-the world as I see it
This was my last day in Marseille and I had to spend it well- so here I was looking up options on the internet for good day trips.
Avignon, Arles and Nimes form a little triangle on the map. ‘Perfect’ I think to myself, but when I check the train schedule and the length of the journey, I realize that I’m not going to be able to fit it into one day. I take it as a sign that I must revisit Provence, and I picture myself enjoying a summer vacation in the south of France, relaxing in the lavender fields. Anyway, that still doesn’t solve my current problem. I’m running out of viable options and time and if I don’t find anything soon, I will end up staying in Marseille for the whole day, which is the last thing that I would want to do. I pick up the Lonely Planet guide from the bookshelf in my hostel and flip through the pages. My eyes fall on Martigues – a picturesque seaside village to the northwest of Marseille, reached easily by bus. Yes, that’s where I was going to go. I ask the guy at the reception desk if he knows anything about the place, he doesn’t know much but tells me that I could probably try to go to Vitrolles too on my way back. With that, my friend and I set off to catch the bus no. 34 from the St. Charles Station. The ticket price for one way is 6.6 Euros and the journey takes about thirty minutes.
As soon as we reach, we hop off the bus and head towards the tourism office, which the signboards make easy to find. Unlike the previous two days, the weather was behaving itself, very well, I must add. The sky was a brilliant blue with just the faintest wisps of cottony clouds. The first thing that you will notice when you are in Martigues is the number of bridges and canals. That’s why it is nicknamed ”The Venice of Provence.’
The canals divide Martigues into three stretches of land – Ferrieres, L’ile and Jonquieres and these form the three districts of Martigues as well. The island (L’ile) houses most of the old town, with narrow cobbled streets in striking contrast to the broad roads of Ferrieres, which is the commercial centre and the entertainment quarter of the village.
The best part of Martigues is the wide, unobstructed views of the two canals (the Etang de Berre and the Chenal de Caronte) that it offers. The fountains in the squares and the interesting statues are added attractions. The statue of the fisherman and the lady seated on a bench was my favourite and is quite the hostspot for tourists to take photographs 😀 .
The lamp posts all around the village had pretty fixtures designed to make the yuletide spirit felt.
It took us about three hours to go around Martigues. When we were done, we headed back towards the bus stop near the tourism office to board the bus no. 39 to Vitrolles. The trip costed around 4.3 Euros and was about half an hour. We couldn’t wait to get out of the bus as the driver had a particularly poor sense of gauging distances and an even poorer sense of negotiating curves and bends. At one of the bus stops en route, the bus lost one of its mirrors as he drove too close to a sign board. By the time we arrived in Vitrolles, it was 4:30 pm. We were happy to be alive and in one piece *whew*. Just then we heard a disturbance behind us, we turned back and saw one of the girls who was with us in the bus shouting and clambering, desperately trying to grab her bag from the luggage compartment of the bus, while the driver, oblivious to what was happening, had started the bus and was back to gunning the accelerator. The bus sped away, with the door of the luggage compartment lying open and the girl hollering a string of abuses at the driver. Before we could go up to the girl to find out if she needed help, her friend arrived on the scene and she flounced off with him.
We headed in the direction of Le Rocher – the rocky outcrop of pink granite overlooking the entire city, formed due to the erosion of the original landscape. The sun would be setting soon, leaving us with just about enough time to walk up to the Notre Dame Cathedral perched atop the Rocher. The summit affords a 360 degree view of the city and we couldn’t have reached there at a better time. The sun was setting and the moon, a full pearly circle, was already up in the sky. The otherwise boring layout of residential blocks and industrial complexes was set against the gorgeous backdrop of the orange sun rays quickly disappearing behind a curtain of shimmering water. We spotted ‘le Radar’ which helps the Marseille Airport in air traffic control.
By the time we got to the city centre it was dark and since there wasn’t much else we could do, we boarded the bus to Marseille. While the bus was still waiting at the depot, I looked out of the window and spotted the girl whose luggage had been left behind in the bus from earlier on that day. She was collecting her bag from the apologetic-looking driver who had obviously received a earful. All was well again, I smiled to myself.