The Walking Tour

There’s one in every city you’ll ever visit. The Walking Tour. They typically come in two varieties: guided or self-guided. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Most of the time, we prefer to go it alone. Rambling up and down streets, getting lost, and meeting strangers along the way are all part of the adventure of life on the road.

Today, we took such a tour. We set off for Vieux Port, but quickly got diverted when my husband spotted one of his favorite things — a street market. After a quick run through the market, we got back on track and arrived at Vieux Port by late morning.

We decided to explore the left side of the harbor first which took us to Fort
Saint Nicolas.


Louis XIV had the fort built in the 17th century to protect the harbour of Marseilles, but also to keep an eye on the city and its population in case of rebellion. The French army controls the historical building, so we could not venture inside. We did enjoy the view of the harbor from outside the fort’s entrance gate.


From Fort Saint Nicolas, we trekked to Palais du Pharo, built by Napoleon III in 1858 for his wife, Eugenia.


While you can’t go inside the palace, the views of the harbor certainly reveal why the emperor/empress wanted a palace here.


Fort Saint Jean as seen from Palais du Pharo.

After leaving the Palais du Pharo, we headed in the general direction of the Basilique Notre Dame de la Gard, which sits atop the highest hill, 490 feet, in the city.

Now early afternoon, we stopped for lunch before continuing to make our way ever upward toward the basilica. On the way, we ran into a young couple from Toulouse who were on their own self-guided walking tour. We joined forces to find our way through the narrow, winding streets.


After several wrong turns and dead ends — voila! The basilica came into view and we began our final, but very long, ascent.


We climbed…and climbed…and climbed the stairway to heaven that leads to so many cathedrals/basilicas throughout Europe. Our young friends pushed on ahead while I, at least, stopped to take a breather and snap a few photos.


John on the stairway to heaven.

It’s hard to complain about the climb when you see this at the top.


View from Basilique Notre Dame de la Gard.

The basilica, built in 1864 on the site of a 16th century fort, was an eye-full as well. Small, but exquisitely ornate inside.


Notice the model boats hanging from the ceiling.


So ended the official walking tour. We took the bus down the hill to Vieux Port and made our way back to our temporary home on Rue L’Olivier.

Now that all the streets in Marseilles are paved, the boot wipes that reside at most of the building entrances on Rue L’Olivier are no longer needed.


The mud stopped here.

Modern walking tours are just as tiring, but, thankfully, not as muddy as those of previous centuries.

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