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Marseille and its Surroundings

Marseille and surround
There are so many towns and cities along the south of France that are worth a visit and with Marseille being 2013's European City of Culture, there is no better year to start planning your visit.  Here is QuirkyAccom's guide to the best places to visit, starting with the new City of Culture itself!
Marseille
When you arrive in Marseille, it is the towering statue of the golden Madonna and Child, at the Bascilica of Notre Dame de la Garde which first catches your eye.  This Neo-Byzantine church is at the highest point of the city and towers over the old Port. Once settled into your accommodation, choose one of the many winding roads that lead to the summit and enjoy your walk to the top. When you get to the site, there is then a steep climb up a number of steps to the actual entrance, so prepare for a hike, but one you reach the top, the view is worth the climb.  (You can also cheat and get a bus to take you up the first part
of the walk, and drop you at the bottom of the steps).  Before taking a walk round the Basilica, pause and take in the view of Marseille and the Mediterranean, it's a great spot for photo opportunities.  Then enjoy wandering inside the Basilica and learning about the history and the art of the Basilica and take a trip to its Crypt.
The Old Port is also a definite must when in Marseille.  Great restaurants to choose from where you can sit and enjoy a spot of people watching.  Look out and enjoy an interesting visit to Marseilles answer to Alcatraz - Chateau D'If.  A former island fortress prison about 1
mile off shore.  A boat will take you from the Old Port and then onto the
Frioul Islands if you wish.  Chateau D'if was famously the setting for the famous Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
Try Casa Honore for an unusual and boutique B and B to stay in.
Aix en Provence
A short journey north of Marseille and you arrive in Aix, the gateway to
Marcel Pagnol countryside.  Aix is a relatively small town and the centre, like many Provençal towns, is littered with Plane tree lined cobbled streets where you can easily get lost wandering around.  The centre is pedestrianised and is now fairly famous for rich and expensive shops.  Aix is famous for its fountains, the ultimate one being found on Cours Mirabeau, the main avenue in the town.
The French way of life has to involve sitting in the sun outside a cafe, with a beer, or a glass of wine.  Aix has plenty of places to choose from to do just this.  Les Deux Garçons is one of the most popular cafes/brasseries in Aix.  Steeped in history and some of France's most fabulous have wined and dined there from Piaf to Picasso, from Cezanne to Satre.
Arles
Arles is an ancient Roman town and is the home to a magnificent Roman Arena and amphitheatre which is worth a visit, however it is true Art fans that flock to Arles, for the town is most famous for being connected to Vincent Van Gogh.  Wander through the small cobbled streets and stop by Place de Forum and have a drink at what is now named Cafe Van Gogh.  It will seem very familiar as it is of course the cafe which was famously painted by Van Gogh in 1888.  Van Gogh took a lot of inspiration from Arles and when I visited you could pop into the Tourist office and collect a walking guide showing several of the places which he painted.
Avignon
"Sur le Pont, D'Avignon" -most will be familiar from singing the song at school and it is without doubt worth a visit to this quaint picturesque town.  The bridge is actually Pont St. Bénézet, a ruined half bridge stretching into the Rhone River.  The bridge was built in the 12th century however now only 4 arches remain out of the original 22.  A visit to the museum next to the Bridge will tell you all the history.
Avignon is however more importantly more famous for the Palais des Papes, as in the 14th century Avignon was the seat of the Papacy. The Supreme Pontiff who was elected in 1305, refused to move to Rome and so a series of 7 Popes reigned there, before the Papacy returned to Rome.  The fortress dominates the skyline of the city and a visit there allows you to see many of the structures rooms, including the Pope's private chambers.  In the summer the Avignon Theatre festival is allowed to take place in the courtyard of the Palais.  A must if visiting this summer!
Nimes
Nimes is a short train journey west from Avignon.  A quaint Roman town.  Easy to explore by foot.  There is a Roman Arena - magnificent to view - perfectly preserved.  The town is most famous for exporting Denim to America.  In fact this is how the name came about, 'from Nimes' - 'de Nimes' !!  But the reason why most come to visit, is its close proximity to the Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.  Easily accessible from Nimes with a very cheap tourist bus taking you there and back.  The aqueduct has three tiers of arches crossing the Gardon river.  The site is an UNESCO World Heritage site and is a pleasure to enjoy a full day trip.  Go hiking, visit the museum to learn the history, or simply relax by the river and go swimming!  Make sure you definitely walk to the top of the aqueduct, simply to tick the box and take the photo!

marseilleThere are so many towns and cities along the south of France that are worth a visit and with Marseille being 2013's European City of Culture, there is no better year to start planning your visit.  Here is QuirkyAccom's guide to the best places to visit, starting with the new City of Culture itself!

