The day dawned bright but terribly windy. The Mistral was really doing its thing this morning, and in hindsight taking warmer clothes would have been wise. I was glad I had a scarf with me, but it was not enough to protect from the biting wind.
We made the decision to take the hour long tourist train to Notre Dame de la Garde and to get there early as we had seen the long lines to get on the train when we were at the port yesterday. It was a wise decision as the queues were building while we were waiting in line with our pre-purchased tickets. The train wound its way bumpily up the hill where the Basilica is situated, and afforded great views of the city and more affluent suburbs as we inched slowly to the top.
I am not going to write much about it and will let the photos tell the story – just to say it was so windy up there that we could hardly stand, but battling the wind was worth it as the 360 views are spectacular! There were two armed soldiers patrolling the site- it felt weird but secure. We managed to get into the small lower chapel but there was service going on in the larger chapel. I very much regret not standing in the line in the howling gale waiting to get in after the service, as it is dramatically different from the chapel below which is comparatively austere. The photos of the interior I have seen show it to be utterly magnificent.
On the exterior, for me the Madonna and child on top of the Basilica stood out – spectacular in the sun, but the whole panorama was simply stunning.
We so enjoyed the first train trip that we also did the old town circuit after lunch in a Port restaurant. It was not as spectacular but still very worthwhile.
The other highlight of our day was fantastic dinner we had at Lacaille, a great restaurant recommended to us by Caroline. It was not too far away but again it was quite confronting walking through one of the streets to get there. We planned to go to a trendy wine bar also recommended by Caroline but we were too early and had to return later. In the meantime we had a drink in a pretty crusty looking square with some “interesting” people milling round. Needless to say, one drink was enough and we returned to wine bar as soon as it opened.
We dined around the corner at Lacaille shortly after, and again the surroundings were none too salubrious but the restaurant itself was classy and upmarket. The menu was not huge but it was inviting and all our chosen dishes were beautifully presented and quite delicious. It was a perfect finish to a long day.
Our Marseille experience is probably best summed up for all of us by the words of our friend Roger:
“Marseille has been everything I expected and wanted it to be, steamy, cosmopolitan, dangerous, edgey, in your face and much more. It feels like anything can happen at anytime…”
Tomorrow we leave for Barcelona!