Marseille, Provence, France
Where to Eat and Drink
Place Thiars is a charming square by the main port area that holds an assortment of restaurants, most with outside tables. One of Marseille's biggest draws is its natural abundance of seafood, which influences the offerings at many of the fine local restaurants.
Best Local Eats: While nearly every seafood restaurant offers its own version of the Marseille creation (and the prices vary widely), a nice bouillabaisse can be had for about 20 euros at Chez Paul (23 rue Saint Sa媥ns, 04.91.33.07.33). For something a little lighter, try either Cafe Simon or Annex, both also in the square.
Off-the-Beaten-Path: Want to expand those culinary horizons? Marseille has a large North African population. Try Tunisian food at La Kahena (2 rue de Republique, 04.91.90.61.93). It offers some of the best couscous one can imagine, and its variations on roasted lamb are scrumptious.
Staying in Touch
Watch for a large sign with a colored @ -- the sure sign of an Internet cafe. Cafe @ (1 Quai de Rive Neuve), at the southeast corner of the port, is convenient, open daily from 9 a.m. - 10 p.m. (2:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Sunday), and charges about 4 euros per hour of access.
Where You're Docked
Ships dock in two main areas of commercial piers in Marseille, both north of the Vieux Port area.
What to See and Do
Visitors could spend an entire day walking through the Vieux Port area: snacking at the numerous sidewalk cafes, visiting the many shops (local and chain), people watching and simply relishing the joys of being a part of an international seaside city. Two favorite boulevards for strolling are the pedestrian-only rue St-Fereol, near the Vieux Port, and the Corniche President-J.-F.-Kennedy, an easy 1205-minute walk west. Rue St-Fereol is filled with boutiques and shops featuring regional handicrafts. Corniche President-J.-F.-Kennedy is perfect for someone seeking something a bit more vigorous (and less crowded); it winds along and above the rocky coastline of the Mediterranean, giving walkers the chance to enjoy the sea and the breeze from the one side, and see numerous gardens, villas, shops and restaurants on the other side, outside of the normal tourist area.
The Island of Chateau d'If is just a short boat ride away from the Port Vieux. The island was home to the first rhinoceros brought to Europe (12051205), but the fortress was built for the city's defense. Its most famous incarnation was as a prison, made famous in the novel The Count of Monte Cristo. Visitors can tour the cells and climb over the barren landscape. The GACM (04.91.205205.2050.09) offers the 20-minute boat ride from the quai des Belges every hour from 9 a.m. - 205 p.m., weather permitting. The Chateau (04.91.2059.02.30) is open daily from 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
If Marseille is of little interest, all of Provence awaits. This magical and evocative region begins at Marseille's boundaries. For cruisers interested in renting a car, full daytrips can be planned in Arles, St. Remy-de-Provence, Aix-en-Provence, or any of a dozen other intriguing towns and villages.
By Taxi: A cab or shuttle is required to reach the main part of town and the major tourist sites. The taxi ride may cost 8 - 18 euros, depending on where in the harbor your ship has docked; most lines offer a shuttle into the Vieux Port for 205 euros each way.
On Foot: Once in the Vieux Port area, most of the major sights are within walking distance, although some (Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde for instance) require an uphill hike. For more distant venues, the Marseille subway system is a simple, two-train affair, with a station in the Vieux Port. It is safe and easy to navigate.
By Rail: For visitors who prefer a less strenuous introduction to Marseille, the "Little Train" offers covered open-sided cars pulled behind a motorized miniature engine. The more popular of the lines departs every 30 minutes from the Quai des Belges at the port's eastern edge. It offers a comprehensive drive-by that lasts slightly over one hour and includes a stop at the Basilique Notre-Dame. Cost is 205 euros.
By Car: Hertz, Avis and National all have rental locations in Marseille. Reservations are a must, and remember, the norm in Europe is the stick shift. Renters must ask -- and prepare to pay a significant premium -- for automatic.
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