Tuesday, 12 December 2017

France - Marseille - Day 5/Last day

It was our last day in Marseille, and when I finished packing, just before leaving the apartment I popped over to the church around the corner to take photos. We had been there 4 days and I hadn't had a chance to go inside.
Located in the 6th Arrondissement,  Church of Our Lady of the Mountain (Eglise Notre Dame du Mont), is a Catholic church built in 1823-24 in the Neo-classical style. Frederic Chopin played on the church's pipe organ in 1839, and the organ is still in existence.

Notre Dame du Mont

House Rules

And I couldn't leave the apartment without a photo of the owner's instructions posted by the door,  most likely done via Google Translate. 
Even with the warning I did fall on the "trap of the house" a small step between the entry hall and the lounge, almost twisting my ankle...

At the arranged time Max (future son in law's Dad) come to collect us and our luggage and drove us all to Martigues, about 40km northwest of Marseille.
On the way we first stopped at L'Estaque, just 10 km out of Marseille to have a look at the scenery from the harbour and to have a coffee at one of the seaside bars.
The charming port village is surrounded by the Chain of L'Estaque Hills (Chaine de L'Estaque).
The French painter Paul Cezanne, who was born in Aix-en-Provence, painted this village in a few of his masterpieces. After coffee we continued onto Martigues.

The harbour at L'Estaque

The hills and harbour of L'Estaque when the plane flew over

Our daughter Karina and partner Thomas lived in Martigues for 3 years before moving to Amsterdam, and although I had visited them there a few years ago, but my husband hadn't.
Founded in 1232, it's nicknamed the Venice of Provence because of it's canals, docks and bridges, making it a very charming town. It's also a lot cleaner than Marseille and it has a country feel.                                                                                                                                             Before having lunch at a restaurant Thomas had booked for us, we wandered around the village enjoying the beautiful sights and the sunshine.

Charming canals, boats, pastel coloured houses and lots of flowers

One of the Canals of Martigues

The Madeleine Church (Eglise de La Madeleine), a Catholic Church classified as a historical monument since 1947.

Madeleine Church

After the walk it was time for lunch at Le Garage restaurant, and no prizes for guessing that the original space was a former garage at 20 Avenue Frédéric Mistral.
It's now an elegant restaurant with first class food, quite unexpected from a small town like Martigues.
Karina and Thomas had been clients of this place before they moved to Amsterdam, loved the food and were aware than the young chef - Fabien Morreale had been a finalist in 2013 of the 4th edition of the culinary show Top Chef.  The restaurant has also been recommend by Michelin guide inspectors. Not bad hem?

His cooking style was inspired by his grandfather with whom he learned how to cook, and he prepares his elegant fusion cuisine in full view of the diners.
The set menu for lunch, changes every 2 weeks and costs 27€ per person, which includes an elegant starter, main dish, (in our case was meat) and an elegant dessert. I couldn't really find fault with the service, every dish would come to the table and be described in detail by the waiter, the food was absolutely delicious, the wine was good and we even got to chat to the the chef/owner at the end of our meal.We told him we lived in Australia and he said he had worked in a hotel kitchen in Sydney for a while and really enjoyed his experience in Australia. Highly recommended!!

Le Garage Restaurante
As we were taking photos of the outside of the restaurant, a Google Street View car drove by filming the street and I managed to get the back of it.

Google street view car

After lunch we drove to the top of the hill to see the apartment building that overlooks the lake where Karina and Thomas had lived.  A very quiet and pretty area.

Karina's former apartment at Boulevard du Tourret de Vallier

Time to make our way back to Marseille, via the village of Carro. 
This tiny fishing village is known for being an excellent venue for nautical sports, specially windsurfing. There is a market on the harbou where fishermen sell their fresh produce daily.

