This morning we docked in France’s second largest city and busiest port, Marseille. The perfect gateway to the colorful countryside of Provence, we disembarked with a loose plan to hop the train to nearby Aix-En-Provence. With no map and only a rough idea of where we were going, we managed to locate a metro station and make our way to the main train station of St. Charles.
From there it was an easy 40-minute train ride to Aix-En-Provence. Cultural capital of Provence and birthplace of Paul Cezanne, Aix is a sleepy beauty filled with tree-lined boulevards, cafes, fountains and cathedrals. After a few hours spent leisurely strolling through the winding cobblestone streets, we caught the train back to take in a little more of Marseille.
First up, the Vieux Port (old harbor). Filled with thousands of sailboats and lined with colorful buildings, it was the perfect place to grab lunch before heading up the limestone bluff overlooking the city to visit the Basilica Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. Built in 1864, the basilica’s Romanesque-Byzantine architecture is surely eye-catching, but it’s the panoramic views of Marseille, the sea and the surrounding islands that are the real draw.
It was another splendidly sunny day and we enjoyed exploring Marseille and Provence. Tonight we’ll be cruising along France’s famed Cote d’Azur passing Nice, Cannes and Monaco (perhaps a glimpse of the Royal wedding fireworks?) on our way to Genoa, Italy.