Marseille’s Coming Out
Gilles Conchy describes his birth city of Marseille, as “tense, cosmopolitan, not well-mannered, but it is colourful, generous and sunny all year long.”
He recalls his childhood in the gritty port-city long before Marseille earned the 2013 European Cultural Capital title. Previously, it was a town that shunned tourism. Marseille had little to boast about except for a decent soccer team and a hardworking immigrant population. Despite its jagged reputation, Marseille was safe enough, Gilles fondly recalls playing soccer and riding through public parks Palais Longchamps and Parc Chanot as a ten-year-old.
According to Gilles, the turning point for the city was 1998 the year that France hosted the World Cup Soccer. France won the cup beating Brazil 3-0 in Paris with exciting matches played in Marseilles. Zinedine Zidane, the son of an Algerian immigrant, became a French soccer hero, swelling national pride in the months following the games.
Marseille has cast off her grimy gown. The city is now a frequented stop for major cruise ships brimming with passengers eager to see the revitalized Vieux-Port (old marina) and hoping to visit the impressive list of new and renovated museums.
Gilles shares his Perfectly Provence tips for his native city below:
- Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica with its expansive view of the city and the sparkling Mediterranean.
- The city’s past at Fort St Jean with the best view of the Vieux-Port.
- Walk across the concrete bridge to MUCEM a museum dedicated to the Mediterranean and European civilizations.
- The Corniche sea walk.
- The Calanques National Park by boat.
- Street art and “bo-bo” chic Cours Julien and la Plaine.
- Swim at one of these two small beaches les Catalans and le Prophète.
- Gilles’ local’s secret … dive into the Mediterranean at Malmousque or go to the Callelongue “the end of the world.”
- The city’s emblematic dish Bouillabaisse prepared by Gilles at one of his Provence Gourmet cooking classes.
- Sample the foreign specialties brought to the local foodie scene by Marseille’s multicultural population (Lebanese, Comorians and Moroccans) near the Opera or the Noailles area.
- Splurge with a stay at the Intercontinental Hotel, which recently opened in the 19th-century hospital Hotel Dieu near the Vieux-Port.
- Rent a small apartment in the marina area with a terrace or patio rooftop in the old town of the Panier
- Discover Mama Shelter a hip boutique hotel.