Jordan and I spent a long weekend in Marseille for my birthday in June 2020. This was the first weekend we could travel outside of our 100km radius as we moved into the second phase of de-confinement. France also just opened up restaurants and bars a couple of days prior, which meant that we would be able to eat at a restaurant instead of ordering it to-go. Jordan had not seen the Mediterranean Sea before and we were excited to check it out. Many hotels were not yet open, and we booked an AirBnB with a beautiful view of the sea. We also had a view of Château d’If, the island/prison that Count of Monte Cristo was based off of. Unfortunately, Château d’If was still closed due to COVID-19 and we could not visit it on this trip. We didn’t have any concrete plans for this trip because we booked it so last minute, but luckily one of my coworkers lives in Marseille and sent me some amazing do’s and don’ts of the city. We used that list as the guide for our trip!
When we first arrived in Marseille, we set out to Plage des Catalans, the local beach right across from our AirBnB. This was a public beach that had security at the entry gates monitoring the amount of people that went in. There was an awesome churro truck right outside the gates that made fresh-to-order churros, and we had to get some. If you know me, you know that I love churros, and I couldn’t pass them up on my birthday. I’ll be honest, even if it wasn’t my birthday I would still have bought some!
In the afternoon, we decided to go check out Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, which was located on the top of a hill in the city. We heard it had great views of the city and aggressively decided to walk there. If you go to Marseille, take the bus or tourist tram instead! Do not walk – you go uphill the entire time and there’s so many stairs. It’s obvious now that we would be walking uphill at the time, but it didn’t initially cross my mind when I suggested walking until it was too late!
We spent the evening walking around the Vieux-Port de Marseille. This area is full of shops and restaurants and surrounds the local marina. We enjoyed the local fish dish of the day at Chez Madie Les Galinettes, a restaurant located right at the marina that was recommended to us by my coworker. We also couldn’t celebrate a birthday without cake, and made sure to stop by a local bakery, Minoofi Bakery, for cake. We had hoped to buy red velvet cake (my favorite!) but they were all sold out, so we settled by trying a few different things for the weekend: a lemon cupcake, a chocolate caramel cupcake, and a heavenly slice of peanut butter chocolate pie.
We visited a nearby town, Cassis, and the Parc National des Calanques for a hike on Saturday. Cassis was also recommended to us by my worker and our French teacher and was described to us as “a treasure”. It did not disappoint! The water was the most stunning color I’ve seen. We didn’t go swimming on this trip even though plenty of people were enjoying the water. It was a little too cold for us (around 66 degrees)! The calanques near Marseille are also famous for their striking steep cliffs along the water that are lined with inlets filled with beautiful turquoise water. Many people hike a couple of hours to go swimming in the calanques. It looked absolutely dreamy and we are hoping to go back this summer when it’s a little warmer. Our hike was about 5km round trip and took us to the top of one of the cliffs that overlook an inlet. It was stunning and you had such an expansive view of the sea. Jordan had booked us a dinner right on the water in Marseille, and we headed back to go enjoy more seafood!
On Sunday, we took a boat tour of the local calanques in the area. The boat had a handful of others on it, but was not full. The tour was all in French and we didn’t capture anything the guide was saying. It didn’t matter, because the weather was beautiful and the scenery was fantastic! We spent the rest of the night in Marseille and then headed home on Monday morning. I had heard mixed things about visiting Marseille, but we had the best experience and would definitely go back.