Marseille is a great city. All the guidebooks tell you it's a little (or more than a little) gritty and rough around the edges, and maybe that's true, but in a good way. It's just that you might call it "international" rather than "cosmopolitan". It feels like a city where real people live, rather than a tourist destination (even though there are plenty of tourists there), and it has a really laid-back and welcoming feel. It's lively, diverse and full of interesting neighborhoods to explore. And it's right on the water. We loved it immediately.
Things seem to radiate out from the Vieux Port, which is impossible to miss -- and you wouldn't want to. Every morning there are fishmongers (actually, most seem to be the fishermen themselves, but I just wanted to say "fishmonger") along the Quai des Belges at the eastern side of the harbor selling freshly caught seafood. However, staying in a small hotel room doesn't lend itself to the purchase of fish so we didn't get to take advantage of that. The port is also really beautiful to look at. Now only small boats can moor there so there are lots of sailboats and little pleasure cruisers, and the ferries that go to the Îles de Frioul and Les Calenques (no, unfortunately, we haven't been to either yet). It's a post card that could greet you every day if you lived in Marseille and it would look more beautiful than any of the pictures I took.
The Vieux Port opens to the west into the Mediterranean so this picture on the left is taken looking north. On the far left side (with the round tower) is Fort Saint-Jean, one of the two forts that are situated at the entrance to the port. Actually, you can also see the corner of the other fort, Fort Saint-Nicholas, peeking into the picture right by the big white tent. What's funny is that you'd think that these forts would have been built to protect the port and the city but, in fact, they were built by Louis XIV after an uprising in Marseille to keep everyone in line and remind them who was boss. He actually had cannons on the forts that pointed toward the city.
This photo on the right, also looking north, was taken from Notre Dame de la Garde, which stands on a cliff over the harbor. Beyond the two forts, you can see where all the shipping now happens and the large cruise ships dock.
Finally, this picture was taken (from Le Pharo) looking into the Vieux Port. This time you can actually see part of Fort Saint-Nicholas on the right side of the photo.
There's obviously a lot more to Marseille than just the Vieux Port, but I have a lot more pictures of it than I do of other things, and this is enough for one entry. And besides, thinking about it makes me miss it.