Marseille
When you arrive in Marseille, it is the towering statue of the golden Madonna and Child, at the Bascilica of Notre Dame de la Garde which first catches your eye.  This Neo-Byzantine church is at the highest point of the city and towers over the old Port. Once settled into your accommodation, choose one of the many winding roads that lead to the summit and enjoy your walk to the top. When you get to the site, there is then a steep climb up a number of steps to the actual entrance - so prepare for a hike, but once you reach the top the view is well worth the climb.  (You can also cheat and get a bus to take you up the first part of the walk, and drop you at the bottom of the steps).  

Before taking a walk round the Basilica, pause and take in the view of Marseille and the Mediterranean. It's a great spot for photo opportunities.  Then enjoy wandering inside the Basilica and learning about the history and the art of the Basilica and take a trip to its Crypt.

The Old Port is also a definite must when in Marseille.  Great restaurants to choose from where you can sit and enjoy a spot of people watching.  Look out and enjoy an interesting visit to Marseille's answer to Alcatraz - Chateau D'If - a former island fortress prison about 1 mile off shore.  A boat will take you there from the Old Port and then onto the Frioul Islands if you wish.  Chateau D'if was famously the setting for the famous Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

Click here to see details of the imaginative artist hotel Au Vieux Panier. Alternatively choose Casa Honore for an unusual boutique B&B with pool. Their description page is here.

casahonore

auvieuxpanier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aix en Provence
A short journey north of Marseille and you arrive in Aix, the gateway to Marcel Pagnol countryside.  Aix is a relatively small town and the centre, like many Provençal towns, is littered with plane tree-lined cobbled streets where you can wander until you get lost. The centre is pedestrianised and is now famous for glamourous and expensive shops.  Aix is also known for its fountains, the ultimate one being found on Cours Mirabeau which is the main avenue in town.  

The French way of life has to involve sitting in the sun outside a cafe, with a beer, or a glass of wine.  Aix has plenty of places to choose from to do just this.  Les Deux Garçons is one of the most popular cafes/brasseries in Aix.  Steeped in history and some of France's most fabulous have wined and dined there from Piaf to Picasso, from Cezanne to Satre.

Arles
Arles is an ancient Roman town and is the home to a magnificent Roman Arena and amphitheatre which is worth a visit. However it is true art fans that flock to Arles, for the town is most famous for being connected to Vincent Van Gogh.  Wander through the small cobbled streets and stop by Place de Forum and have a drink at what is now named Cafe Van Gogh.  It will seem very familiar as it is of course the cafe which was famously painted by Van Gogh in 1888.  Van Gogh took a lot of inspiration from Arles and when I visited you could pop into the Tourist office and collect a walking guide showing several of the places which he painted.

Avignon
"Sur le Pont, D'Avignon" -  This may be familiar from singing the song at school.  Avignon is a quaint and picturesque town and without doubt worth a visit.  The bridge is actually Pont St. Bénézet, a ruined half bridge stretching into the Rhone River. The bridge was built in the 12th century however now only 4 arches remain out of the original 22.  A visit to the museum next to the Bridge will tell you all the history.

Avignon is more importantly remembered for the Palais des Papes, as in the 14th century Avignon was the seat of the Papacy. The Supreme Pontiff who was elected in 1305, refused to move to Rome and so a series of 7 Popes reigned there, before the Papacy returned to Rome.  The fortress dominates the skyline of the city and a visit there allows you to see many of the structure's rooms, including the Pope's private chambers.  In the summer the Avignon Theatre festival takes place in the courtyard of the Palais.  

pontdugardpalais
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nimes
Nimes is a interesting Roman town and just a short train journey west from Avignon.  It is easy to explore on foot.  There is a Roman Arena - magnificent and perfectly preserved.   Denim was originally exported to America from here.  In fact this is how the name came about, 'from Nimes' - 'de Nimes'!!  But the reason why most come nowadays is its close proximity to the Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.  It's easily accessible from Nimes with a very cheap tourist bus taking you there and back.

Pont du Gard has three tiers of arches crossing the Gardon river.  The site is an UNESCO World Heritage site and is a pleasure to enjoy a full day trip.  Go hiking, visit the museum to learn the history, or simply relax by the river and go swimming!  Make sure you reach the top of the aqueduct to tick that box and take that impressive photo!