11 May – Marseille (Provence), France

Published: May 12th 2016
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David below the Notre Dame de la Garde
Bon jour from France. Let’s begin with a note we received last night from Stephanie. “Abigail went back to the orthopedist yesterday to check on her arm. Unfortunately, it is not done healing, so we were not able to have the cast removed yet. The doctor wants to wait another three weeks before they check it again, which means no year-end swim party and no soccer camp.” So everyone should send here some warm thoughts (if not an e-mail) to help make her feel a little better and hope she gets well soon.

This morning we got up and had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. Our tour here in Marseille occurred after lunch, so we had the whole morning to ourselves. The fellow members of the Knitters Guild seem to have gone ashore on morning excursions, so Janet settled down for some needlework by herself in the cabin. Meanwhile David got off the ship to see what was in the souvenir stand on the pier at the side of the ship. There were two additional cruise ships in port (one from Regent and one from Costa) but our ship was definitely the

Models hanging from the ceiling of Basilica

David came back and rested on one of the upper decks hoping to get to take some scenery pictures. Unfortunately it was raining in the first part of the morning and still quite overcast through the later morning, so not much developed. However the ship’s crew members were busily involved in “crew exercises” and were off fighting a fire in the engine room and performing emergency medical evacuations from the dining room. The absence of passengers and the crew being below decks left the rest of the ship pretty much vacant – kind of weird. Of course they still left staff in the bars and Horizon Court to provide passenger services if requested.

We went to the International Café for small sandwiches and drinks for lunch about 11:30 and then went ashore to check out the shops that David had scoped out previously. Nothing appealed to either of us, so we just waited for our tour to be called “at pier side” about 12:30. There were 5 bus loads of people taking this half day tour. It was advertised as having “limited to no walking” and suitable for those with mobility difficulties. The

View of Old Port from Notre Dame de la Garde
first bus was loaded with people who amazed David in that they were even able to climb the steps to get on the bus. It was not the group we wanted to ride with – no offense. Since there were lots of people waiting, we held back until #1 was full. We got on the second bus and only 2 people had canes and the rest were like us.

We drove out of the new cruise terminal and through the commercial port heading toward the city. Marseilles is the largest seaport in France. The city has a population of about 800,000, but when we looked out across the city it appeared to be enormous. Apparently the surrounding neighborhoods are not included in that number. Marseilles dates back to 600 BC and was originally founded by people exploring from Italy – even then it had a great seaport potential.

We drove along their highway for a while and then through many narrow and twisting streets. We drove along the Corniche, enjoying the views of its craggy coves and beaches, as well as several enormous private yachts. The bus somehow negotiated the proper passageways

View of the Cathedral from the Old Port in Marseilles
without scrapping anything. We drove around the Old Port and saw City Hall and a 5-star hotel, past the Palace of Justice, the Cathedral de la Major in the center of town, and by many more interesting places. When we had visited Marseilles in 2010, it was in the midst of a strike by the garbage collectors and it was the hot part of summer, so the city really smelled badly back then – today it was much improved! We drove back to the coast and past the If Castle fortress, which was built in 1524 and sits on the tiny Isle of If off the coast. It was the setting for the famous book “Count of Monte Cristo”. Elsewhere we threaded our way past several fire trucks on a narrow street, but they were just standing around and did not appear to be fighting a fire that we saw. Finally we meandered up another hill and reached the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. On the front of the basilica is a gilded statue of the Virgin and Child “looking down on Marseille, as if to protect the city and the people below”.


Street Tram in Marseilles

The Sieberts will remember us going there 6 years ago. To recap it is an incredible church on the top of a very high hill. However the only way to reach it is to climb a set of 100 steps to reach the first landing. Then another 30 steps takes you to the church crypt level and more steps will actually conclude at the basilica. This is the root of a story where our guide 6 years ago just about killed Janet with her encouragement to climb the steps. Anyway, this time Janet said she’d been there once and once was enough for her. Some of our busload stayed in the bus with her but others worked on the climb. But there is NO WAY this can be for “limited mobility”. Anyway, David climbed the steps, saw the facility again and got some pictures. They have a collection of models hanging from the ceiling depicting the vessels (boats or planes) that people from Marseilles took away from town and they were supposed to be taken done upon a safe return, so they reflect tragedies for their citizens over the years. David got a couple of souvenirs to being back to

Janet selecting a souvenir to bring home to the cat
people at home, and then he came back down the steps and returned to the bus. Janet thought one of the things was so nice she wanted it too, so David climbed again and got another. There had been a lady sitting next to Janet who also thought it would be great but she was sure her husband would buy one so she did not want David to buy her one. Bottom line is the husband did not and by the time David got back there was no time for a 3rd trip up the mountain.

The bus came back down through town and dropped us all off at the Old Port in the middle of town. Back during our previous visit there had been a long line of kiosks and vendor’s carts all along the side where we had bought stuff in 2010. Today there were none (we don’t know why then and not now). This was about 3:00 and the schedule called for us to all have 1:45 for “free time” around the shops, restaurants, and bars. Had the kiosks been there it would have been great but we walked a little and then settled down to wait for the bus to return. A few folks (particularly the “cane people”) were not happy about spending so much time waiting for the bus. This did not qualify as “little to no walking” in their mind. For us, we kind of enjoyed the free time and appreciated the chance to browse awhile and then sit/rest. We watched two sets of mini-trains driving hop-on/hop-off passengers around the streets of Marseilles. We did not have any rain during the afternoon, although it was mostly cloudy and only about 60 degrees – sweatshirt weather.

The bus picked us up and returned us to the ship about 5:15. However many other tours were returning at the same time, so there was a long line for boarding the ship again. But it moved pretty quickly (and we knew to skip the little shops) and we got back to our cabin by about 5:40. We just had time for a quick cleanup and we went to dinner at 6:00. Janet had the Prosciutto and Melon appetizer and the Cold Peach Soup. For her entrée she had a Shrimp and Scallop Casserole. David had a Shrimp Cocktail, Bean Soup, and Spaghetti with Meatballs. For dessert Janet had some Gelato and David had a slice of Italian Ice Cream Cake. This evening David felt like beer with his meal and Janet had white wine. For after dinner, Janet had Irish Cream and David had Kahlua. Up until now we have been reporting each of these after dinner drinks as liquors but no one has corrected us – they should have been liqueurs. Also during dessert, Janet gave Joyce a scarf she had knitted during the cruise since today was Joyce’s real birthday.

After dinner we went to the theater and watched a show by “The Beatle Maniacs”. They did a good job of playing old Beatles songs but they were very loud. We had gone to the 8:15 show. When they had the 10:15 show, we could hear the same songs up through the floor in our cabin and we are a couple of decks above the Princess Theater. They were good but it was so loud it gave David a headache. Anyway, we are back in the cabin trying to get settled down for the night so we can start fresh again tomorrow. Au revoir from France.

We did not get this posted to the blog last night but here is what we intended to say if the internet had cooperated.


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