Sightseeing and a scavenger hunt for food

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 11, 2011

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Sunday, August 1, 2010

No Eiffel tower this morning, but the Notre Dame de la Garde was standing proud on her hill. Behind her nothing but blue sky, not a single cloud in the sky nor haze from the Sahara dessert. It is a perfect Mediterranean morning, lets hope it will be a perfect Mediterranean day. We both debated if we would go up the hill to the Notre Dame, but we concluded that it looks great from a distance and we should not ruin this image by taking a ride in a tram packed with tourists. We can see the tram stop from our Hotel, and the hordes of tourists queuing for a spot.

We leave our room and go and to try to get some breakfast. Yes try, because in the old harbor, with about 100 restaurants, its hard to find something decent to eat. It seems like every place is selling the same stuff for breakfast, warm drink (Coffee), juice and a croissant. All are around 6 Euro. We walk a bit of the boulevard, but come to the conclusion there are no options surrounding us. There are no bakeries to be found, no convenience stores, nothing. We tried our luck in one of the side streets, but the smell of urine scared us away. What is it with this French habit of urinating on trees or in alleys? Its disgusting. We give in to our hunger and sat down at one of the restaurants to order a 6 Euro breakfast. But when we asked for breakfast, the rude waiter snapped at us telling it was to late for breakfast. It was not even noon yet! He did not have a lunch menu yet and walked away leaving us sitting at the table. How difficult can it be to get a croissant and a juice in France, apparently very. So we got up and left this place to continue our search for morning food. We tried another restaurant further down the street, but same story here. No breakfast. So here we had just a juice. But when the waiter dropped the exorbitant check on the table we figured we would not order any food here, so again we got up and left. Next door was a 'Hagen Daaz' shop, that offered breakfast till 13:00, finally we got a chocolate croissant and a coffee. What a challenge to get some half decent food in a town filled with eateries, unbelievable.

After breakfast we walked along the market to get ourselves some tickets for the ferry to Isle d'If. This is a small island off the coast of Marseilles with a small fortress / prison. The boat ride takes only 30 minutes, but it is a good way to see the old harbor and get some fresh sea air. Getting a ticket was easy, the queue seemed long, but it took no more than 30 minutes. The boats go back and forth every half and hour. We got ourselves some seats on the front of the boat and enjoyed the ride over. Once we reached the island we strolled around the old fortress for a while. The fortress was converted into a prison and was used in the Count of Monte Cristo stories. This is basically what gives it her fame, because other than that, there are not many major historic events tied to this fortress. Unfortunately the guided tours were all in French (of course) so we just read the information brochure and explored on our own. We had a little lunch on the Island before we headed back to shore.

We had to head back to the harbor to catch the six o clock tour bus. Normally this bus runs as a hop on, hop off service. But in its last round it just makes one spin around town. Its a lot cheaper than the hop on hop off ticker, and you get a narrated tour of Marseilles. As this double-decker bus was stationed right across the street from our hotel, we decided to get some tickets for this tour. We got ourselves seats upstairs at the front and let the bus take us around the town. The whole trip took about an hour and a half. Unfortunately some roads were closed so we could not get up to the Notre Dame. The tour took us past the shoreline and through the center of town. From our tour we found that the center of town was not that impressive, and were not dotted with monuments, like Paris. But the little neighborhoods around the rocky shoreline were very charming. This is probably because most of the city was bombed to pulp during the second world war.

Back from our tour we headed back to our hotel to relax a bit. We freshened up and prepared for a fashionably late dinner. We wanted to get some nice bistro food somewhere in the old shipyard area. On our search for food we were treated to some authentic French hospitality. After looking around for a bit we decided to sit down at a restaurant that looked nice. The waiter, as he was running past the tables, threw us a couple of menus. One English for the a la carte, and one French for the specials or set menus. We tried to mix and match words from both menus in an attempt to translate the French one, but were still not quite clear on what it all meant. So after a while we got the running waiter's attention, and asked if he had an English menu for the specials. Whilst running past he screamed something like 'No English no we don't do' not even offering to help out explaining the menu. Utterly annoyed with this French level of service we got up, and left.

We searched around for a bit and finally found another place that looked nice. They did have some English menus and somewhat friendlier staff. We were placed at a not so comfortable little table where the running waiters almost bumped the bottles off our table every time they dashed by. But we were hungry and decided to sit it out. As the couple next to us left, we combined the two tables to create some more space and a bigger walkway, this made dinner a bit more comfortable. The food, well it was ok, not great.

After dinner we strolled back to the Hotel, thinking to ourselves, its time to leave French cities. Tomorrow we pick up our car and head out to the country side. People say the people there are more welcoming, lets hope so..

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