Sometimes cites don't live up to their expectations. Marseille was one of those cases for Carry On Magazine Co-Founder Katie Askew.
I think Marseille sounds so luxurious and French. For some reason, I've always pictured Marseille filled with baguette-carrying men and women, art museums around every corner, and quiet cobblestone streets between historic towering villas.
I'm a pretty chill traveler. I'm okay with not having a plan and just people watching; I'm also okay with having a tight itinerary and seeing a ton of tourist attractions and being really active. I love museums, churches, and ancient architecture, but I also love beaches and laziness. I know I can fit in with a lot of different places on this earth, and I don't think I've ever been to city and hated it; in fact, I know I've never been to city and didn’t like it.
I went to the ancient port city for a quick overnight trip with my friend, Carlotta, and we couldn’t wait to get back to Monaco. Marseille is just...gross in my opinion. I realize this has a lot to do with my general mood this weekend, my travel buddies, my blood sugar levels (I get hangry easily), and general ease of travel (which wasn't easy at all, actually, thanks to more transportation strikes), but I personally wouldn't recommend Marseille to anyone. This is a first for me, so take note. (Also, I’m sure tons of people will debunk everything I’m saying and tell me all these cool things I missed, and I think that’s really great. Please leave comments if you think I’m totally wrong!)
Let's start with the graffiti: I'm no hater of personal expression. I love art in all forms and make trips to new cities if only to see a specific museum or artists' villa. But why do people think graffiti is cool? It blows my mind that someone is bored, drunk, or stupid enough to take a spray can to centuries-old buildings and deface them. I mean, I've seen good graffiti all over NYC (I've seen Banksy's work in Central Park!!—that's art), and this stuff wasn't good. It wasn't art; it was just a mishmash of neon letters in layers or choice parts of male reproductive system splattered on a wall. Creative.
I'm not talking like, "Oh look there's graffiti right there," and you can point to it. I'm talking like, "Oh look there is a tiny patch of blank wall that hasn't been covered in graffiti or the owner of this house has clearly just painted his building." It's bad.
And, to top it off, their subway stations were immaculate: gorgeous and intricately decorated walls, high ceilings, beautiful mosaic tiles, clean floors, escalators that work, and not a single shred of graffiti anywhere. How does that work?
Okay I'm done ranting over graffiti now.
Marseille is also impossible to get around because each street takes you random directions: There is no grid system and unmarked roads are the norm. Trying to find “main street”? There is none. In fact, if you think you're going the right direction, you probably aren't. You probably just climbed up an 80 degree sloped street in 80 degree heat for the fun of it.
Luckily, I'm fantastic with maps and have a really intuitive sense of direction. Unluckily, my patience for people who can't follow a map or read directions well is very thin.
Also, Marseille is the first French city I've been to where I've seen horse meat the menu. I know this is the norm here, but I've never seen it first-hand. Now I just have a bad taste in my mouth (not literally because I could never, ever eat a horse) for this entire town even though the logical part of my brain tells me otherwise.
The saving grace of Marseille is the Notre Dame de la Garde church on top of the hill. The views after climbing up this gigantic hill are spectacular and the inside of this neo-byzantine church is breathtaking. The lavish gold ceilings juxtaposed with the hanging boats and darker oil paintings almost made me dizzy from looking up for so long.
Finally, as we were walking toward our FlixBus back to Monaco, Marseille told me the feelings of hate were mutual: A huge seagull pooped on my arm.
Although I probably won’t be suggesting Marseille as the next best place to visit in France, I’m sure this gritty city will find it’s niche of tourists in the future. It’s definitely much safer than it was a decade ago, and Marseille is still currently undergoing a big transformation with marketing tourist attractions, adding more museums, and becoming a safer city overall. I can’t wait to see what comes next for this big French town.
And, in case you’re wondering, yes I did eat bouillabaisse (fish soup) and the experience warrants an entirely separately entry. Stay tuned!