What’s the D’If?

We’ve had a beautiful time in Marseille. Blue skies, 85 degrees (but not humid), nice ocean breezes. After a bit of wandering (and arguing) we found the tourist office. Randy likes to ask people where to go, and I like to figure things out myself…so that can lead to a little head-butting (basically I think he’s a butt head, and he thinks I am one). It also leads to success, because usually Randy asks someone who tells us where to go much faster than I can figure it out. Thanks to a local woman who spoke English very well, and brought us to the tourist office herself (it was near the metro, apparently), we got some maps and information.

Our first activity? Visit the Island of If. On this island lies the Chateau d’If, which is actually an old fortress. It’s what the Count of Monte Cristo is based on, and hundreds of prisoners (especially protestants) have been held here over the last few centuries. Now it’s a great tourist spot.


Ferry from Vieux Port area to Islands of If and Frioul.

Chateu d’If from the ferry boat.

Chateu d’If, from the front. I love castles. Fortresses count as castles.

It was pretty cool walking around the fortress. There were very few restricted areas, so you basically go into every room. Since there are no furnishings (it was a prison…they didn’t have fancy things anyway) you just imagine what may have been there. There is a dungeon and numerous rooms, each with fireplaces. A few of the rooms (the Count of Monte Cristo’s (a fictional character from Alexandre Dumas’ book) room, and the room attributed to Jean Baptiste Kléber, who was assassinated in Cario in 1800, but lay in the fortress from 1801-1818.

Graffiti from the early 1800s. That’s right, it’s carved into the wall.

They were kind of obsessed with the Asian rhino.

One of the prison cells with the most intact fireplace.

Next we walked up to the Notre Dame de la Garde, A gorgeous church that overlooks all of Marseille.

Notre Dame de la Garde, all the way up there...yes we've walked that far (and more) thus far!

Notre Dame de la Garde, all the way up there…yes we’ve walked that far (and more) thus far!

It’s not such a bad walk from the old part of town, and I think there are buses and trams. Our problem was our knack for getting lost, even with a map. We eventually made it to the church, and just in time for 6 o’clock sermon. That would have been great if I practiced religion, but as a tourist it was not so great because we couldn’t really walk around the church as we didn’t want to disrupt anything. Still, a pretty cool church, and one of the best views I’ve seen in a while. It was great to see Marseille spread out below us.

Notre Dame de la Garde, from the soccer pitch that’s right below it. A blessed field if ever there was one.

Notre Dame de la Garde, and the flag of Europe.

View of the altar within the Notre Dame de la Garde.

View of the islands of If and Frioul from Notre Dame de la Garde. If is the small one, second to the left (I think).

On our way home we ended up buying some amazing handmade raviolis for dinner. Accompanied with a beer, some salad, and the ubiquitous bread and cheese it was an amazing dinner. It’s very nice having an apartment for this leg of the journey.

Today we did a lot of walking (again). I tend to go for lower cost tourist attractions and free transportation. That means exploring cities by foot, and visiting lots of churches. I find that way you get to see a lot that you may otherwise have missed, and end up off the beaten path, plus churches tend to showcase some of the best architecture of their times. And they’re huge, generally cooler temperatures, and smell good.

So, not surprisingly, we ended up at la Major Cathédrale de Marseille, which I’d seen from the ferry yesterday and really wanted to check out. After remembering that it was Sunday (one of the hazards of vacation is forgetting what day it is) because everything was closed we managed to secure some delicious doner kebab sandwiches. So good! from there we walked (or meandered around until we managed to find it) for a few hours. It was totally worth it. The cathedral is in a part of Marseille that is undergoing construction, and despite being Sunday, this huge, beautiful cathedral was practically empty. Not sure if that had to do with time of day, we were there around 5 o’clock or the nearby construction.

la Major Cathedrale de Marseille, from the side.

Oh, and here it is from the front.

This doesn’t really do it justice, but there were simple yet elegant mosaics along the floor, and it was so spacious, as it was obviously designed to be.

View of the benches and windows. Crazy how empty it was.

Ceiling shot. If that’s not arching, then I don’t know what is…(that’s probably not what it’s called.)

Small carving detail. Everything was simple yet elegant.

After this epic walk we headed for home, which was roughly across the water from where we were. So, we had to walk alllll the way around it, which took quite a while. When we reached the halfway point we stopped for some beers as a reward/motivation to continue. Ahhh, refreshment.

Now we’re just relaxing before getting some dinner. Tomorrow we head off to AFRICA (Marrakech, Morocco) in the afternoon. Can’t wait to see how that goes!


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