When I arrived in France back in September, I saw advertisements for my favorite musical, Mamma Mia!, which was touring around the country. So, I of course I jumped at the chance to see it live, in French, in the city nearest to me, Marseille.
Marseille has a reputation for being a really rough and dirty city which is full of crime. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved Marseille. In fact, it is now tied with Nice as my favorite city in La Côte d’Azur. The oldest, as well as the second-largest city in France, Marseille is drenched in history. Marseille was also named the 2013 European Capital of Culture, meaning that there are infinite opportunities for things to see/do. (Not to mention, the government really fixed up the city in the honor of being named the 2013 European Capital of Culture).
We arrived in Marseille via train with no expectations, (and in my opinion that is the best way to travel). We first made our way to the well-known Vieux Port, where I then found the hostel in which I was staying and dropped my bags off while the others rode the carousel. After, our group decided to stop quickly at a boulangerie and then make our way to Notre Dame de La Garde, a famous Catholic basilica which was built on the foundations of an ancient fort– it houses the highest natural point of Marseille. We were not disappointed with the magnificent views, but the Le Mistral was incredibly powerful!
We then descended and made our way back towards the Vieux Port, where we came across Fort Jean and Fort Nicholas, which was built by train-wreck Louis XIV in the 17th century, and then later held war criminals awaiting trials during WWII.
We continued our descent and found ourselves in a savonnerie… aka a soap shop. (Marseille is well known for its home-made soaps). I bought some for my studio.
By this time, we were all ready for a drink, so we sat down in the old town, aka Le Panier, to enjoy the sites and sounds of Marseille.
From there we finished off our day at the famous Cathedrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille,, which is known for its beautiful Roman architecture. Finally we hit up the MuCEM aka the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée), a national museum. We only had about an hour inside, so I decided to see this amazing temporary exhibit called Au Bazar du Genre Feminin-Masculin en Méditerranée, which was about the societal construction of gender, the history and progress of gender roles, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights in the Mediterranean and how it’s changing. It was AMAZING and feminist heaven!!!
From there I made my way back to the hostel, said Adieu to my friends, changed into my little black dress and nude heels, and took the metro across the city to the dome where Mamma Mia! was held. For the record, the show was amazing. This was my third time seeing Mamma Mia (I saw it in NYC in 2009 and in Appleton in 2011), and even though it was all in French I still really, immensely enjoyed myself.
The next day in Marseille was really stormy and rainy. Because we had already seen the MuCEM, I decided to try to best the rain and see Le Palais de Longchamps, which was built in the honor of the presence of running water in Marseille back in the 1800’s. Unfortunately I got soaked, so I eventually just decided to do another sweep around the port and then make my way back to Toulon.
Fortunately, I only live an hour from the second biggest city in France. This spring I am going to return in order to take the boat ride or kayaks to Cassis and Calanques!