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Marseille is usually avoided by visitors yet if you discover it better, it is one of one of the most tempting locations in France.

So powerful is the effect of Alexandre Dumas’ story of 1845 that several individuals still think that Edmund Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo, was a real prisoner in the Chateau d’If, which depends on an island in Marseille harbour.

But Dantes was an imaginary character, unlike the hundreds of various other prisoners put behind bars there for many years _ and unlike the Asian rhinoceros, a bribe to the Pope from the King of Portugal, that was set onto land on the Ile d’If in 1515 while the ship that was carrying it to Rome was undergoing repairs.

It ended up being an item of terrific wonder, with even the King of France involving check out it.
But the freshly fixed ship was instantly damageded in a tornado and the rhinoceros, which was sunk with all the staff, was washed up on the coastline at Marseille.

Rather compared to waste such a gift, they stuffed it and also sent it to the Pope anyway, where it was most likely equally as excellent a source of wonder yet much less unpleasant to have around.

The French, an essentially practical people, recognize that they reside in God’s very own country and therefore favor not to leave it, also for holidays. However even they draw a line at Marseille, which has an online reputation for being a tough gritty sailors’ town and also as well harsh for fragile constitutions.

For the Mediterranean French who occupy Marseille are a race apart – swarthy instead of fair, not stylish and also soignee like their northern cousins.

Theirs is not an attractive city as well as its credibility for toughness is just.

But it has its own heady appeal, specifically if you maintain away from the back streets at night.

Chief amongst these appeals is the well-known Quay des Belges on the Vieux Port, where the fishwives market the catch of the day.

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An old road artist wanders past with his hurdy-gurdy secured in the framework of an ancient pram, and also three generations of Algerian ladies – a grandmother in complete standard outfit, a mommy in European clothing as well as a daughter in neon-blue lycra cycle trousers as well as sporting a navel ring – consume icecream made from fresh pears as well as blackcurrants, while the few visitors who are around group into the little train that takes them with the old components of the city.

If you’re not knowledgeable about the layout of Marseille, this is not such a crassly vacationer thing to do, for the city has actually been cavalier regarding its architectural heritage as well as its treasures are not always obvious.

Although you can’t get off the train, you obtain a concept of exactly what’s worth finding once more later, which saves a great deal of unproductive walking.

It will lead you, as an example, to the old church of St Victor, constructed in the 11th century on Third century foundations.

This is one of the most stunning church in the city and as much gotten rid of as one can desire from the neo-Gothic Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, which dominates the city from the surrounding hills, and also the mock-Byzantine confection of the Basilica of the Major throughout the structure which they took care of to demolish the ideal components of one more exquisite 11th century church.

But that’s Marseille all over – also active concerning the present to trouble about the past.

It’s as if the treasures that remain are there just because they weren’t in the method of development. In the crypt of St Victor is the coffin of St Isarn, a 10th century saint whose toned face with its addicted nose, long top lip, strict mouth and also square chin is still resembled in the faces you see on the roads of Marseille. Yet its most amazing treasure is a genuine Black Virgin.

Black Virgins are strange creatures and also no one banks on their origins.

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There are a number of them in the south of France and they have all been deliberately paintinged black.

They could well be Christian versions of the Greek goddess Artemis, who was worshipped in this area, yet I think they are actually depictions of Mary Magdalene, who is generally taken into consideration to have actually converted the heathen around Marseille.

The Chateau d’If itself deserves the half-hour watercraft journey, for it stinks of terrible enchanting history. Constructed in 1542 as a support for the city, it came to be a state jail concerning 40 years later and also, from the spiritual wars of 1545 onwards, even more than 3500 Protestant prisoners were sent to prison there before being sent out as galley slaves. The prison itself has just around 20 cells and also the spirit of worry and also despair can still be felt as you wander with the barren areas, look with the tiny slit windows to the Vieux Port, and also check out the story of the scaries that were carried out there. Don’t anticipate it to be anything near the lovely castles of France that you discover in the Loire Valley though.

A much more pleasant journey is to the little seaside town of Cassis, just an hour’s drive from Marseille, tucked right into limestone hills and popular for its fish and shellfish dining establishments. The film The French Connection was made in Cassis and also it is likewise the location where Winston Churchill learned to repaint and also where he typically returned for holidays.

The coast in between Marseille as well as Cassis is damaged by incredible limestone cliffs, some greater than 400m high, which go down directly into a sea as clear as the waters of the Obstacle Reef and type inlets extremely a lot like Norwegian fjords.

They are called Les Calanques (the coves), and also for about $15 you can take a 90-minute watercraft journey past aggressive high cliffs and needle-like rocks.

Like Marseille, the quay at Cassis is lined with fish restaurants, offering the popular fish soup of the region, bouillabaisse.

Marseille is rough, difficult and unglamorous, yet to enjoy the real preference of the Mediterranean, it’s worth a minimum of 2 days of your holiday.