I loved Netflix’s Marseille, another over the top political drama but better scenery than the American ones and I hope it gets a second series. In the last 10 years, I have visited Marseille three times which is not enough and passing through doesn’t count. The first time was a day trip in 2005, the second was 2013 (capital of culture year) and the third was in 2015 and the city keeps getting better…and cleaner. I wasn’t very impressed on my first trip if I remember correctly there was a lot of building works and yes this city does have a past/reputation for crime and drug gangs but doesn’t every big European city? However I felt if I stuck close to the Vieux Port area and Monsieur X I would be fine.
I seem to always fly with Ryanair from Stansted as Marseille airport is another destination not available from Birmingham. British Airways and EasyJet also offer direct flights from London airports but they were either too expensive or terrible times as I had to catch a coach from Birmingham. Each time (I think this journey was my fifth Ryanair trip to Marseille airport) I have never had a problem, always on time and sometimes arriving 10 to 15 minutes earlier, Bravo Ryanair! But I still get worried that my rucksack will be a centimetre too big to take on as hand luggage.
If I didn’t have a private transfer i.e. Monsieur X and his petit Porsche aka an old cigarette smelling Saxo, the public transport at the airport is easy to find and understand. I either take the bus to Marseille train station or a free short shuttle bus ride to the Vitrolles Train Station. The train station is around 5 minutes bus journey away depending on traffic and it is too far and dangerous to walk to the station from the airport (not many pavements or crossings). Another experience of reaching Marseille I’ve had is via Geneva (was heading to Courchevel but change of plans). A return ticket cost around £150 and it was still cheaper than booking new flights and I couldn’t moan about a train ride though the beautiful French countryside. My detour to Marseille took me 7 hours via Culoz yes I never heard of the place either but it looked like a very nice field and Lyon.
Where to say
Hotel Lutetia, 38 Allée Léon Gambetta. We stayed one night for 80€, it was a few minutes’ walk from the train station. A small room modern and clean, the shower was big enough for a small child and so was the lift – it could only take two people standing side by side without suitcases. But the bed was so comfortable and we couldn’t hear much (if any) city centre noise from outside.
B&B La Joliette, 52 rue de Forbin, La Joliette 13002. It is in the business area, around 150 metres from the Metro Station and the weekend rate was 60€ per night. A bigger bedroom and a much bigger shower compared to Lutetia. A little bit of luxury for us adult sized humans.
What to do
Football: Marseille football club are tiny bit better than the Aston Villa as they kept losing last season (2015/16) but didn’t get relegated. The best way to get to the stadium is the metro & I found it easier to buy tickets online for Marseille (www.fnac.com) than Paris St Germain and even thou I did go to the game four nights before the Paris attacks I found the security to be tight but not as scary as Paris during the Beckham months. Marseille lost 1- 0 to Nice that night.
Top Tips: Don’t buy the beer in the stadium, it’s expensive and non-alcoholic and there is a Marseille Football Club bar – L’OM Cafe in the old port. I always want a drink at this bar/restaurant when I visited, Monsieur X didn’t understand he just moans the drinks are too expensive.
Petit train: There are two routes Notre Dame Tour Circuit 1 and Old Marseille Tour Circuit 2. We took the Notre Dame Tour where the Petit Train starts and finishes at the old port heading to the Church on the top of the hill – Notre-Dame de la Garde. A bit bumpy but an interesting ride up to the church, thinking is this toy train actually going to get up these steep hills? We past the island Château d’If- famous for being one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas’s novel Count of Monte Cristo Island (another film connection ticked). The tour lasted about 1 ½ hour and this included 20 minutes stop at the Notre Dame de la Garde to take loads of photo of the views of Marseille all for only 7€.
On top of my list if I ever visit the city again – the Cathedrale del la Major, I’ve only seen the back of it from a distance and the view of this building seems to be the centre point of Netflix’s Marseille. A bit like Big Ben in all films shot in London.
Where to eat and drink
There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the old port, the Restaurant Le 13 must be our favourite restaurant as we always seemed to end up there when looking for a place to eat. The steak dishes and the salmon pasta are very nice and not too expensive. The wine usually pushes up our bill everywhere we went not because it was expensive it was more to do with amount we drunk.
Brasserie De Joliette, 7 Place de la Joliette – steak and chips for 10€, the perfect hangover cure the day after the night before, the portions were massive!