Arriving in Marseille France and touring a little of Provence 

170507 6 Katherine Marseille

Katherine’s berth in Marseille

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A straighter line could not have been drawn for our run from Cituadella on Menorca Spain to Marseille France. Nor could we have spilt the 27 hours more evenly between sailing and motoring. 14 hours under engine, 13 hours under sail. Not for want of trying over the 200nm trip, we spent one hour hauling out the Big Bird (A1) setting it, sailed for all of 20 minutes before the wind died once more and the Iron Spinnaker was forced to be turned on again. Had we had time on our side we could have drifted towards France aimlessly but impending weather that saw us leave Menorca a day earlier then planned was not something we wanted to hang around and wait for in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Why Marseille, the main French trade port, as our first port of call - first the wind was in the right direction when it was blowing and second we had friends Christope and Anne-Marie that had kindly invited us to experience what they believe is a fantastic city. After a week based in the harbour, sitting out the front of the Town Hall and looking up to the impressive cathedral Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, that towers over the city from the eastern hillside we certainly had to agree. 

170505 6 Marsaille our view in the harbour

Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde or as called by the locals La Bonne Mere (The Good Mother) viewed from Katherine in  Harbour 

170507 1 Opera House Marseille170507 4 Cesar

Interestingly Marseille reads in a lot of the tourist guides as having had a terrible reputation for drug trafficking, mafia activities and associated crime and subsequently was not the most recommended destination. But those days have obviously moved on and Marseille from where we sat was attracting tourists from literally all over the world, complete with the now obligatory selfie sticks. 

Having been seized by the Romans in 49 BC Marseille had an unexpected abundance of Roman Ruins, which we inadvertently discovered as we drove our hire car through the maze of streets and not always on our planned route. We walked the streets of the old town or Panier, tasted the traditional drink of Pastis (an anise flavoured spirit), ate good moules and frites, took “Ceasar” the boat taxi across the waterway as Christophe had done when he was a child, searched out the markets, brought traditional soap from a shop on a boat and Lee even tried a Humman for the first time, a most relaxing afternoon thanks to Anne-Marie’s recommendation.

170512 1 Lee Buying traditional soap from a shop in a boat

Simply two many choices 

We hired a car for three days whilst the weather was being disagreeable and set off to discover a little about the region of Provence.

170509 1 Drive day to Beaulieu Sur Mer Villefranche sur mer

Day 1 we drove 200km east to the harbour of Beaulieu-Sur-Mer to try and secure a berth over the Monaco F1 race weekend. Though we had no success there, the drive was not wasted as the Captainere at Nice kindly agreed to secure a space for us. The drive day also gave us the opportunity to check out the beautiful bay of Villefranch-sur-Mer where we hope to drop anchor in the coming weeks. 

170510 2  Aix en Provence City of fountains Fountain De La Rotonde

Fountain De La Rotonde Aix en Provence

170510 5 Drive day to Aix en Provence Excavations

Day 2 we headed inland to Aix en Provence which although known as the city of a thousand fountains we only managed to discover three. As a centre for Arts and Learning it has many museums but we chose instead to wander the streets discovering a cathedral where an excavation was being undertaken. In all our time of travel we have never physically seen anthropologists at work in particular excavating a skeleton. 

After an enjoyable lunch at La Garcons we drove back to Marseille via the pretty port of Cassis stopping along the way at Domaine Du  Paternel. The winery established in 1943 produced its first bottle in 1951, is now enjoying the participation and influence of its third generation of family. From the wine tasting we deduced they produced a very nice Rose and Vin Blanc which we now have several bottles of onboard. One must always try and do their bit to support the local community. 

The highlight of the days drive was the final few miles through the Parc National Des Calanques, of the 520km of the park only 85km is on land the rest covering the coastline and out to sea. We would sail past this parc when we left Marseille, but the vista we enjoyed from the road was most spectacular. 

170510 15 Dramatic countryside of  Parc National Des Calanques

Parc National Des Calanques

170511 6 Avignon Grey and wet170511 13 Village des Bories, Gordes

Day 3 - a rather wet and soggy day we ventured out to the town of Avignon, a town enclosed by massive ramparts. The weather got the better of us and after only a short walk through the pretty town we drove on to Village des Bories near Gordes. Village Des Bories is a collection of  small huts built using the dry-stone construction method which entails assembling them without mortar or any binding material. The beehive looking buildings were constructed around the 17th and 18th Century, when the French government authorised small farmers to clear the land and create new plots in an effort to resolve an issue of lack of grain and food supplies. The huts subsequently fell into disuse around the mid 19th century but were rescued and restored over an eight year period to be established as a Historic Museum. The farmers originally cleared the stone from the land and used it to cost effectively create huts that would be used for shelter, for storage of equipment and crops and for the raising of animals. The building structures demanded admiration for their simplistic achievement in construction. 

170511 18 Gordes

Before heading back to Marseille we continued a short distance onto the town of Gordes, perched on the hillside it made for one more memorable photo complemented by a field of Poppies discovered along the way.

Although there was still much to see of Marseille it was time to move on.

So Saturday morning after farewelling Christophe and Anne-Marie we headed out with the next destination set of  Iles D’Hyeres, a group of islands in which to enjoy anchoring out. A sharp contrast to our great location in the bustling city of Marseille. 

(Click for more photos) 

© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain