Marseille was only supposed to be a pit stop but plans took a turn for the better in the end and we stayed in Marseille for a night after finally crossing into France. Upon arriving I knew that Middle Eastern food was the route to take and we filled up on kebabs from one of the many kebab hubs in Marseilles.
Marseille has a history of being a city of immigrants for centuries, lately the wave has been from Africa, Turkey, and Asia. It's many influences are seen in the variety of flavors of food and the street art that so famously gives the city its character.
Despite it's reputation for being one of the most dangerous cities in Europe, Marseille is dynamic and sorely underestimated.
Le Panier was among one of the most eye catching areas we encountered. There were artisan shops and plenty of art both inside and outside of warm colored homes where African soca can be heard playing from windows with clothes hanging to dry. From wandering around Le Panier we made our way to the most popular attraction in Marseille, Vieux Port.
Leading up to the port you pass by Marseille Cathedral, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, and the Memorial des Camps de la Mort where you can get a good view of Notre-Dame de la Garde that looks down on the port.
In Vieux Port you watch the world go by. There are vast amounts of restaurants and bars surrounding the port filled with locals and tourists. A quick observation told me that the South side of the port had its more popular and local spots. Slow moving boats coming in and out the port along with people watching on the seaside ferris wheel made the sunset on the port entirely unforgettable.
And then there was Nice...
Without having visited, one cannot correctly interpret the vibrance of the Côte d'Azur of France. Countless books, films, art, music videos and even rap songs have been inspired by its unbelievable turquoise waters, its lavish lifestyle, and pastel luxury homes. It is truly meant to be experienced and not seen through a screen.
We spent Bastille Day in Nice which might have been why the crowds were especially large. It was also the anniversary of the terror attack that occurred one year ago. Access to the beach front was limited and it was pretty congested in the downtown area. Nonetheless, we enjoyed crepes and other confections on the Avenue Jean Medecin after a day at the beach.
There are several cultural points to check out such as the Musée Marc Chagall, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, and Musée Matisse. It probably would be best to pass by Place Massena and take the stroll down Avenue Jean Medecin, a popular street to shop. When on the French Riveria however, it's hard to get your mind out of the rapture of the simple things, sun and beach. Of course your eyes can't miss the superficial either like admiring elegant Belle Epoque apartment homes and gardens.
While in Nice, it would be foolish not to take the twenty minute train from the Gare de Nice Ville station to Monte Carlo, Monaco. The ride to Monte Carlo was especially spectacular. The window on the train also acts like a window into the lives of French vacation goers. You'll blush passing by nude beaches and sigh at the sight of private, small beaches and sunbathers enjoying an sunny, lazy afternoon on a yacht. Once getting to Monaco you wind your way through to Port Hercule and walk up to the Prince's castle. Although it won't take longer than 3 hours to take pictures and breathe in the multimillion dollar vistas, you can make the walk to Monte Carlo to explore and dine in one of its many fine restaurants if your budget allows.