Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Very popular Les Calanques

The few Marseillais we spoke with all urged us to go to Les Calanques (mini fjords).  Of course, being a fan of all gorges, it's already high on our list.  We took bus M8 to the popular seaside town of Cassis, a convenient place to check off both Les Calanques and Cap Canaille (2/3 of the walk was on GR98). 

Les Calanques were every bit as beautiful as I expected, which also meant there were a lot of visitors.  There were people of all ages and shapes walking the trails, rather plunking themselves on the first spit of sandy beach they came, the American way.  For John, the outing was more anthropologically interesting.  If we had another day, we'd be investigating kayaking.

Rode the metro a couple of stops to pick up bus M8 to Cassis. Gotta love a metro that has an aquarium down beside the tracks at one of its stops.
Cassis, France

Bus M8 passed the Unit D'Habitation on the way to Cassis. Bonus.
Cassis, France

Cassis Port.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

A small beach at Cassis, not a calanque beach.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Following the trail to Calanque En Vau.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

We are not alone. But the trail would get crowded then thin. Folks would stop to swim or to picnic and there are many places to do so.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

A young man offered to take our photo. Sure!
Cassis, France

The view from our lunch spot. Can you spot the kayakers and the 4 rock climbers?...
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

...Or in this shot?
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Sun-Ling risks her life stepping out onto a ledge to take some panos with her phone...
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

...while John stays behind to guard the lunch bag.
Cassis, France

Calanque En Vau Cassis, France

Calanque En Vau Cassis, France

We head back to Cassis after sitting for a few minutes at the official Calanque En Vau Viewpoint.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Back in Cassis, we head up to Cap Canaille which is billed as the highest sheer-drop cliff in Europe at 400 meters straight down. We walk on the road and it's a pretty easy 400 meter ascent in about an hour.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

The view to Cassis from about 3/5ths of the way up.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

And from the top. Wow!
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Panorama above Cassis, France

And the view EAST towards Ciotat and Toulon beyond.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

Almost back down.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

An older model Citroen grinds up a steep section.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France

And finally, the view back to Cap Canaille through the M8 bus window.
Calanques de Cassis - Cassis, France



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Unremarkable Aix

Aix-en-Provence first caught my attention from a Joseph Covington lecture series at the NCMA twenty some years ago.  However, during our trip research, both of us pegged Aix as a tourist trap, not worthy of an overnight.  From our plebeian base of Marseilles, we made the obligatory day trip to the patrician Aix, anticipating the sweet taste of self righteousness.

1. Aix is small.  The only thing that is worthy of the town's grand reputation is La Rotonde, the round fountain, though the square around it is being remodeled.  In fact, half of the town seemed to be remodeled, as if they are readying themselves to be an European cultural capital.

2. The town is so lacking in tourist attractions that it has to tout the walking tour of Cezanne.  After coming across his sister's residence and his mother's funeral site, I stopped paying attention all together.  It's not like he is Marx or Einstein.  I like Cezanne well enough, but not that much.

3. Another thing Aix promotes is its markets, so we timed our visit for Tuesday, a market day.  The main drag was completely lined with big booths, almost 100% tourist shoppers, 99% goods almost definitely not from Provence.  I wonder what their vetting process is like to allow such common peddlers for such a classy town 🙄

I'd probably be happy enough to live in Aix, but as a tourist destination, Aix does not have much to recommend for itself.

La Rotonde.
Aix-en-Provence

The Tuesday Market.
Aix-en-Provence

The footsteps of Cezanne.
Aix-en-Provence

The vegetable market in the old town town center did have that locals-shop-here feel.
Aix-en-Provence

Fixing up the square in front of the Palace of Justice; with an in-progress archaeological dig.
Aix-en-Provence

The new theatre.
Aix-en-Provence

The best part IMO of the trip to Aix was twice walking through the Marseille St Charles Train Station (to and from the bus station). Wow! It's perched above the old port with great views, and with a magnificent staircase taking you up, or down, to or from, street level. Not to mention the old school roof; and the trains.

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Likable Marseille

We are finally having warm and sunny weather.  In fact, it's bordering on hot.  I'd better not complain.  In three days we went from winter to summer.

1. Since we are in the middle of French school holidays, there are a lot visitors in town, but Marseille is the second largest city in France, the city carries right on.  It's just more lively.

2. Marseille is full of viewpoints everywhere you look.  The old port is really special.  John pointed out that the port is like their giant square, at the bottom of a bowl.

3. Marseille is a working city, a microcosm of history, civilization, and population.  Marseille was Phoenician, Greek, then Roman.  Today, one third of the population are of Italian descent, one third are Muslims, and there are sizable Eastern Europeans and Asians.  Though Marseille suffered much from WWII, the vibrancy of the city throughout its long history is evident everywhere, including many current projects.

We are glad to have discounted all idle rumors about Marseille (Rhonda: we stand with you), We should have scheduled at least a whole week instead of five nights.

For a second time this trip we ride a FLixBus - Nice to Marseille. Again it was delayed (before we boarded in Nice) by the Italy/France border crossing.
The FliXBUS from Torino to Marsiglia (Marseille), France

Here's shot from the bus of typical leafy Marseille streets as we head down to the Marseille St Charles Station (bus, train, and metro all in one station).
Marseille, France

Marseille's Old Port is the spot to hang out at all hours of the day or night. Our apartment was about 50 meters from the quay of the Old Port. We just could not get enough of it.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

This "sign" was always mobbed.
Marseille, France

And so was this mirror-roof.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

The various tourist cruises were always busy as well as the "tourist trains" and open air buses.
Marseille, France

The tall ship Hermione was in port and left port while we were there.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

We walked out of our apartment each morning to this.
Marseille, France

If we stuck our head out of the one window at night, we could see the harbor below and the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde above.
Marseille, France

We were also just 5 minutes from great sunset views. We went out everyday for the sunset.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

The Old Port continues to fix and repair small boats.
Marseille, France

A view of the port from Fort St Jean.
Marseille, France

A cool sky bridge connects the fort with the MUCEM museum complex.
Marseille, France

MUCEM.
Marseille, France

Les Docks - once a warehouse, now shopping.
Marseille, France

Ferries from/to Corsica and Algeria arrive/leave from Marseille.
Marseille, France

Here are 2 shots of a ferry to Algiers head out at sunset.
Sunset - Marseille, France

Marseille, France

CMA-CGM shipping has a big brand new HQ building at the modern port. I was busted for taking pics close to the tower. ;-)
Marseille, France

Marseille as a very good public transport system including these trams.
Marseille, France

And folks cycle, skate, scoot or segue around town.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Le Panier District up the hill behind our apartment - the oldest district in Marseille.
Marseille, France

The Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille.
Marseille, France

Some night shots around the Old Port.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

One day we took on a long walk east along the Marseille waterfront; then over to Unite Habitation the famous building designed by Le Corbusier, then Metro=>bus up to the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille "built" a long stretch of public beach with nice facilities: changing rooms, wind surfing, restaurants and more.
Marseille, France

L'Unité d'Habitation designed by Le Corbusier.
L'Unité d'Habitation - Marseille, France

Roof.
L'Unité d'Habitation - Marseille, France

L'Unité d'Habitation - Marseille, France

View from building roof to the modern stadium (Rolling Stones this June!) and adjacent mall and transport hub.
L'Unité d'Habitation - Marseille, France

View to mountains.
L'Unité d'Habitation - Marseille, France

Rooftop view to the sea.
L'Unité d'Habitation - Marseille, France

Metro is old-ish but speedy.
Marseille, France

View from the Basilique.
Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France

Marseille, France