Marseille, the beautiful port town, full of surprises!
One of our favorite French cities is Marseille, France's second largest city, with about 1,000,000 people. Founded by the Greeks as Massalia in 600 BC as a prosperous trading city on the Mediterranean Sea, then later developed by the Romans, it is to this day the most important PORT of France. But instead of feeling like a huge city, it feels like a small, friendly, easy to love, fun-to-walk-around-city.
Most summers, we go there at least twice. It has everything we love: super museums, a gorgeous waterfront, a nice climate, & good restaurants with a view. We loved it long before 2013, when Unesco designated Marseille the "Capital of Culture", & invested huge amounts (600 million euros) into projects that have made it more attractive on many levels. Since then, the cityscape has changed a lot. It's quite stylish & up to date, no longer carrying the old "crime & grime" reputation it once had.
Marseille's museums are spectacular. We've visited so many, & they are all different. One of them, the Museum of the Roman Docks, displays & interprets earthenware jars dating from 1-3 AD . These jars housed grain, wine, & olive oil, & shows you how it was all transferred from ships to storage, then shipped on to other places, using long earthenware tubes. In another museum, the Palais de la Bourse, we saw an interactive & informative exhibit celebrating the end of WWI on its 100 year anniversary.
We especially love 2 of them, to which we return time after time.
The MuCEUM (Museum of the Civilizations of Europe & the Mediterranean) has an extensive collection of all things Mediterranean & at least one spectacular exhibition a summer. Last year it was Jeff Koons' works integrated with corresponding items in the collection. See our album "Jeff Koons in Marseille" from summer, 2021 for a quick look at this exciting exhibition.
This year, there are 2 big exhibitions. We visited "Abd el-Kadir" on Saturday, June 18, & learned all about this 19th century Algerian hero who maintained his equilibrium & dignity in spite of horrendous battles to save his native land from the French. See our next blog to read his story—it's an incredible tale of courage against assimilation via colonization.
We will be back to the MuCEUM again this summer to see "Les Pharoahs—Superstars", which traces the 500 year journey of the kings & queens from ancient Egypt to their international reputations today. It also will explore how some of them had their moment in time, & are almost now totally forgotten. I can't wait.
Another museum that keeps us coming back is called "Les Regards de Provence". It's right next to the MuCEUM, & this year the theme of the exhibition was "Marseille: de Port en Ports" (Marseille from port to ports), featuring a number of paintings showing the Vieux Port (the original OLD PORT) as well as other ports which developed as Marseille grew. See our photo album called "Marseille: de Port en Ports" for some beautiful paintings, of all styles, of the Vieux Port itself, as well as scenes of people working the port & a mysterious structure called a "debordeur".
There are 15 pleasure ports with water, 4 dry pleasure ports, & 3 large commercial (what we call container) ports in present day Marseille. And of course we saw a huge cruise ship sitting right by the MuCEUM when we were there.
And now there is yet ANOTHER new musuem, quite different, & right down on the port like the two I've mentioned. This one is a copy of an underwater cave, discovered by Henri Cosquer in 1985, & brought to life by amazing technology. You can visit the CAVE COSQUER to take a look at cave art from 19,000-33,000 years ago, while listening to the explanation on a headset (in your own language), & circling through an underground tunnel with 5 of your favovite friends in the same little "nacelle". As you swere to see a new engraved or sketched image appear, you will marvel that this cave was first of all discovered, the actually COPIED! See our photo album called "Cave Cosquer, The Unexpeated Cave."
This visit to Marseille, as always, ended with dinner on the Vieux Port, after a stroll under the mirror that reminds us so much of Chicago's BEAN. We still consider ourselves Chicagoans, although we haven't lived there in 20 years, but it's always nice to be back in that "Second City", like it is to go back to Marseille, France's "Second City".
Stay tuned for more....