, 2011

TGV to Nice (May 20, 2010)

Marseille is a mix of cultures. It seems Alexander Dumas called it the meeting place of the world, and it sure does look like it. The surprising part was that we two and maybe another two Indians were seen during our entire stay here. Hmmm...i wonder where they all went!

Coming back to Marseille, the moment you exit out of the station you feel like you are in some video game set in the middle ages. The streets are small, and from the top of the stone staircase in front of the St Charles station you can see a basilica overloooking the city.

We dropped our bags at the Hotel Vertigo which doubles as a hostel and headed off to explore this city. The itinerary was simple Рwalk to the Vieux Port along La Canebi̬re and then head off into one of the most ancient district in Europe called Quartier du Panier. Just taking in the sights is so mind blowing, and the view of the forts from the port and also the meditteranean sea beyond is something to behold.

We fell in love with this place almost immediately and were repenting staying here for a shorter time than in Toulouse. Exploring the small nooks and crannies of Quartier du Panier could have taken two days by themself. These streets are not very safe in the night but as the sun seemed to go down only at 9pm we had loads of time to explore.

As we were hungry we dropped into a small grocery corner on one of these streets, and the propreitor along with one more dude tried to chat with us. We understood that he said 'Indian' and the next thing out of his mouth was 'Amithhaa Bachhan'. We were amazed that he knew Amitabh, and it was such a honour to see that people here too enjoyed good cinema. And even more amazed when they said that he is an Artist. Amitabh – if you are reading this, you have some huge fans of yours in Marseille.

Let me interrupt here as I look out at the countyside flowing outside oin this train. It is beautttifuulll – the French Riviera looks stunning. I assume heaven looks like this!

Coming back to Marseille. Our last stop of the day was a hike up Rue Notre-Dame to the basilica with the same name. The basilica is quite grand but nothing beats the view from top. The port, the sea and the mountains are exquisitely laid out and there are so many photo ops – I dont know which to upload on facebook!

After spending about an hour we walked down to take a look at the Abbey and then to the hostel.

Our dinner was at a restaurant called 'Ivoire Restaurant' and it is a must eat place if you want to try African cuisine. The lady is called Mama Africa and she is from Cote d Ivory, and it is a different experience. Try the jus de gingembre, a refreshingly spicy ginger drink while you are here.

That night was the first night this trip we slept before midnight and it was a good decision as we woke up before 7 to head down to the beach. We had to check out early as you cannot check out after 10 and we were not sure we would return by then. After dropping our luggage at the hostel storage we headed off to catch the bus #83 at the Vieux Port.

The bus costs 1.5 euro one way and a 30 minute ride takes you to sort of a beach and park rolled into one. It is nothing great but there are some good views of the water and the mountains in the background. A pretty good end to a different experience in Marseille. This is a suggested journey for anyone wanting to check out the French Provence region, and even if not a place one should go to for something different.

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