One chapter closes and another begins, rather rapidly. We leave our job of six months, The Eagles Nest, and leave for a much needed wee ‘holiday’ in Marseille. I say ‘holiday’ because this is a rarity… You need money to have one of these things, which we don’t, however whats a credit card for, if not to stupidly indulge every once in a while.
We arrive in Marseille with no preconceptions, and no knowledge about this city- Other than it’s beside the sea, and it’s a fairly large city. Driving into Marseille was a nightmare, this is where you’ll see French drivers at their best. Its a complete free for all, first in first serve, and you’ll notice that most, if not all cars have dents, scratches and bumps. In our landy, this was slightly daunting, we are a lot bigger, a lot wider and a lot slower, yet we are much much stronger so we go for this tactic and go-for-gold, hoping our daunting size will put those hectic drivers at bay.
Parking in the city was an issue, there are many underground car parks, all of these having a size restriction of 1.9 metres and costing 24 Euros per day! But with our truck being 4 metres, this doesn’t work for us. We eventually find an overground car park near Place Jean Jaures, a very cool area we soon discover.
We had pre-booked a hotel, Hotel Rome Et Saint-Pierre right in the centre. We soon discover why our room was cheap- It’s surrounded by roadworks! However,our room was great, simple, elegant, with awesome big bay windows which open out onto the rustling bustling streets of mayhem.
However the area our hotel is in, we soon discover, is rather dodgy. The hotel sits on the intersection between Rue d’Aubagne and Rue de Rome on Cours Saint Louis. Rue d’Aubagne is full of cheap kebab eateries, and some great African eateries, but its also the local hangout for ‘street selling’.. Whether it be a bike lock with half a bicycle attached (Obviously stolen!) Some odd shoes, an electric toothbrush or something of the illegal sort. I would feel uncomfortable walking down here at night and during the day if I was alone, I was approached more than once by dodgy looking African men. It’s an intimidating street, however, the kebabs were fantastic! Rue de Rome was in full construction mode, an old tram line was being rebuilt, diggers were flying down the road at the speed of light bulldozing anything and everything it it’s way.
At night, this construction zone was taken over by RATS. So so many rats… running up and down the streets. It was hectic to say the least! One night we were spectators to an army patrol, carrying large riffles patrolling the harbour. The waitress at our restaurant told us this was now normal due to a large number of North African immigrants coming in illegally, and Moroccan ships coming into the harbour trying to sell drugs.
Beyond these two streets there are some fantastic areas, around Cours Julien there are some funky second hand shops, vintage clothing stores (Where I picked up a great 50’s swing number)
and some very reasonable cafes- Including an awesome vegan bio cafe!
Round the waterfront, Vieux-Port, on the left hand side down Quai de Rive Neuve there are some really nice restaurants and bars. On the right hand side of the port the restaurants are pricier and more touristy.
Throughout our 5 days here we indulged in some fantastic food. We went to the Queen Victoria (Not the Frenchest sounding, I’ll admit!) for a VERY good dinner. An entre’ of riesling and garlic snails, a main course of beef filet (blue) roast potatoes and bacon lardons, with a creamy peppercorn sauce and a lovely redwine from Bardoux. Followed by the best cheese board you could imagine. Cheese. You don’t even know it until you try it in France!
We had Bouillabaise, a traditional dish from Marseille. Served at every restaurant it’s hard to know where to try it, we had it at a cute little French Restaurant down Les Arcenaulx, they had a 15 Euro set menu for a three course meal. Bouillabaise is a fish stock soup with three types of fish and a few vegetables. However on the menu there were also variations of this, including a lobster Bouillabaise for a whopping 35 euros! But mmhmmm. It was nice, but the fish did have bones, and in a soup, this can prove difficult.
We had some great pizza, some pain au raison, croissants and even some great coffee!
We found a very nice cafe called Coogee :
A french guy, who’d lived in Sydney, opened an Australian/NZ style cafe, with a full coffee menu, one of the first i’ve seen since living in France. Most cafes & restaurants will only offer espresso, so to find a latte was spectacular!
But one of the best things we did was attend Carry Nation, a prohibition themed cocktail bar. I found out about this bar via a TripAdviser search for Top Bars in Marseille, lucky for us, as it’s not a bar your likely to stumble upon. On making a reservation via their website (In French: Thank you Google Translate!) we were emailed an address and instructions on how to enter the bar on arrival. We glammed up in perfect style, Dan in his tailored brown pants & leather bracers, and me in my 50’s swing frock. On arrival, we enter a very secret pin and enter a dimly lit Souvenir store. To our right we find a brown wardrobe. We enter the wardrobe… push back the clothes and step into a dark hallway. We make our way down a dark hallway to another black curtain. We pull back the curtain and step into a fully functioning cocktail bar! We are told to take a seat on a comfy brown couch alongside another two groups, each talking quietly below the jazz music. You didn’t want to ruin the ambience. We order two cocktails, each a staggering 12 Euros, however, your paying for the venue… the ambience, the outstanding cocktail itself and all the alcohol used is distilled locally- so its good shit!
We leave Marseille Friday morning, ready to get out of the city and somewhere where the air tastes clean.
Heading for Crusielles, a small town near Lake Annecy where we will be volunteering via Workaway at a Goat farm!