If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you that one thing I have always wanted to do is pack a case and head to the airport and pick a destination.
Marseille was just that. I decided since I wasn’t going to Newcastle (don’t worry young ‘un, it’s still banked for next year) that I would go somewhere else instead.
I chose Marseille. The last-minute choice is a romanticised one and one that can cause stress. I am a planner (much to the chagrin of some of my friends) and like to have things for trips planned right down to the last square of toilet paper I will use for the delicate derrière (see what I did there since I decided on France). No, seriously, I have to have everything planned out and in a logical order too (you should see my iCloud Drive travel folder).
For the last year or so I have wanted to go to Toulouse (that’s where Airbus are based and how cool would it be to see that from the city) and I couldn’t find flights cheap enough for my liking so the day before departure I decided on Marseille.
Jamie and I had been here before as part of our Med Cruise but didn’t get to spend a lot of time here at all. You can read about that trip here. You can read Jamie’s version here. One other reason I chose Marseille was the price of the flights. The base fare was £7.99 each way. Yep, you read that right. Seven of the queen’s pounds and ninety-nine of her dirty copper pennies for each flight.
The most expensive parts of the trip were getting to Stansted and then getting from Marseille to the hostel (and the retour [I did it again. Vive la France]). Both were more expensive than the flights. Who cares right, it’s all about the memories.
I had very little in the way of memories from when Jamie and I were last here (granted, it was in 2012). I guess that’s a good thing because it allowed me to see the city as if I had never been before.
The time in Stansted was a – shall we say fun one. Usually the gates get displayed about 50 minutes before departure but the Ryanair app now says it will display it up to 2 hours before departure in the app and the Stansted website showed it pretty much as soon as I got there.
I thought I would chance my luck and head to the gate. I did just that and thought I was great. I had a good seat overlooking the runway. I was there for about 45 minutes just taking pics and vids. Then it started to get quiet so I looked at the app and website and saw that the gate had changed from 36 to 44. I found someone who told me to pick up a customer service phone. I did that and they told me to look out for a guy in an orange hi-vis. I did that and didn’t see him.
Whilst I was waiting this group rocked up for a flight to Paphos that had closed about 30 minutes before they got there and it started to kick off. I didn’t want to see it – but I also did. Finally, the guy turned up and walked us to the lift and then out another door. It turns out that 2 different sets of gates back onto one another and my mind was blown. I finally figured out the labyrinth that is Stansted.
I got to gate 44 only to be told that the gate had changed again – this time thankfully to gate 43 just across the hall. I was still first on the plane though. Get in me.
Note to self: probably best to wait for an hour before departure and then an extra 10 minutes for the screen in the departure hall to update before heading to the gate. Just saying.
The flight to Marseille was at 19:25 and we landed around 22:20 local time and I got to the hostel around midnight.
If you are double vaccinated you may enter France without an official reason for travel. The requirements from you are a sworn statement to say that you haven’t been in contact with anyone with Covid-19 symptoms and you don’t have symptoms yourself. You will also need a Sanitary Pass (this is also required to eat in at most places and to visit most places). The Sanitary Pass is the EU issued digital Covid certificate or the NHS issued vaccination certificate. Be prepared to explain what the NHS one is at the border and at establishments. Be prepared to keep saying “Royame-Uni” which is French for United Kingdom. The best code to get them to scan is the one on your first vaccine dose. I don’t know why but that started to work when they scanned the first one instead of the second. Be sure to also show them the date on the second dose so they can see it has been at least 14 days.
I figured since Jason was working the late shift he could be my company from the train station to the hostel (it did look really sketchy). As I was on the phone with him walking I almost got hit by a car because I looked the wrong way. All I heard on the other end of the phone was laughing and several expletives and the questioning of my intelligence. I will always maintain I was tired and under the weather (damn cold got me) and that was my excuse.
I wanted to get to the hostel as quickly as possible for 2 reasons: 1 – the area looked really dodgy; 2 – I had a walking tour booked the next day and I also had to go pick up my Marseille Tourist Card and wanted to do that and eat before meeting the tour.
I settled in for the night and managed to get some decent sleep. I will talk about what I did each day. Restez avec moi lecteur, ça va mieux. Je promets!