The beach was empty, but the caravan park was full of vans from mainly Belgium, Holland and Germany.
Beaches at Village of Carro, Fishermen's cross 1922

And it was time to drive to the airport in Marseille. We bade our farewell to our daughter and Thomas who would fly home to Amsterdam two days later and thanked Max for his time and patience to show us around his home town.  We had a great time thanks to all of them.

Marseille airport, views from the air over salt marshes and seaside villages
Goodbye Marseille - my husband and I in front of the sign

We arrived in Lisbon in time for a late dinner with our family in Cascais and we were treated to some of the traditional Portuguese pastries. 

Portuguese pastries - almond tart, mini Custard tart, Berlin ball, white beans cake and Palmier with egg custard

The next morning we started packing our suitcases as we would depart the following morning. In the afternoon I accompanied my sister into Cascais and before returning home we stopped at The Rooftop Vegetarian Cafe for a cup of tea and "vegetarian" cake. Owned by a Dutch lady this eatery is spread over 3 floor with the top floor having a view over the rooftops of Cascais and a glimpse of the main beach.

And so ended our 5 week holiday to Portugal and France. We loved every minute, discovering new things, eating Portuguese traditional food that we don't get in Australia, meeting up with friends, being able to reunite the whole family for an event, some of which hadn't seen each other in 20 years, and having our daughter spend time with us for 4 whole weeks. 
It was all and more that I could hope for!!

Flying home

All good things come to an end, and it was time to go back to work...
The Doctors that had visited us in Portugal also returned just a couple of days after me and graciously gifted me a beautiful bunch of flowers (from Dr K) and a pretty necklace (from Dr J who knows my passion for necklaces) to thank me for the time I spent showing them around.
They loved Portugal and were pleasantly surprised with the beautiful monuments, the majestic art museums they visited, the friendly people who were able to speak English and eager to help, the great food that they enjoyed and the cheap prices (for Australian standards of course). They are now spreading the word about Portugal with their patients too.

Flowers, necklace and beautiful words in a Thank-you card
Hope you enjoyed travelling with me around Portugal and France and were bitten by the travel bug.✈
Thanks for joining me.❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️

Monday, 11 December 2017

Monday Mural - Geometrics II

Another murals from Cascais, seen during my visit to Portugal, at Rua Estrela do Mar 261.
This was was painted during the Muraliza 2016 initiative, by Italian artist Moneyless.

For more Monday Murals from around the world click here.

You can also see the murals Moneyless painted in Perth in 2015:

Friday, 8 December 2017

France - Marseille - day 4

On the fourth day we woke up early and walked to the Vieux Port (Old port), to catch the ferry to Château d'If on the island of Frioul, but just like the previous day, this day was even worse, the winds were so strong that most boats were moored and no ferries were leaving the port due to the rough sea.

Thomas's dad Max joined us with extra jackets, as the wind was icy cold and showed us his boat moored in the Old Port. He's owned it for many years and uses it for recreational fishing.

Max showing his boat to Jose 

                                                        The windy day can be seen in these photos
The Church of Saint Laurent (Eglise St Laurent), church of sailors and fishermen with an octagonal bell tower, was built in the 13th century. It sits on a hill between the Old Port and the Panier. It is believed to have been built on the site of a Greek temple to Apollo, and has survived many threats. 

Church of St Laurent (top left)

From the Old Port we walked just north to the suburb of Panier (Quartier Le Panier) where we met with Thomas's Mom, Isabelle who works in a pathology lab.

Sadly I wasn't really aware of the historical importance of this suburb, so I didn't pay much attention, although I saw a lot of narrow cobbled streets, lots of steps and little lanes and even compared it to some parts of Lisbon. But I think my eyes were mostly drawn to the many murals I found in this area. 

Narrow lanes and stairs leading to houses, art in the Panier

This area was first settled by the Greeks in 600 B.C. when they founded the city of Massalia.
During World War II, the Jews living in this area were deported to concentration camps.
Due to it's maze of narrow streets, it was considered a hiding place for members of the French Resistance, and in 1943 Le Panier and the Old Port were evacuated and about 1500 buildings were destroyed with bombs.

