The next day, day 3, I started around 9. I planned to visit the Marseille coastline up to to the Parc Borely, spend some time in this area (lovely according to guidebooks) and then head to Cannes where I was supposed to meet some friends to spend some time there, have dinner, and go back to Marseille late in the night
First things first, and first is breakfast : I had a typical one not at the hotel but at a cafe in the Vieux Port. It wasn’t much different than the hotel, typical continental, but with a better view. The day was fine, the wind had subsided considerably since two days ago so everything seemed perfect.
Before breakfast though, I had a chance to take some shots and a panorama of the Vieux Port from my room at the top of the hotel and also of the stairway that was producing nice geometric shapes (see below)
After breakfast I walked to the car parking (close to the hotel de Ville). I had a chance to take a better look in the square in front of the Town Hall which features a bust of Euthemenes. He was an explorer in ancient Massalia (the Greek colony that became Marseille) who travelled along the western coast of Africa, maybe as far south as Senegal.
Then I drove from the Vieux port going to the south part and then following the Corniche JFK all along the coastline. I passed by the Vallon des Auffes (the place I cycled to in chapter 2) and continued along up to another small natural port (the Anse de la Fausse Monnaie I think) where I had the chance to park the car and stroll around a little.
I really liked this area. The corniche, essentially a mostly coastal avenue that was built in the late 19th century and extended after the war, passes over a cliff terrain that from time to time is broken by small ports, rocky beaches and generally areas you can get down to for swimming or food or just to walk. Some of these used to be small independent villages and settlements that communicated mainly by the sea. Eventually they have been incorporated to the city and now serve as prime locations for sunny days. In the sea you can see up to the Chateau d’If (used to be a prison and has been transcribed into literary history by Dumas’ Conte Montecristo) and the Isles de Friuli and all the boat traffic between the Port and the Calanques further south
I mentioned earlier that I planned to visit Parc Borely and around and then head to Cannes. However as I was driving there I noticed the traffic was getting heavier and heavier. It seems that it was a holiday (the May 1 holiday had been transferred because it occured on a Sunday) and that, combined with the good weather, made most citizens of Marseille to head to the sea! If I’d known before …
Since by I got to the Parc the traffic was at a standstill, there were no parking stops visible and it was getting late, I scrapped the plans and headed straight to Cannes. It took me some time to get out of Marseilles, due to the traffic but afterwards it was straightforward through the motorway. Normally it takes around 2 hours to reach Cannes but for me it was longer because, well, the Citroen C1 is NOT built to drive fast in motorways 🙂 I also stopped for a short snack in one of the car service stations of the highway
Approaching Cannes, I communicated with my friends and arranged to meet them in Grasse which is a small town around 30 minutes north. It is a nice town, very well known for its perfume industry. It is built on the side of a hill and commands nice views up to the riviera but most visitors go there for the perfumes, visiting factories and museums (seems like a must for women)
Grasse is much bigger than villages like Rousillon but there are similarities as it too was built on high ground. When I got there there was a flower fair there (celebrating May 1st obviously) and a small market around, in the center of the town. The market was ‘populated’ with agricultural produce from areas around, apart from flowers there were items such as honey, wine, sweets and cereals and the famous savon du Marseille (soap). I actually spend some time there waiting for my friends and we also had a coffee in an outdoor caffe next to the carousel (there seems to be a carousel in every French town, many times more than one!). There were many people around, kids playing, adults walking. A very nice atmoshere
Afterwards we started towards Cannes. I took my friends to another car park to get their car (and waited for some time there because the guy didn’t remember where he parked it – amazing) and then we headed towards Cannes. They had booked dinner in a nice seafood restaurant by the coast together with another couple and I tagged along because by that time I was famished and liked the opportunity to finally checkout the sea food of the French Riviera!
So I followed them to town and we parked in a multi-level facility, close to Le Souquet which is a hill and neighboughood on the western end of the seaside of Cannes. It used be a poor neighbourghood around a monastery and a church but gradually the streets leading to the top have been gentrified and now an increasing number of places to eat and drink are housed there. It was very rewarding walking there, quite different and more traditional (and less chic!) than one expects
After that we went to the restaurant. A rather upscale (but not extravagantly) near the start of the Croisette. Food was very good, although really expensive, but then again you expect that in a seafood restaurant in Cannes. We got several appetizers, I really liked the mussels in a local recipe. Main course for me was grilled sea bream, the others got different fish etc.
After dinner we took a small tour, to see Cannes by night and walk the fames Croisette (at least the boulevard since the beach is not really accessible in the night. The Croisette is the famous beach of Cannes, top destination for the world’s jet set. The boulevard runs along the beach and on the other side and the side and back streets there are many stores, restaurants, bar etc. All seemed very chic and expensive.
We also passed from the huge Palais des Festivals. At the time there were preparations since the film festival was two weeks away. I didn’t really enjoy the building (from the outside, you couldn’t get in), it’s huge and I think lifeless. But I liked the film stars plaques with their hands imprints outside (in the pavement), its a very nice touch.
Our walk concluded againg passing by the Souquet which at that time was reaching party mood, many bars were full with people. I’d have liked to stay but it was close to 11:30 in the night and I had to drive back to Marseille. So back to the parking place and then drive back. It took around 2-2,5 hours to drive back through the highway. At that time it was almost empty, it was my C1 and some trucks and very few cars. I arrived at the Vieux Part after 2:00 and then straight to bed since next morning’s plan was to go the opposite direction towards Arles and the famous Camargue wetlands!