Today was probably the day that was going to be busiest in the morning as I needed to go to the tourist information office and pick up my Marseille City Pass (which, I would recommend getting because of the stuff you get to do with it and that it is also your public transport pass). You can get them in 24/48/72 hour bundles and they last for 24/48/72 full hours from when they are first activated.
I took a slow walk down to the Vieux Port area to firstly find some souvenirs and then some breakfast and then the tourist office (or any order of the three).
I found a souvenir shop – and it was the one that Jamie and I got our magnets from when we were here in 2012. It was about the only part of Marseille that was familiar (at that moment in time) to me. What I found weird was that they only had souvenirs that said Marseille or that said Provence. I couldn’t find anything that said France. There were no lanyards at all. Shot glasses only said Marseille (I get shot glasses for the young ‘un, magnets for Ken & Jamie, magnets, flag, lanyards for me). I guess it means I just have to go back to somewhere else in France to see if I can find them!
If you want to know how much I collect these for me this is what I have: 21 flags, 45 lanyards, 121 magnets. With the lanyards and flags, I usually get city and country (only if I haven’t got a country one already).
I digress. back on with the day. Since I couldn’t find any that said France I decided to go find the tourist information office to pick up my city pass. I got to where I thought it said on the map and did a walk around of the whole building and couldn’t find a door. I decided to walk up the street some more and then I saw the massive signs for it and figured that is where it was.
In my best French I managed to converse with the lady behind the counter before we started speaking in English. I am proud of myself that I know enough French to be able to have a mini conversation and get the information I needed.
After getting the pass, I still had about an hour before the tour started so I went to the Carrefour in the shopping centre and got some chocolate-filled brioche buns, Milka, Sprite, water, Orangina. It wasn’t as expensive in the supermarkets as I thought it would be. All of that was just about €8.
I found somewhere in the Vieux Port area to sit down (it was a McDonald’s. I admit it. I went there for breakfast but they were closed) and have my breakfast and then wait for the tour guide. I was apprehensive as one of the tours I did in Gdansk was info overload and I wasn’t in the mood for that again. I will say that it wasn’t like that.
He started the tour by telling us that Marseille was populated by the Greeks and that is where the foundation of the city was started. The place we were standing was in the water at the time. He showed us a picture of how far back the coastline was at the time of inhabitation. You will see from my pictures that there is a commemoration plaque on the ground for this.
He did tell us that in 2013 Marseille became the European Capital of Culture and this started the process of gentrifying the city so it would look good. They cleaned building facades, built new structures, rid the city of its drug and crime reputation, narrowed streets, pedestrianised others. After he said this, it made sense why Jamie and I saw all this construction when we were there.
After we were done here, he took us to the oldest part of the city. Sadly I didn’t get to go in and see the ruins as this would have been cool to see. I only got pictures from the viewing platform above.
Once done here, we walked along the oldest street in France. It is called Rue Henri Fiocca. Napoleon wanted to build a city that people could be proud of and wanted it to be grand. The trouble is – it didn’t end up being like that. Allegedly Marseille is one of the places in the world where it is less expensive to live in the city centre than it is to live on the outskirts. This has happened because the rich decided they didn’t want to deal with the things that came with no running water, no plumbing, no easy access and so moved to outside the city limits.
We than walked up Grand Rue to see the old hospital that was abandoned and then let out to a hotel chain to give it a new lease of life. We also got a good view of Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde on the other side of the harbour. The locals don’t call it by the full name but la Bonne-mère. It is a church built on top of a castle on top of a hill. I did visit this today too, but you will need to be patient for that part of the day. You can do it – I believe in you.
After the little stop here, we were taken to a church with a tower where you can sleep in the tower if you want (obviously for money) and this was the second area in Marseille that was familiar. It was familiar because of the steep steps and the drain that runs down the middle of the steps.
This part of Marseille is really nice because they have a lot of street art all around this area. It was somewhere that I decided I would come back to see before I left to go home.
I walked slowly as we were in this area so I could take as many pictures of the street art as possible.
We ended up walking down towards Cathédrale La Major. As we got there, there was a massive group of people and lots of police and army nearby too. We were told it was the blessing of the visitation of the cathedral and there was also a prayer for the manager of the local Marseille football club who got the club to win the Champions League.
Once we were done here, we walked around the port to Fort Saint-Jean and this is where the tour ended.
I went inside the fort and had a slight issue trying to get in because you need to show a sanitary pass to get into a lot of places. The sanitary pass is your vaccination record. They check the QR code on the vaccination record and that determines if you meet the criteria. I had an issue because mine is NHS issued and they had trouble recognising it. I had to use my best French to advise that this was from Royame-Uni (UK) and that it was accepted for crossing the border. It was finally understood and they allowed me in. This was good because I was desperate to powder my nose.
I spent about 2 hours here walking around and enjoying the views and soaking in the suns rays.
I left here and then decided to take the road train up to The Holy Mother Church. The ride around the coastline was really nice. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze. The views were stunning too. I got some pictures of the Friouls and the island I was going to visit the next day.
I spent a couple of hours up at the church and was amazed by the views from it. I got a lot of pictures across Marseille from here. I just didn’t know where to look. The views across the Friouls were really good too.
Top Tip: You can catch the city bus from the Vieux Port to get here. The service is number 60. It’s the cheaper way of getting there too.
Once I was done here I was ready for some food and some time to chill so I headed back to Vieux Port and to get some fast food and a wander around before going to get some much needed sleep.
All in all, today was a good day.
Total steps: 17,040
Total miles: 8.1
Below are some pictures from today
I was so shattered when it came time to leave to get the bus to the airport. I had about 90 minutes of proper sleep and that definitely wasn’t enough. This is how tired I was. I read the sign to leave the hostel and I still had to ask for help. The sign said press the button and push the door. I pressed the button and pulled and pulled on the door and it didn’t work. The guy that came out to help me read the sign out to me and told me it wasn’t difficult. I was so damn tired like. Don’t judge me.
I took a slow walk to the bus station and didn’t see the steps to get in so went up the ramp where it said not to. I managed to get about 15 minutes of sleep on the bus. The airport departure hall was so run down. It was like a storage shed.
If you are double vaccinated you currently do not need a legitimate reason to leave France. As the UK is on the French Amber list, you need a legitimate reason to leave the country if you are not double vaccinated. You shouldn’t need to do this to go to your home country if it is not on the French Green list but it is worth doing to avoid any issues at the border.
It finally came time to board to fly back home and I was looking forward to it so I could sleep. I took my obligatory take off video and slept for about 15/20 minutes before the turbulence woke me up. You know it’s bad when the cabin crew sit down too.
We finally landed in Stansted and I was so happy to be back on home turf as I knew I would be home soon (I say soon, I had 3 hours to kill before the train).
I asked the train conductor if I was able to use the train that was in to get home and he told me because of the ticket type I could only travel on the booked train. Fair enough. I sat in the waiting room for my train. A worker comes in to tell us that a train had been cancelled because of a break down. I thought nothing of it. I then checked the train website only to find that all lines between Stansted Airport and Cambridge were blocked because of this breakdown and it would be around lunch time before trains would run again. I certainly didn’t want to wait any longer than I already had.
I found a worker to ask and he directed me to the ticket office which was closed. I then found another worker and asked how I would get back to Peterborough and he told me I needed to go into London and then back up. What a nightmare.
I had a to-do with the train companies on Twitter because they didn’t know what the ticket acceptance and routes were and I didn’t want to be charged for another ticket. The train I was meant to be on was the 10:27 direct to Peterborough getting me in at 11:49. What I had to do was get the closest train leaving the airport to London. I then had to change at Liverpool Street and get the underground to King’s Cross and then a train from there to Peterborough. I remembered that the train stops at Farringdon (as did the tube) and I changed there as I didn’t want the hassle of explaining why I came down to London to go back to Peterborough.
When I got to Liverpool Street, the worker there suggested I go back up to Bishop’s Stortford and get the shuttle bus to Cambridge that nobody knew about. I told him I would rather chance my luck on the tube and the train than have to go back that way again.
I finally got into Peterborough 90 minutes later than I should have done. I was so glad to be back home and chilling before work.
All in all, Marseille was a good trip and I would say visit it if you get the chance.
Total steps: 46,856
Total miles: 22.6
You can view my Marseille pictures here
You can view my île D’If pictures here