We got into Max's car that was parked in the Panier and he drove us across town to the highest point of Marseille where the magnificent Church of Lady of the Guard (Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde) is.

Views of Marseille, the Old Port, the Frioul Islands

This Catholic basilica is Marseille's best known symbol and most visited site with around a million and a half visitors a year, many coming just for the views.
Built in 1853 and consecrated in 1864,  in the Neo-Byzantine style on the foundations of an ancient fort, this 149 mt high limestone building has the best views all around.
The bell tower is topped by a 11,2 mt high, 9 tonnes,  statue of Madonna and Child (La Bonne Mère) made of copper and gilded with gold leaf.

La Bonne Mere

Because sailors and fishermen would come here to the site of the original church to pray for safe voyages and return to give thanks when they came home safe and sound, it then became the custom for those that had nearly perished at sea to commission paintings of their ships to hang on one of the church's walls or to donate replica models of their ships that hang from the ceiling vaults - they are called the Ex Votos or "from the vows made".
And these are truly works of art too.

A wall with over 60 paintings offered to Notre Dame de la Garde by sailors

Replicas of ships hanging from the vaulted ceilings
Before leaving what I consider to be the most beautiful Church I have ever seen, I was taking a photo of my family down below. 
They were looking up at me, when I noticed the driver of a black car parking and going to back door to open it. The car suddenly started to slide and I screamed. They all noticed and the driver realized that he hadn't pulled up the brakes in the car!! That was a disaster averted, as it was on a slope...
My family below with the city in the background

From the Church we were driven south to Borely Park (Parc Borely), a 17 hectares municipal park adjoining the Botanic gardens.
Formerly owned by Joseph Borely, a French ship owner and merchant in the 17th century, who built a country house in the middle of the gardens, it was acquired by the city in the 19th century. It has a lake, a horse racing track by the sea, a wooden pavilion and a large expanse of grassed area.
One side is bordered by a river and I spotted some beautiful small apartment blocks located next to the river.
Before going in we bought churros with caramel filling (fried dough pastry traditional sold in Portugal and Spain).

The Rose garden was a bit bare, but I still found some roses. I saw a black and white bird that could be mistaken for a Willie wagtail, and Australian bird, but this one didn't wag it's tail, so I'm sure it's something else. 
Another interesting animal I came across looked from afar like a Quokka, a marsupial from the island of Rottnest (just across Perth), but it was a Coypu, from the beaver family.

Rose Garden
A coypu (beaver), the lake and other areas of Borely park

It was time to return home, and Max dropped us near our Airbnb. We still had time to put our feet up for half an hour and then get ready to go out to our last dinner in Marseille at the invitation of Max and Isabelle.
The 4 of us took the tram to the area known as The Corniche (La Corniche), the picturesque 5km seaside road along the Mediterranean coast. Part of the road has been named after President Kennedy. (Corniche = a road cut into the edge of a cliff, especially one running along a coast).
Beautiful views of the sea, the Frioul islands and the Prado beaches, with a couple of restaurants hanging on cliff rocks over the sea. 
In the Lieutenant Danjaume Square is a war memorial built in 1927, of a 5mt tall woman with arms raised to the sky, and it's dedicated to those who died in the Army of the East and distant lands. At sunset this was a magical place!

La Corniche, a ferry leaving the harbour, monument to those fallen in wars

Just around the corner and down a staircase we reached the picture postcard fishing village of Vallon des Auffes. (Auffes is a type of grass of the area used to make ropes).
It's just 2,5km south-west of the Vieux-Port in the 7th arrondissement, but it feels like a different world. A lot of fishermen have little cabins here used to store their fishing gear and cook the traditional bouillabaisse on Sunday.

