October 11, 2013
We are still getting into cruise pattern. The journey from Barcelona was anything but calm. We had a bumpy ride all night. Nothing to get excited about but still getting used to the strange movements at sea. This shall pass.
Compared to Barcelona the sights we wanted to see were within walking distance so no need for Metro or bus or silly tourist train. We took the shuttle from the port and set out on our own. As we headed along the Quai du Port, we discovered that at 9 AM things are pretty quiet. We tried to follow the walking path. A pink line was painted on the ground that seemed to go everywhere and no where. It did help us find some stairs that led to Le Charite, a 17th Century hospital (refuge) for the city poor. The austere exterior gave way to sculpted, arcades interior courtyard surrounding a small Neoclassical church. The entire place was a ruin in the 70’s when the French architect, Le Courbosier stepped in and led the drive to restore the place. The sculptural quality of the architecture was close to the heart of the man who rejects much of the glass box austerity of Mies vander Rohe. We wandered around this restored home of city museums but didn’t stay too long.
Followed the pink line to the stone striped Cathedral on the edge of the harbor. The most interesting of this 19th Century church were the mosaics which covered almost all of the surfaces. The moment of the day was a display recruiting folks for a pilgrimage to Compostela. Peggy showed the folks running the display her pilgrim shell. Instant welcome. We signed in as veteran pilgrims and revisited our own pilgrimage with the large collection of pictures displayed. It did not take long for Peggy to tear up. I even managed an emotion. Many pleasant memories.
Left the church and proceeded back to the Vieux Port entrance that is guarded by Forts Saint Jean and Saint Nicolas. These forts were built on either side of the narrow port entrance by Louis XIV in the 17th Century on top of earlier fortifications built by the Knights of Saint John and a remaining square 15th Century fort. Defenders could easily drop rocks on any hostile ship attempting to enter the port. The forts also easily controlled the Marseille population who were pretty independents of French Royal rule until Louis’ time.
We could see the Chateau d’If fortress on an island in the bay. The island fortress was made famous as the lock up for the Count of Monte Cristo. Since the treasure is gone, we decided against going there and took a picture from the ship.
Walked along the port with its fleet of small craft and new post-WWII buildings that replaced the ones destroyed by the Germans that would have provided great cover for the Resistance to attack German ships. Plenty of activity and boat repairs. Reached the fish market and the rubber booted fishermen and fish wives with sharp, nasty daggers. Lots of tiny fish and a few big tuna and scads of strange mollusks.
Ventured up a few blocks to the Arab market. This was the tourist highlight of the day. The clientele matched the colorfulness of the produce. Wonderful experience in a spice shop filled with bags and bins full of more than we could imagine. At least 40 kinds of pepper overwhelm the senses. The big glass jugs are different kinds of honey. The meat markets featured lamb and sheep hanging from hooks. Thought they might be pigs until I remembered the culture that I was in. Great fun seeing more fish with sharp pointy teeth and all kinds of shellfish.
Just enjoyed a show by hard working kids singing their hearts old for us old foggies. Time to find my dinner jacket for our visit to Monte Carlo. Here goes the IRA.