June 20: Marseille
An easy trip — a local bus whisked us from Aix Center to Marseille’s main station. France’s second largest city, Marseille is a culturally diverse city situated right on the Mediterranean. Its vieux port goes back to Phonecian times circa 600 BCE. Our first order of business was a lovely walk to the old port to catch the Le Petit Train, which wound through the city’s narrow and steep streets, lined with lovely villas, to the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde. This beautiful church is perched high above the city and offers amazing views of the port, harbor islands (including the famous one with a prison from the Count of Monte Cristo) and surrounding mountains. The Basilica was built in 1853 on the foundations of an ancient fort at the highest natural point in Marseille. The church is filled with beautiful Byzantine mosaics.
After our trip down the mountain (tricky at times,) we had a lovely lunch in the old port. Afterwards, we headed out in the hot summer sun to visit both La Cathédrale De La Major and the Panier District. This is one of the oldest sections of Marseille, with windy streets and stairways with many colorful murals throughout. Our French girls lead to a popular ice cream shop, famous for its vanilla noir or black vanilla ice cream. It was a big hit on such a hot day.