“Mon chien s’appelle Dylan. Comme Bob Dylan. C’est ma génération“, Cécil’s neighbour explains when crammed into the tiny lift with her dog, me and my backpack. It could have been a scene in Le Fabuleux Déstin d’Amélie Poulain. My boyfriend and I have arrived in Marseille, Europe’s culture capital, where we are visiting my friend Cécil. I immediately fall in love with her apartment: it has these typical southern French shutters, a really cute and cosy kitchen, loads of great books and art. It’s such a bliss to feel completely at home when abroad.
Marseille reminds me of Brussels: a bit dirty, its own traffic rules, noisy and a lot of hidden gems. It has a rather southern atmosphere, more Italian than the Italians, according to Cécil. There is of course the tourist part with the lovely Quai des Belges. Kristof doesn’t want me to take a silly picture under the street name sign. “How many Belgian tourists have done this before?” Luckily there’s a nice alternative, the mirror ombrière (made by Foster + Partners), where I can have some picture fun. The Vieux Port is really nice, even though it’s packed with tourists sometimes. Free fun tip for warm evenings: go and buy the delicious chocolate ice-cream at Amorino, claim a nice spot at the Quai and watch the sunset and the boats in the harbour.
Luckily, Marseille has much more to offer than just old harbour. As it is the cultural capital of Europe this year, there are a few new must sees. The new Mucem museum is definitely one of them. It’s a museum for Europe and the Mediterranean. I enjoyed the exposition Le Noir et le Bleu, un rêve Méditerranéen, but it was mainly the building that I adored. If you don’t like museums, you can just go there for a drink. The view on the Mediterranean is fab!
My favourite part in Marseille must be Le Panier because it has this vibe of authenticity, which is something I’m looking for when travelling. The Germans destroyed Le Penier during World War II, but got rebuilt afterwards. Le Corbusier took care of le Vieille-Charité, which used to a place for the poor, the old and for children. Nowadays it hosts exhibitions, museums … I really loved the vibe of the area: great vintage shops, artists selling their stuff, nice restaurants, few tourists … We were also walking through the poorer, dirtier part of Le Panier, so it’s not perfect but it’s something I just adore.
At the square in front of le Vieille Charité, there was a restaurant we just loved, La terasse du Panier. Especially their tapas à la Provençale were amazing. Travelling is often about food and drinks for me and my boyfriend. Pastis, a lovely lavender panna cotta, crème brûlee (my friend Katrien still makes the best one imho) …. The best food however we had at Cécil’s parents. Her sister is such a good cook. The setting was perfect as well: their former B&B with a view over the hills around Marseille, candlelight, pastis, cooling down in the swimming pool … Perfect night!
We went on a boat trip to the calanques, a series of rocks between Marseille and Cassis. We didn’t go ashore, and just had a look into the calanques. The Mediterranean was pretty wild, which I didn’t expect at all (people being sick, and we had to go inside the boat because the waves were too big). But finally we found a way to cool down a bit.