14 juillet – Bastille Day, 2018
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you! How about an unforgettable holiday with us at New Years’ Jazz in Italy?
“Where can we see some great Bastille Day fireworks near Aix?” we asked our in-the-know French friends…and Marseille was the top reply – now we know why! In addition to festive fun (Kirk’s birthday happens to be the same day as France’s National Holiday, you may remember!) we were looking forward to an air conditioned respite from the oppressive heat, and a swimming pool thrown in for good measure! Right on the historic Vieux Port, the Radisson Blu was a perfect choice – with a fabulous view from our 4th floor windows! Although we were tempted to stay in the marvelously cool room (you don’t know how much you miss air conditioning until you live without it for a while!), we decided to relax poolside instead – cooled with a refreshing dip and breezes as we basked in the sun, the 17th century Fort St. Nicolas looming beyond. Since Marseille is such a big city, I always imagined it as hotter than Aix – but no, it’s seaside location tempers the heat nicely – it’s bearable to stroll around near the water, unlike on those 89 degree afternoons in Aix. Enjoying the beautiful architecture as we seek out a restaurant for an early (for France, that is – around 8) dinner, we find many well-recommended spots right near the Vieux Port, and request an outdoor table at L’Oliveraie, on restaurant-lined Place aux Huiles. Jazz from the restaurant next-door entertains us as we relish a delicious dinner under the olive trees – we do recommend this place!
Police and Emergency Medical Teams are setting up all around the Vieux Port in preparation for the fireworks at 10, and early arrivers are claiming their spots chosen for the best view. After a sunset stroll along the water, we head up to our room, waiting for the show. Just after ten, the streetlights surrounding the port turn off, music booms from the speakers, and here we go! 16 pontoons are lined up down the middle,
and flare in unison with beautiful firework displays, while to our left, above Fort St. Nicolas, more fireworks fill the sky – what a show! Happy Birthday Kirk!
The celebrations continue on Sunday – France is in the World Cup! But the day starts quietly, with a walk around the port (check out the mermaids!) after the delicious buffet breakfast at the Radisson Blu.
You’ve heard of Savon de Marseille, I’m sure – now available worldwide, and one of the most popular booths at any south of France market – well why not buy fragrant olive oil soap right here in Marseille, IN the Vieux Port?One more delicious Marseille meal – fresh seafood -with-a-view at Caravelle – thanks, Corey of French La Vie for the recommendation!
Then under the so-cool reflective canopy we walk, snap a photo of ourselves, metro to the station, and bus back to Aix with revelers ready to watch the big game – yes, Les Bleus are World Champions again! Last time was 1998, and we were in Paris for that unforgettable revelry. Aix celebrates more calmly, we’re glad to say 🙂
What fun this second-largest city of France, Marseille, has been – we’ll be back!
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!
Marseilles oldest quartier, the atmospheric Panier, is a section of the city we’ve long wanted to visit, and today we meet our friend Kim, who’s now living in this metropolis, and go exploring together. Rising up from the port, the narrow lanes begin their ascent near the Bar de Platane, where shabby chic takes over from newly renovated and restored.
That worn charm shows through every turn we take, from laundry tucked into a windowpane, to a purposefully faded façade. Rather like a manicured 3-day beard, this apparent age seems calculated – let’s paint these shutters so they look like they were painted 20 years ago!
Wandering up and down the steep lanes, we see a crisp and clean entry once in a while, but most places have that “charme de l’ancien” down pat. This quirky spot, with vines snaking on the door, is the HQ of the Bien Fêteurs – literally benefactors, but definitely a play on words – they are, indeed, the Party Hardiers!
Many of the streets are pedestrian only, and are often stair steps from one warren of colorful buildings to another – a lot of climbing up and down. Or you can take the Petit Train from the port, stopping at the main squares, such as Place de Lenche (named after a Corsican family who lived here ages ago), and up to elegant Vielle Charité. Built between 1671 and 1749, it’s the jewel of the quartier, with an impressive three tiered cloister and a beautiful chapel with a pediment reflecting care for poor children, the original purpose of the facility, which is now a cultural center. A popular French soap opera, Plus Belle la Vie, has put Place du 13 Cantons on the tourist map. One of the prettiest squares in the quartier, its Bar des 13 Coins is one of the settings for the show.
We’ve heard a lot about the new museums and renovation at the port, all part of when Marseilles was a European Capital of Culture in 2013, and that decaying area has indeed been cleaned up and modernized – with a hefty catwalk crossing from Fort St. Jean to MUCEM, the new museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisation.We’ve caught glimpses of Notre Dame de la Garde all day long, and there it is again, hovering over the city. We considered going up to see it today, but instead happily concur with Kim’s suggestion of relaxing in Lafayette Gourmet – that’s what happens when you hang out with a chef 😉
We actually abstained from the pastries, just sipping on a cup of coffee, since we want to find an early dinner before our evening entertainment begins. We know it’s unlikely that we’ll find a place serving dinner before 7, and sure enough, that’s the case as we walk to Hotel C2, a superbly renovated duo of townhomes that’s now a 5 star hotel. Our friend and neighbor, Marylène, is singing here tonight with her combo, Quai des Brunes (a play on words of a 1930s French film, chosen since the ladies perform the music of that era). I’ve enjoyed playing Brazilian music as Marylène sings for fun in their home, through the years we’ve known them, but this is the first time we’ll get to hear her group and we’re excited about that. We pause for a bite to eat in the elegant lobby, and once again enjoy a bottle of Jacques’ (Marylène’s husband) son’s wine – an excellent red, with our platters of charcuterie and cheese.
Under the modern chandeliers cascading down the center of the beautiful old stairway, the ladies are setting up…and as they begin to sing we look at the program – voices, piano, violin, and….claquettes? What’s that, we wonder? And we soon find out!
The lighting didn’t allow for very good video, but here’s a snippet more of their singing…before Marylène broke out the Carmen Miranda hat! What a fun day and evening! We catch the late bus back to Aix and walk home along the quiet streets, reflecting on a day of friends, tastes, sights and music – lovely!