Sunkissed in Marseille

Monday, February 7, 2022 | Written by Claire

A seaside city in South France known for their diverse cuisine and cultural influence, Marseille was our escape from the cold, dreary weather of Metz, and a refreshing trip within the borders of France! When I walked off the train after a long, overnight haul, I came with no idea about what this place had to hold. All I was excited for was the 55-degree weather and a whole weekend of sunshine as promised by the weather app. As we began to explore the city and trek across the empty streets at 6:30 AM, I realized that Marseille had so much culture and excitement to offer .

The skies were a baby pink and pastel blue when we reached the Notre-Dame de la Garde, perched upon a hill overlooking the city. The view was breath-taking. The clear blue waters of the Mediterranean melted into the gentle hues of the sky to create a glowing aura across the land. Against the beautiful backdrop, the city started to wake from its slumber as people slowly filled the streets, each claiming a pastry for a quick breakfast. The random collection of buildings, homes, and even soccer fields created an interesting puzzle of red roofs, white columns, and green patches of land. As I stood along an overlook, I took a deep breath of crisp morning air just as the church clock began to strike. The sound of the resounding gongs and the squawking birds paired with the stunning view and peaceful scenery painted the ideal picture of Marseille into my memory, one so different from any others.

The influence of the Mediterranean created an interesting scene change that spawned new foods, architecture, and social systems. This specific weekend, however, the ongoing strikes in France began to take a toll on the city itself. Unlike the streets of Metz, the buildings were a rugged beige or crème color, often marked with graffiti and other stickers and posters. The streets, different from the typical French wide-set cobblestone, were often narrow, dingy, and littered with cigarette butts and beer cans. Mounds of trash pilled on the sides of the road, oozing, and giving off unpleasant odors. The anti-vax strikes of trash workers in Marseille left the city in rubbish for the weekend, giving it a very different outlook than the pristine impression I saw just an hour ago from the Notre Dame de la Garde. I didn’t have a chance to take a picture of the graffiti covered streets in Marseille, but here is one I’ve found online. These types of streets are common around the city center.
The next morning, we took a trip to Parc National de Calanques, an area known for famous hikes, clear waters, and sea sports. To get there, we had to take a train to Cassis, another small seaport city just 28 mins from Marseille. The weather couldn’t have been better. With the sun casting a warm blanket, the white cliffs of the Calanques became the ideal hike. Eventually, I had to shed some layers down to a tank top to keep myself from sweating into my leather jacket. The hike took at least four hours, filled with careful walks on off-beat gravel paths, climbs down stone faces, and half-jogs to avoid slipping on loose rocks. The trail snaked along the coast where we could see paddle boarders and kayakers taking their time across the clear, turquoise water. Others, unequipped, simply stripped down and jumped in, stroking along the small waves and into open water. The white sanded beaches were lined with sun bathers, young and old. Families picnicked near the waterfront with baskets of sandwiches and fruits. The atmosphere was joyful under the warm sun. By the end of the hike, exhausted yet satisfied, we all spread out across the rocks to enjoy some of the remnants of the setting sun before the world falls dark.