Location: Marseille, France
Now that we’re in Europe, we have a lot more flexibility with our travel options and we’re being opportunistic on where the deals are. We found an unbelievable deal to fly Ryanair from Sicily to Marseille, France. So, off we went. We had no idea that Marseille is the second biggest city in France after Paris. And, it is a huge sprawling city but it didn’t feel that way when we explored it. We were a bit concerned for our safety as numerous locals warned us to be careful. However, we never felt threatened and we were quickly enthralled by Marseille’s splendor and diversity. Sometimes, we take a chance on a place and get lucky and this was one of those times. We loved Marseille and would like to come back someday.
The city of Marseille is situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, it has a large and lovely port with fishing boats, cruise ships and more. We trekked from Vieux Port up to Notre Dame de la Garde and were rewarded with stunning 360 degree views of the city and harbor below.
We drove to the town of Cassis to do some hiking in the Calanques, a series of miniature fjords to the south of Marseille. Cassis was a charming tourist town and the Calanques were quite picturesque. There were more people out hiking here than any of the trails we’ve hiked on our trip and it was a weekday outside of the peak season.
You would think that we have all the time in the world to research the places that we’re visiting before we arrive but the truth is that most of our research time is consumed figuring out where we’re going to stay and how we’re going to get there. Thus, we’re often learning about a place just before we get there or upon arrival. We were thrilled when we learned that Marseille is home to Château d’If. No, it’s not a winery, but rather a prison featured in one of our favorite books: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. While the story is fictional, the prison was real and no one ever escaped from the small island that started out as a fortress and then served as a prison from about 1580 to 1880.
We spent 4 nights at the Holiday Inn Express Marseille-Provence Airport. This was another deal that we couldn’t pass up. Every 2 months, IHG posts a list of “PointBreaks” properties around the world where rooms are available for a fraction of the normal reward points. This was the first time that one of these deals aligned with our travel plans and thus we took advantage of it. It was a very basic, new hotel that included a decent breakfast each morning. The A/C worked well and the wifi was decent. While they didn’t have a fitness center, we found a local one called Eden-Gym that offered a weekly rate at a fair price.
Food & Drink:
The food in Marseille delighted us. The French bread is so good that we found ourselves buying baguette sandwiches just about everyday. We also had some great salads and seafood. Marseille’s diversity offered a nice variety of cuisines including Thai, which we were craving. Unfortunately, we arrived just before closing and were too late to be served at the Thai restaurant we chose.
When we arrived in Marseille, we initially planned to rely on Public transportation but the remote location of our hotel near the airport made that too inconvenient for us. So, we headed to Avis and rented another Lancia Ypsilon. When we drove it into the heart of the city, we were pleased to find that parking in a garage was reasonably priced.
This one goes to Ryanair for providing such affordable airfares. We can’t believe that it only cost us $40 US a piece to fly from Sicily to France, which is about the distance of New York to Chicago. We need Ryanair in the USA.
For Your Amusement:
We often order a bottle of sparkling water when we go out to eat without asking the price as they’re usually a couple of bucks. Imagine our surprise when this one cost us €6 or about $8.50 US. Ouch.
Highlight: The views from Notre Dame de la Garde were remarkable making the hike up there more than worth it.
Next Up: We’re driving north to Avignon and using it as a base to explore the wine regions of the Rhone Valley.