Vacation: Day 8-10

On Day 8, we spent the morning packing up and walking through Avignon one last time.  Then we drove back to the Marseille airport and dropped off our rental car. Our hotel sent a van to pick us up, and we spent the evening there.

Hotel near Marseille airport

Our last day in France, we decided to go to Marseille. Without a car, it ended up being a tad complicated. We’d planned on having the hotel take us back to the airport. Check. Then picking up the bus to head to the train station. Fail. You have to buy your train ticket first to get on the bus, and none of the SNCF kiosks would recognize our credit cards. Since there were no people there to help us, we ended up employing my vocab word for this trip: navette (shuttle). We took the shuttle/big bus that runs from the Marseille airport (that is actually about 20 minutes from Marseille, in Marignane) to the main train station in Marseille proper. It’s faster than having to take the bus/train, a little more expensive, and it was our only option. Once at the train station, we bought two unlimited metro passes and took the subway to the Old Port.

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It was earlier enough in the day that the fish market was still there. This port is the heart of old Marseille, the second biggest city in France. The port was established by the Greeks in about 600 BC and it’s been used continually since. (There’s a new port on the western side of the city that can accommodate bigger ships.)

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We had a vague idea of the location of the tourism office, and we were lucky enough to see signs pointing us towards it. Somehow we missed a turn in the Place Charles de Gaulle, but to our luck, this led us to one of the two Nespresso stores in Marseille. We were hoping to find one of them (I had the addresses in my purse), but stumbling across one made it seem so serendipitous.  We went in and were given a taste of chocolate and a cup of espresso. We bought a really cool Nespresso pod dispenser. (We’re big fans if you haven’t guessed.)

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Then we found the Tourism office right on La Canebiere, a very famous street that we didn’t get to explore. The woman in the tourism office pointed us to some restaurants to find bouillabaisse, a local specialty: fish soup. The places she recommended were a little pricier than we wanted, so we walked around until we found one Phil liked the look of. I was hoping for a salad since I don’t eat fish, but his pick didn’t have any salad on the menu, or anything I’d eat. Long story short, the chef came out and agreed to make something for me. His exact words, in fact, were “I’ll make something for you.” I had no idea what to expect.

Phil loved his soup.

Phil has bouillabaisse

I got a beautiful salad! The chef came out to check on me, even.

My chef's special

We wanted to take it easy since this was our last day of vacation. We got tickets for one of the little train tours, and it was awesome! Marseille is such a big city, that it was a good way to see a bit of everything as quickly as possible. We snaked along the coast for awhile, glimpsing Chateau D’If nearby. (I honestly didn’t know it was a real place.)

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Chateau d'If

We rode along the Corniche.

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And we went up some very steep hills.

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A passing motorcyclist waved as he passed us.

Motorcyclist waves to tourists

Then we glimpsed our final destination: Notre Dame de la Garde. Yes, our little train went up that hill, the highest point in Marseille.

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From the top of the Garde, you could see all of Marseille. It was truly overwhelming. The population density was astounding. The Mediterranean was wonderfully blue. We walked around in awe for a little bit before going up to the church.

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Inside, every square inch of the church is decorated. Miniature boats hang from the ceiling, each one unique, a testament to the importance of marine life in this city. The church was so colorful, it was the last thing we expected when we walked in.

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The train took us back to the Old Port, where we picked the subway up, headed back to the train station and took the shuttle back home. (We tried the train again, since there were people to help this time, but the line for tickets was insanely long and slow.)

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Day 10 consisted of getting to the airport stupid early, the airline somehow switching our side-by-side seats on us, then arguing to get some seats next to each other back, then waiting forever. Security in Paris took forever, then we landed in Houston tired and cranky and happy to be home.

We had a great time in France! We loved taking it slow and taking days off to just enjoy our surroundings and relax. I know I can overplan and overtax Phil, so this was the best of both worlds. We had a detailed plan in place, but a lot of flexibility built into it. We focused on enjoying ourselves, not checking places off of a list. It worked out best for both of us. I wasn’t panicked by a lack of planning, and Phil wasn’t dragged across the French countryside every day.

The rental car was a little bit of a mixed bag. We liked the flexibility, but it was a bit stressful navigating (for me) and driving (for Phil) in a place we weren’t familiar with. No major incidents, though.

We loved our apartment. It was perfectly situated and gave us a little home to come back to every night. We even cooked in one evening.

Looking back over our trip, I miss it already!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Kimberly
    Jul 02, 2010 @ 07:34:00

    Just wanted to thank you for sharing your trip. I loved visiting along with you. It sounds like a trip of a lifetime!

    Fellow Blogger,
    Kimberly Kane

    Reply

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