Marseille: city of contradictions

Another six weeks of school, another two week vacation. And this time we wanted to get the heck out of the snow and mountains, so we booked a TGV to MARSEILLE!

Marseille has a certain reputation in France… the kind of reputation that made our friends’ eyes widen and say,  “Attention, hein?! Be careful!” when we announced our trip. So then when there were reports of a shooting there the day before our planned departure, we had to make a serious game plan, which essentially boiled down to “DON’T BE AN IDIOT” (sidebar: the shooting was non-fatal and most likely a result of the visit to the city of Prime Minister Manuel Valls. My favorite part of the story is that Valls was in Marseille to congratulate the city for their recently reduced crime rates.)

And anyway, when has the threat of a little street violence ever been good reason to cancel a trip?! If that were the case, no one would ever go….to most major cities in the US……

Marseille was a very hard city to get a read on at first. It was full of recognizable provençal village charms, but is also a sprawling metropolis and France’s second largest city. It’s a city where Mediterranean cuisine trumps French, where you’re as likely to hear Arabic spoken in the streets as French… And I think I discovered that the heart of Marseille exists in these contrasts.

It’s in the meeting of new and old, like at MuCEM (Museum of European and Mediterranean Cultures), where a 130 m long footbridge connects a two-year-old beautiful exhibition space to a 17th century fort.

It’s in Notre Dame de la Garde, which stands as an imposing beacon overlooking the city, but has an interior full of boats, portraits, ex-votos and other personal touches that give it a very communal atmosphere.

It’s in the elaborate street art on every cafe and boutique surrounding Cours Julien, what is usually taken as defacement elevated, appreciated and made integral. (also, check out this Google Night Walk!)

And it’s definitely in the sea.  ❂ 

Just a few more photos….

3 thoughts on “Marseille: city of contradictions

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