Vallon des Auffes little harbour, Chez Jeannot restaurant (white building at end of harbour)

Thomas's parents and his younger brother arrive and they go up to the first floor of the Chez Jeannot Pizzeria while I finish taking photos of the sun setting behind the bridge.
The top floor has glass windows overlooking the little harbour, so a fantastic view, the food was ok, apparently those who had pizzas liked them, the restaurant was full, and service left a bit to be desired considering the prices.
My husband asked for butter to put on the bread, and was told they had no butter!
A French restaurant with no butter? Very strange. Eventually another waiter brought some butter.

Karina, Isabelle and Max, Jose standing, me, Thomas and brother,  Steak dish and fish dish
And so ended our 4th day in Marseille. Next installment will be the last day in Marseille and Portugal.
I can hear a sigh of relief from all of last it's ending! 😉😉

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

France - Arles - Day 3

We had intended to go to Château d'If on the island of Frioul, where the Alexandre Dumas novel "The Count of Monte Cristo" was set.
But due to the rain, we had to change our plans and instead Thomas's' Dad Max drove us to Arles about 90km away.
Arles is famous for inspiring Van Gogh's painting, and having been part of ancient Rome is home to many Roman monuments
The day was gray, but at least we didn't get wet while walking around.

On arrival we went into the Tourist Information centre to get a map and some information in English, but the queue was huge and there wasn't anything on display that would help us, so we followed Max.

The area where the Roman monuments are has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Area since 1981.

The first street we walked in had some interesting things hanging from one side of the street to the other - plastic windmills, and statues hanging from umbrellas.

The Church of St. Trophime is a Roman Catholic church and former cathedral, built between the 12th and 15th century.

The two level Roman Amphitheatre was built in 90 A.D., capable of seating 20 thousand spectators. It's still used today for concerts and plays and unfortunately for bullfighting during one of Arles festivals.

One of three spas discovered in Arles are the Constantine Baths, dating from the 4th century A.D., believed to have been part of the Palace of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great. The brick and limestone structure was the center of Roman society, a place for exercise and hygiene, with pools, saunas, changing rooms and exercise rooms.

The Roman Theater was built in the 1st century during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Seating 8 thousand people, over 33 tiers of steps. Only a few pillars and columns remain, and the theater is used for Summer concerts and sporting events.

We had some difficulty choosing lunch at "Les Ateliers" restaurant, at Victor Hugo Avenue, but in the end we made the right choice and the food was very nice.
Just across the street was this very modern building being constructed - Parc des Ateliers.

After some investigation I found out that the area where the building is coming up, was previously the old railway yards, now being redeveloped.
The piece de resistance is the 56mt high twisting building made of stainless steel, metal panels and glass, designed by Frank Gehry, and which will make Arles the centre for art and creativity, with the building having galleries, workshops, a cafe and restaurant and a glass atrium open to the public. Started in 2014, it's expected to be finished by 2019.

After lunch we walked towards the river Rhône and walked along the promenade.
It was here that Van Gogh painted the picture entitled "Starry night over the Rhone" in September 1888. There were quite a few cruise ships docked here too.

I loved the history and art of Arles, but found the town lacked some colour, that is apart from some beautiful blue and green doors and windows and a small street whose houses were covered in greenery, so quaint.

Other interesting monuments
Quaint doors and windows
A beautiful area where houses were covered with greenery

And before departing to Marseille we had time to sit down and have a drink at the Garden Cafe, on the ground floor of the Hotel Le Calendal. The front esplanade was full, so we were offered a table in the back garden, and it was cool and green, a great spot to spend a while savouring a slice of cake and tea, and a great way to end our visit to Arles.
I also loved their chandelier with hanging cups and saucers in one of the rooms we walked through on our way to the garden.

Garden Cafe at the Hotel Le Calendal - Karina, Max, Thomas and Jose standing.

We arrived in Marseille in time for dinner, at Thomas's parents, lovingly cooked by his Mom.

**Follow this link to read about Day 1 and 2 in Marseille.