Monday, 4 June 2007

Marseille's Much Better

Marseille has had a bad press. People imagine it to be some kind of French Naples - a scene of unrelenting crime and squalor. And sure, it's a port town with a long history of rebellion and scant disregard for authority. There is definitely a dark side to Marseille. But it is also a 2,500 Mediterranean city with a colourful history and vibrant culture. It's worth taking time to get to know.

We were there recently with my parents and aunt and uncle, who were all very pleasantly surprised. We ate harbour-side in the old port (still the heart of the city) before taking a boat trip out to the Chateau d'If, the ancient fort-turned-prison lying just off the coast. (And if you think that rings a San Franciscan bell, well I would argue that there's a few other similarities between the two cities. Just climb up to Notre Dame de la Garde and compare the steep streets to those of Telegraph Hill. Or enter the city on the elevated highway through the port district and passing 19th century warehouses converted to high tech offices. There's less mist, certainly - more that special glittering Mediterranean light that the artists came for.)

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