Marseille(s). both spellings are correct.
So... remember how i love The Count of Monte Cristo? How it's my most favorite book of all time? I read it for the first time when i was 14. I have actually TRIED to find a different favorite book. I don't know why. But The Count wins every time. i read it once every other year or so... and everytime... it's just... oh my... just... no words.
So, Marseille was on the list because it is the place where the book opens, and where young Edmund grows up, and where he is betrayed, and where one can visit the ominous Chateau D'if. Ummm.... talk about awesome.
I spent one day in Marseille - in on a night train, out on a night train. It was so lovely! Early in the morning I headed to the old Harbor where there was quite a bit going on. it was a lot like pike place market in Seattle... only without the overhead coverings and flying fish. There were tons of vendors, selling everything from shrimp to... other fish i don't know the name of... to christmas trees and flowers! Marseille is such a pretty town too - quintessentially french, and very very mediterranean. it was warm and sunny too... such a relief from rainy italy!
Anyway, the very very first thing i did was find the boat/ferry company that takes tourists to the chateau. found it. bought a ticket. waited ever-so-impatiently. got on a boat!! fidgeted the whole 25 minutes it took to get the island of If. (by the way, that's pronounced "EE-f", not "if".) got off the boat. I wish i could have seen my face, because when you round the corner and that prison comes into view... it's just so cool. i stopped. stared. took pictures. and pictures. and more and more and more pictures. really, it's like my pilgrimage for my favorite book. you know how some people go to england to see Jane Austen sights? well... i follow the count. :)
So, highlights: The main island itself is smaller than i imagined. maybe 2 football fields. the chateau is only 3 stories, with an inner court yard the size of my living room. some rooms are quite luxurious -- with a fireplace and windows! some are quite as dank and dark as depicted in the movie. The real Abbe` Faria stayed in the chateau, and his room is larger than most. it's on the 2nd level. (With a killer cool door, by the way. it's blood red, with this huge old lock. best door ever!) i fenced in there... pretending to be edmund. and i quoted some lines from the book because.... you know..... i have to.
I walked all around the island looking for the graveyard, but i just don't think i had the right vantage point at any time. There was one place where maybe...maybe. I'll just have to watch the movie again.
The mediterranean itself is so beautiful. clear as a pool, and just so pretty.
I traipsed all over that little place for about 3 hours. Then the boat came to take us back. sad day. But this does mean i got to explore marseille for a little while longer! The Basilica of Notre Dame (not to be confused with the cathedral in Paris) is the prettiest thing in the world. it's up on the top of a hill... a huge hill... that takes about 45 minutes to hike and it's steeper than the Y hike...killer.
but the basilica is worth it. or you could cheat and take the bus. ha. but the basilica has all these interesting decorations - there are boats hanging from the ceiling! or painted, or carved. Cause it's a shipping town, see? how cool is that? also, one wall is dedicated to soldiers from Marseille that fought in wars all the way back to 1880. Their medals or helmuts hang on the wall with a name tag underneath. It's so sweet, to remember the soldiers that way.
From the top of the basilica, you literally have a 360degree view of the city. and it is striking. you can see aaaaaaalllll the way out to world's end. i watched one ship sail forever, till it was a speck in the distance, and then *poof* it was gone. guess it fell off the edge of the earth.
The basilica also has some battle wounds from when it was attacked in WWII. it still has shrapnel in the walls, and gouges in the facade.
I stayed up at the church for about 3 hours (pattern, anyone?) and headed back down. funny, the hike down was so much easier. in town, i grabbed a panini for a late lunch (ohmygoodness, so good!) and walked around the wharf and old port again, visited another cathedral, the roman port, a greek theater, and heard some carollers sing. what a day!
back to the train station, grabbed my luggage, got snapped at by an old crazy lady, and on the train to barcelona...
but, oh, marseille... we shall have to meet again!
Inside the Basilica. See the boats?
Best quote in the book.
This is the real Abbe Faria's room.
First look when stepping off the boat...